Author Topic: My first real array  (Read 5310 times)

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Offline MadScientist267

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My first real array
« on: April 07, 2013, 08:10:53 PM »
 Here it is, 4x50W, measuring in at 56" x 50" with the sub frame attached.

This will be attached to an outer frame that holds it to the van and allows it to be propped up in any one of 4 directions to get optimal sunlight if parking does not provide for it naturally. That part is still in pieces... Pics of that to come in the next couple days and then hope to have the entire thing assembled and on the van by the end of next week.

ila_rendered
The front side.


ila_rendered
The back side.

Steve
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Offline WooferHound

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2013, 10:05:09 AM »
Wow . . . Unlimited power now . . .
Will you be able to drive with that on the van ?

Able to tilt up in 4 directions . . .
That sounds like a fancy mechanism ?
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Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2013, 07:27:25 PM »
 Yep. It will lie flat for transport... About a total of 3" of additional profile on top in cruise mode.

I took a couple shots of it mocked up standing earlier just to look at some clearances. The angle in the photos are a bit steeper than the angle it will sit at once finished. Here it is between 40 and 45 degrees just because  that was the angle given by the 2 pieces of scrap angle I had handy. Design angle will be between 20 and 30 (possibly selectable) for the final version.

ila_rendered

ila_rendered

I was going to take a shot of it in transport mode laying flat, but by the time I got done tinkering and cleaning up, it was too dark to get a good one. I'll snatch one up before I go to move it tomorrow for posterity. ;)

Steve
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Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2013, 12:00:28 PM »
Well, they're up, at long last!

ila_rendered

It sounds like a complicated system, but it actually isn't. It almost seems to have taken a ream of paper to work out just exactly how to pull this off, but in the end, it comes down to a simple pin-hinge system.

Ironically, I don't have any of the drawings handy at the moment, but its easy enough to describe.

The array has a set of 8 bolts that screw into the inner frame, and ride in collars that are allowed to spin somewhat freely in the outer frame that is attached to the roof of the van.

ila_rendered
Detail shot of one corner showing 2 of the hinge bolts.

For transport, all 8 bolts are in place, locking the inner frame to the outer frame. Once parked, 6 of the bolts can be removed, leaving the 2 that form the hinge that the inner frame can then pivot on to be propped up in the desired direction.

I don't have any shots of the propping mechanism yet, but it its essentially a set of 2 angle aluminum bars that attach to the opposing bolt holes/collars via the extra bolts removed from other holes to lock the array into place. It can be propped as high as 45 degrees, but tends to bind beyond that at the hinge end.

There were 3 issues encountered that would be addressed in a future version of this mount system. None prevent the use of the propping system, but make it less than trivial to change modes.

First, and probably most significant, is an error made during the drilling of the holes for the hinge bolts. I didn't lock the inner and outer frames together to drill the holes, and despite best attempts to keep everything aligned, inevitably, things drifted slightly due to twisting and skewing while manipulating things. If I would have had a way to lock it all together on a workspace large enough, I would have done so and done all of them in one operation.

I also miscalculated the distance from each edge of the inner frame to the holes for the hinge bolts. I was able to compensate for this after the fact by modifying the outer frame, but it complicates transitions because it brought the margins much closer than originally intended.

The third was an oversight that makes it tricky to lift and lower the inner frame into and out of the outer frame. There is little to hold onto and the array is heavy enough that even with lubrication, the bolts drag significantly enough to make them difficult to insert/remove unless the stress can be taken off of the collars. I'm looking into a way of mitigating this issue, but for now, it just is what it is.

All in all, I'm happy with the results. For the price, the versatility is unmatched. There's less than $400 total invested in the entire array and it's framework/propping mechanism and does exactly what it's designed to do. I'm hoping to be able to work out most of the bugs for little or no cost... We'll see how that goes.

Steve
Wanted: Schrödinger's cat, dead and alive.

Offline DaveW

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2013, 01:42:36 PM »
Congratulations.

Offline David HK

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2013, 05:27:12 PM »
Have you checked the floor to ceiling heights of car parks, service centres and any other likely places you might visit in the future?

Have you also measured the new height of the vehicle and made a written note to keep on the dash board?

Just a thought that may save time and great irritation.

David in HK

Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2013, 05:39:13 PM »
 That won't be a problem... In transport mode, it adds just a hair over 4" to the overall height.

It will still fit with plenty to spare on any normal road. It may be a decent idea just for extra insurance to have and make the extra height known, but I'm highly unlikely to run into a situation where it would pose a problem for me. My general target squatting grounds will be compatible with RVs and the like. ;)

Steve
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Offline Wolvenar

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2013, 01:42:57 AM »
Yeah my guess is you won't visit many parking garages.
Those panels just are not terribly efficient/effective in them.

 ;)
Trying to make power from alternative energy any which way I can.
Just to abuse what I make. (and run this site)

Offline bj

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2013, 06:59:19 AM »
   Been away for a few days, and lots of changes.  Nice Steve.  The extra power is going to make life
a lot easier.
   Congrats.
"Even a blind squirrel will find an acorn once in a while"
bj

Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2013, 01:08:31 AM »
 It most certainly will, and is. ;)

The van has been disconnected from "the umbilical cord" since the inner frame was built. They sat up top on the foam blocks while the outer frame was being built collecting light as much as possible.

So far, so good. I've had to revert to the skill I picked up in the wally world days of interpreting the following days weather patterns for myself all over again, but I'm not nearly as concerned about it now. The margin is much greater and I can be a little more lax about usage than I could then.

One option I see being put into place is a bypass for the MPPT. Under heavily overcast skies, I get ZERO output, but I've measured some useable output from the panels under these conditions that the MPPT just seems to want to discard. Next dark day I'll be investigating further.

All of the electrical is officially complete and operational, and aside from a single errant connector left over from the early days that I've just dealt with needing to be changed around to the opposite gender, everything is up and running as  designed and expected. As the sun gets higher and higher in the sky, my peak production steadily increases... Todays top end was 155W.

I still need to fabricate the prop rods, but with summer approaching, it's not at the top of the list; the tilt is primarily designed for fall/winter/spring less-than-ideal parking situations. Right now, it sits in a good location and gets a nice dose every day that the clouds don't interfere.

It is also notably cooler in there now during the mid day hours now... That's a lot of shade up there! ;)

Thanks again to all of you that have helped in various ways... I've learned a lot and continue to do so, and I ain't going anywhere...  Especially without giving more of what I've learned back to this awesome resource!

Got more to do aesthetically, but its really becoming something usable at this point... And starting to look pretty decent inside too!

Steve
Wanted: Schrödinger's cat, dead and alive.

Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2013, 02:50:13 PM »
 Little update...

So far so good. Unplugged for just over a week, other than a quick plug in to make an adjustment to one of the grid charger settings while the batteries were full. I put a dump controller in so that I could have finer control over where equalization takes place, and simply needed to adjust the grid side of things so that I'm not dumping grid if I ever need to use it for that for whatever reason.

Other than that, I've stayed above 80% SoC, and so far, its exceeding my expectations. Today I caught it "edging" 180W, so it would appear that everything is intact and making good contact.

I've been intentionally laxing in the consumption department the last couple nights just to get a better feel for what it will and won't do... One thing I've found is that it would do me well to tighten up on how the big laptop gets its power... Its my big offender by far and running it via inverter/power brick is proving to be a little much...  Depending on what its doing, it doesn't leave much margin for charging the main bank.

I have a boost converter that is relatively efficient that I'm going to try out in place of running the inverter/brick combo, should help.

Steve
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Offline WooferHound

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2013, 10:51:06 PM »
Get it mounted on there right . . . and you will have a Spoiler too . . .

ila_rendered
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Offline bj

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2013, 07:03:33 AM »
  Might be the world's first PV spoiler Woof.  Might make it into NHRA specs.  ;D
  Seriously though, coming along well Steve.
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bj

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2013, 09:37:21 AM »
One thing I've found is that it would do me well to tighten up on how the big laptop gets its power... Its my big offender by far and running it via inverter/power brick is proving to be a little much...  Depending on what its doing, it doesn't leave much margin for charging the main bank.

I have a boost converter that is relatively efficient that I'm going to try out in place of running the inverter/brick combo, should help.

Does the big laptop have the internal battery, and in decent working condition?
(or could you build a battery for it?)

Sounds like something a "ghurd timer" could help with.
Dump load goes high, meaning batteries are about full, timer turns the laptop charger on for a short time, resets every time the dump load pulses (without the off time to reset), power that would be dumped is stored in the laptop battery.

The controller will still control the battery.  The timer just uses some of the power that would have been sent to the dump load.

Small inverter with a rocker power switch, relay contacts bypass the switch, timer turns on the relay, which turns on the inverter.

Or relay in the 12V line to the boost converter.

Either way, it would automatically save power that would otherwise be lost.  And that reduces power that would have come from the house bank in the evening.

If you make one, can still do a small inverter for stuff I imagine you use.  Cell phone, rechargable shaver / flashlight / drill / camera / AAs / etc.

Links;  One less techie, other with the techie detail stuff.
http://www.fieldlines.com/index.php/topic,145170.0.html
http://www.fieldlines.com/index.php/topic,145256.0.html

FYI- I have all the parts here, even relays and sockets, just not packaged into kits yet.
Gimme a break!  I've been busy.  LOL
G-

Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2013, 10:44:37 PM »
One thing I've found is that it would do me well to tighten up on how the big laptop gets its power... Its my big offender by far and running it via inverter/power brick is proving to be a little much...  Depending on what its doing, it doesn't leave much margin for charging the main bank.

I have a boost converter that is relatively efficient that I'm going to try out in place of running the inverter/brick combo, should help.

Does the big laptop have the internal battery, and in decent working condition?
(or could you build a battery for it?)

Sounds like something a "ghurd timer" could help with.
Dump load goes high, meaning batteries are about full, timer turns the laptop charger on for a short time, resets every time the dump load pulses (without the off time to reset), power that would be dumped is stored in the laptop battery.

The controller will still control the battery.  The timer just uses some of the power that would have been sent to the dump load.

Small inverter with a rocker power switch, relay contacts bypass the switch, timer turns on the relay, which turns on the inverter.

Or relay in the 12V line to the boost converter.

Either way, it would automatically save power that would otherwise be lost.  And that reduces power that would have come from the house bank in the evening.

If you make one, can still do a small inverter for stuff I imagine you use.  Cell phone, rechargable shaver / flashlight / drill / camera / AAs / etc.

Links;  One less techie, other with the techie detail stuff.
http://www.fieldlines.com/index.php/topic,145170.0.html
http://www.fieldlines.com/index.php/topic,145256.0.html

FYI- I have all the parts here, even relays and sockets, just not packaged into kits yet.
Gimme a break!  I've been busy.  LOL
G-

 Ugh... This one got away from me. Read your reply not long after you posted it, but didn't have time at the moment to respond, forgot to mark it unread, and well...  ::)

Unfortunately there are some "compatibility" issues with the two types of systems that, while not impossible to get around, might be impractical in the grand scheme of things. :-\

While I'm using one of your controllers in the system, it only engages during equalization to help the MPPT bring the bank closer to 15.5 sooner. It backs off too soon otherwise. The MPPT was given the task of regulating charge voltage for normal day to day charge cycles, so while not impossible, initiating a timer and such may be difficult to implement.

Another issue is that yes, while the battery in the laptop is good, it will only run it for around an hour, and less typically for what I use it for these days, video and music. That's long enough to say its there, but not long enough to say much else. Its been a point of contention for me for a while now, but there's little I can do about it ATM.

Sad part is, the small laptop with the mega battery sits in the drawer collecting dust while all of this is going on simply because the screen is so small. I've considered making the compromise and switching them out and just accepting the smaller screen. Might happen just yet. Thing there tho is, fully loaded (wifi, full bright, running YouTube, and charging the battery all at once), the power requirements don't break the 30W mark, and my electron woes would instantly go away, probably even in winter. But I'm such a sucker for the screen with ~3.5x the real estate. :-\

I did get the boost converter wired in, and there are some savings, but they're marginal and difficult to see just yet. I'll be doing some side by side comparisons with the boost vs inverter/brick to try and get some more concrete numbers. Computers are tricky to gather consumption info on, as the usage can vary widely depending on what they're doing.

Another thing that doesn't help is the idea that in order to get wifi, I had to resort to hacking an old Linksys WRT54GS to use it as a wifi "card".  On average, its pulling between 3 and 4 watts in and of itself. The sound system uses a little more  quiescent current than I wish it did too, amounting to about 4W in and of itself. Just how it is.

For the moment, I've shrunk all I can and still use the big laptop, so I've turned my attention to optimizing production. I've got an experimental yet simple method for prioritizing the aux SLA charging on the aux panel, and then snatching up what's left to boost the charge current into the main bank. Currently it's only good for another 15W, but I intend to  utilize the trick from the "pseudo MPPT" from days gone by to bump that up a touch if I can.  Even as is, it made a big difference today, so I'm optimistic of what yet another buck converter might be able to bring to the table. Time will tell.

If I end up succumbing to the screen and just going with the smaller laptop, the timer idea might be well worth the trouble... Charging lithium ion is more efficient than charging lead acid any day, and since I'm naturally nocturnal, I need all the help I can get LOL  ;D

I'm still unplugged, and hit a good long soaker float today, so all in all, it's working ;)

Steve

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