Author Topic: My first real array  (Read 5070 times)

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Offline Wolvenar

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2013, 07:53:18 AM »
Wow man, people passing will start to fear the Borg have arrived and are starting to assimilate.
Trying to make power from alternative energy any which way I can.
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Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #31 on: November 02, 2013, 12:22:00 PM »
Heh yeah, fair chance Wolv. Especially once they see all this... ;)

Get it mounted on there right . . . and you will have a Spoiler too . . .

ila_rendered

--- Almost Woof - LOL Here it is propped, first time I believe I've posted pics of it set up in winter mode. Its actually propped a little higher than it should be, pushed the limits of some things in the framework, but no real harm done. Here's what it looks like:

ila_rendered


Another few shots from various angles, and a couple extras showing the temporary setup for testing the two 100W/12V panels I got from Rover in the middle of last week...


ila_rendered
They are connected via the multi-purpose umbilical cord (10/3), used for everything from jumping the van cranking battery to other cars if the need arises, to charging via the engines alternator, and of course now, auxiliary PV connections ;)


ila_rendered
Another angle from the front.


ila_rendered
...from the back...


ila_rendered
And a close up of the "pseudo-MPPT" that Commanda et al on FL coached me through building several years ago. It was once speculated that the device wouldn't handle more than about 5A output @ 14V, but today it showed what it was made of and was pumping 11A in fairly lengthy runs into a 14.2V rail. Pretty respectable for a one off device that was meant more as an experiment than anything serious if I don't say so myself!

I wanted to get a shot of the total charge current going in today but the skies have been barely cooperating, and the times I did see totals of 21A and above, I was more concerned with noting the location and volume of any magic smoke events, of which there have been none. Skies are mediocre at the moment at best, still pulling 5A or so pretty steady.

Tomorrow is supposed to be clear and cold. I should have a pretty fair shot of getting some juicy numbers for a pic tomorrow.

Till then, Thanks a bunch more Rover! You know I owe you pretty big after this one 8)

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

Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #32 on: November 03, 2013, 09:59:56 AM »
 The money shot:

ila_rendered

430W "by the label", 382 of it realized. ;)

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

Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #33 on: November 06, 2013, 01:32:36 AM »
 Well, the numbers above look all nice and pretty, and of course are approximately doubled from the extra input from the external panels, but alas are only a snapshot, with conditions about as ideal as they can get for this time of year.

Reality is a much more grim prospect, with only about 10% of that under what is turning out to be a "normal". I of course knew that there was going to be a radical difference between summer and winter, but I'm a bit irritated with what I'm seeing. I calculated the 200W based on conditions I saw last year, and it would have roughly been enough, if carefully used. This year, I'm seeing different conditions, and while I don't have a quantified value to place on it, there's no way it's even close to what I was expecting. I'm not sure how much is actual difference and how much is due to estimation error, likely a solid mix of both. But either way, it ain't cutting it.

I regret to say that for the moment, I'm plugged back in, until I can come up with a way to reduce consumption and improve input. Both come with issues in the present setting, mainly input. Raising the panels to optimize incident light is not ideal, due to various concerns with having them elevated. The propping method I'm using at the moment isn't super secure, and while it has illustrated it can tolerate some wind, I don't know how far I trust it. It is also a very obvious protrusion into the sky since the entire array is more than 4 feet long, and it attracts a LOT of attention when it's raised, a fair amount of which I would not consider positive. There's also technically a 7 foot height limit for street parked vehicles, that isn't necessarily strictly enforced, but could become a problem if enough eyes fall on it over the course of time. I have no intentions of finding out.

On the consumption side, my load at night with only the phone, 2W overhead LED light, and ceiling fan running (via inverter) hovers right around 3.2A, which would be ok if the skies were cooperating during the day to any extent, but proved to be trending towards dead batteries (50%, and likely even lower) by the end of night 3. The fan is a requirement to keep the temperature homogenous in here, as stratification and drafts take over without it, and the heating fuel requirements go up significantly to keep it comfortable.

There's also more drafting than there was last year, the heat is working much harder for some reason. I've pretty much been left thinking door seals, but the physical configuration for air flow also changed when the bed frame finally gave way last year and I lost the ability to let the cooler air pool up somewhat underneath. I can't recall exactly when it was swapped out right off the top. I can probably get a clue from another post, but I'm thinking December. This would leave the coldest months still to have yet to come however, so I'm at a loss if that indeed turns out to be the case.

Today I also realized that the sliding door is trying it's best to reach the "I'm over it" stage, and pretty much solidified the idea that the van as it exists is at end of life. I have no complaints overall, it's been very good to me, was there when I needed it most, I don't have any real money tied up in it, and what I do have can be removed and reused. It's been an incredible learning tool, and I certainly don't regret anything I've done with or to it, but I think it's time to begin planning for version 2. More space, more real estate on top, and a reliable drivetrain (the computer that controls the engine has issues and I can't see dumping money into it given all of the other issues since it does still actually run).

I'll be continuing with some experiments that are currently in the works and running on PV as conditions allow, but I don't see anything major being started at this point in time in this version.

Thanks goes out to everyone that has provided input and components that have brought it this far, I can honestly say I wouldn't have pulled it all off without all of your help. No fear, it won't end here! I'll still keep the updates coming, just admitting that I've basically hit the wall on it and need to take it to the next level. You guys tried to warn me, it is certainly addicting! LOL ;)

Till next time...

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

Offline tomw

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2013, 08:20:58 AM »
Steve;

Well, you are not alone and it is not the size of your array. I am way behind this year even over the year before we upgraded from 820 watts to 2320 watts. Solar insolation varies widely from year to year here in the Midwest anyway.

I am convinced you need a massively oversized array in winter compared to summer needs mostly because you cannot assume this year will be like next year, etc. Been days and days here with our array putting out 10% to 15% of what I would expect on decent days due to no sun.  Not even including the short days near winter solstice. We heat water most days in summer as opportunity loads to use excess power rather than just let it go to battery heating or just shutting down the solar.

We have been running in "bypass" mode on the inverters more often than I like lately and unless the weather provides less overcast / clouds will be all winter.  Even running just the base loads of some lighting, 2 freezers and a fridge. :o

Just from here.

Tom

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I thought that they were angels, but much to my surprise, We climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies

Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #35 on: November 08, 2013, 02:00:23 PM »
 Most certainly seems to be the case here... :-\

Today was clear, and the entire weekend is forecast the same, so I'll "unplug" again (pronounced "kill the main breaker" and see how my estimations pan out each time I see expected conditions (not necessarily clear skies).

Tonight should be interesting, as we're looking at a new low for the season and I'll have a better idea of where any new drafts are coming from, and can seal them up.

I'm certain tho the catalyst has had it in the one heater, so I'm sure that's throwing my observations some.

More as it comes...

Steve
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Offline Wolvenar

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #36 on: November 09, 2013, 06:17:52 AM »
I'm in the same boat it seems. I have the additional trouble that battery capacity is at an all time low, and the solar seems to have barely enough to bring the batteries to float on good days. It has been this way for about a month.

The offgrid system runs mostly just the site server here and all the network gear, but its been getting  grid help for about 2 weeks now.

I'm planning to take the array down for work as well sometime around the 13th of this month so, will be totally grid powered for a short time.
Trying to make power from alternative energy any which way I can.
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Offline MadScientist267

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Re: My first real array
« Reply #37 on: November 12, 2013, 12:23:03 AM »
It's frustrating ain't it?

I've conceded long ago that it would be a never ending game if I decided to get into all of this stuff. But the challenges are a lot of the appeal for me. I'm all about a good challenge, provided it's possible to win. ;)

Another manifestation of the design "features" I've integrated into this thing reared it's ugly head earlier. Luckily, an apparently rather sensitive component exists that led to a flaky connector behind the driver seat before there was a serious problem. Every time the thermostat would engage the heat controller, the remote control DC light would shut down and leave me in the dark.  This was only a head scratcher until the phone was getting low and I went to plug it in and the light got noticeably dimmer. In the back of my mind, this ran to the front and  started yelling "a half an amp shouldn't be doing that", and the hunt began. 7 connectors later, I traced it to the one behind the seat which practically came apart as if they were just laying in one another... Easy enough to fix, but I'm starting to get annoyed at the increase in frequency at which I'm discovering these things. This would be round 3 of this type of issue... The first being the connector between MPPT and battery, the second being up top under the panels,  and now this one.

Rover had expressed concerns with the use of Molex connectors some time back, at which I half sneered, mainly because as a general rule, they haven't been much of a problem in previous projects. But with an estimated 50 or more of them scattered throughout, the odds that one will go a little whacky obviously go up, so it's cat and mouse till it's over haha.

Kinda puts me at a crossroads with them, but I think I've figured out a way to transition to a more reliable infrastructure in version 2 without having to completely rethink how the DC consumers get their juice. Being that I've established a "standard" that literally everything uses, I'll keep them on, but only as the interface that meets the wall, and of course keep the normal 120V plugs for the AC side of things.

The new DC infrastructure will probably be tied together by euro barrier, as I have found that format to be relatively easy to work with and fairly reliable over the years. The van was a victim of both nature and nurture, as it's evolution depended on the infinitely reconfigurable design that now plagues it in it's mature state. I'll use temporary wiring in the process of building version 2, but only to allow fine tuning of the physical location of various items, at which point a dignified distribution system will be carefully designed and installed to keep everything as clean as possible.

Till next time...

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