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2 KW or bust

Post in 'The Green Room' started by peakbagger, Jun 30, 2013.

  1. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    1,561
    Loc:
    Northern NH
    Thanks to 'Tom in Maine" I picked up 8 Schuco 245 watts PV panels awhile back and have been collecting parts for the install since then. The solar rules in NH changed so I need to get a master electrician to sign off plus NH switched to NEC 2011. Due to my ragtag collection of solar, the electrical aspect of the installation also added some complications and having to find an inverter compliant with the new DC arc Fault protection requirement in 2011 delayed things a bit. I am on vacation this week and hope to have the panels mounted, installed and wired up by July 8th. They are going up on a 2nd story roof and this is potentially a solo install so rigging is definitely a big part of the project.

    The intent of the additional solar is to net meter enough juice to feed my next project which is a split heat pump to cover some summer cooling but mostly shoulder seasons. NH is starting a SREC market so having additional solar will get me a few SREC bucks.
    Vic99 likes this.

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  2. Where2

    Where2 Member

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    Loc:
    South Florida
    Good luck with the solo second floor install. I hope you have a climbing harness. I had a buddy help me get 19 panels (Evergreen 220W) up on my second floor roof over the weekend. (Enphase system, 20 panels, 4400W total). When I tested them yesterday, all were functioning... Now to jump through the last few hoops and pass my final inspections for structural and electrical.

    I really want to do the HWHP next, but I noticed the latest Nyle instructions tell you not to mount the HP unit above the top of the tank? If I use a HP, it really needs to go on a shelf about 4' above the WH, and duct the chilled exhaust into the next room.
  3. DevilsBrew

    DevilsBrew Minister of Fire

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    Apr 21, 2013
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    655
    Good luck!
  4. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Northern NH
    Update 7/4. I have roof mounts and rails in place plus a dent in the major alterations I need to do on my Electrical panel but the high temps are limiting my roof time. Even if I can tolerate the roof temps, the shingles are too soft to walk on. Looks like I need to rig the panels up in place near sunrise and get off the roof by about 9 AM.
  5. Where2

    Where2 Member

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    Don't blame you there. At one point, after I got the rack rails mounted, I was using a 6'x8' bimini top from one of my boats up on the roof to keep the sun off me. My black anodized rails get incredibly hot in the sun at 26.4°N latitude. Sounds like you're making progress, that's good news. 5PM until dark was my favorite time to work. Plenty of breeze, good lighting, and the roof and rails were not unreasonably hot to touch.
  6. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Nova Scotia
    Really?

    That's not good - I have the same plans as you. I wonder why they don't want it mounted high? I was going to hang one from my joists, right beside an electrical outlet, close to my water heater, and right between where I want to draw air from one room & direct it into another.

    I've been trying to d/l their install instructions from their web site for some time now, but I get an Adobe error every time I try, then the window closes. Same thing happens for the Geyser R & Geyser RO. Can you PM me if you've got a PDF of that?
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Maybe try updating Adobe Reader for your browser to the latest version.
  8. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Northern NH
    Update 7/8 , I got in a half day on the roof last weekend and got all the panels up and into place by myself. Sun came out from behind the clouds at the end but made it off the roof without being too badly toasted. My inverter should be here tomorrow and then its a lot of wiring in a nice cool basement plus one more trip up on the roof to mount a roof box and pull the main run of wire to the basement.

    First commercial racking system I have used, I was impressed, all the hardware was bagged and the supplied fasteners were the right quantity. The brand I used was Iron Ridge with Solarmount roof mounts.Biggest issue is that the panels do have some dimensional variation that add up when installing multiples. Plenty of options for adjusting in three dimensions. WEEB grounding clips were also a nice option compared with lay in lugs.
  9. Where2

    Where2 Member

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    Loc:
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    Glad you liked the WEEB's. My buddy and I that installed thought they were a little bit of a hassle on my system (Unirac SolarMount). That also may have partly been due to the black panel frames, and black anodized rails being nearly too hot to touch on my system in the mid-day sun. I certainly agree that the finished product looks much cleaner than lay in lugs would have...

    More photos when you have time, please. :)
  10. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Northern NH
    Update 7/30, the system was inspected by a master electrician and "tested", now I just need the final utility approval.

    I had to do extensive rewiring of two older grid tied systems in order to meet requirements for back feeding the main panel which were more complex than the actual PV wiring. The master only picked up two items that I need to clean up, both of them not related to the current install (one was a past "sin" by another master, and one was mine from a 15 year old install).

    I will get some pictures up in few days. The panels don't look like anything special but the electrical panel area sure doesn't look like a residential install anymore.

    With all three inverters cranking I expect my surplus with the utility is going to be heading up, unfortunately the new panels are at a shallow angle, great for summer but between a low sun angle in winter and potential snow buildup they will definitely contribute less in the winter.
  11. Where2

    Where2 Member

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    Loc:
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    Looking forward to the photos of the electrical panels. What is it about residential self-install that makes everyone expect it to look like a hack job? My AHJ inspectors (both structural and electrical) were so amazed at my whole install and attention to detail they asked me if I would please teach the local installers how to properly install a PV system!!

    I am not an electrician, I'm a professional surveyor. My electrical inspector said one professionally installed solar thermal system he went to inspect had regular wire nuts exposed on the roof?? I know it's low voltage, but really, they thought it would pass inspection with regular wire nuts? Same inspector was amazed when he saw the inside of my Hubbell-Wiegman fiberglass NEMA 4X enclosure I used on my roof for a junction box. When he was looking at my wire management under the panels, I explained how I used heat shrink covered stainless steel wire ties to attach the trunk cable to the aluminum rails... Still awaiting my bi-directional meter.
  12. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Northern MN
    Good to hear all is going well as you move to final approval. I'm ready to give the go ahead on a 7.95kw grid tied system. A big cost item I face is that everything is shaded around me, and the install will be ground mounted in a meadow about 300 feet from the house and across a gravel road. The underground trenching and cable adds considerably to the cost.
  13. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Northern NH
    P8300015.JPG P8300014.JPG P8300016.JPG

    I don't claim that this is the neatest electrical install, just complex. There are three separate systems that were installed at various times in a tight space. Someone with a new system would only need the Silver box on the right mounted near their electrical panel, and folks who use microinverters wouldn't even need the central inverter box (albeit at a higher system cost). Adding the gutter under the panels allowed me to cut out a lot of extra wire runs. The tan inverter is 11 years old and was the original install. The only diagnostics is a blinking red led and it doesn't indicate output. I added the ammeter and hobbs meter in the small gray box in the corner so I could keep track of its output (5.7 KW over 11 years) Its only a 660 watt system. All of three inverters feed the subpanel on the left and then it feeds though an outdoor disconnect to a 40 amp breaker on the main panel. I do really dislike the required warning labels, they really mar up the looks of things. I would like engraved plaques but they would be costly and realistically not many folks care what the power end of a PV system look looks like. There is an attempt by some locals to get enough PV systems together that it makes sense to sell SRECs, if that happens I will have to install a new export power meter off the external disconnect. In order to do this we need to pay someone to drive 2 to 3 hours one way to record the meter outputs plus pay someone to broker them so its questionable if its worth it.

    Its tough to get a picture of the new system due to it being on the second floor and at a shallow angle. For reference the original system hanging off the front of the house is currently set at 45 degrees. The SHW panels are set at 60 degrees to optimize spring and fall and cut back on summer overheating. It works but they do stick out. The SHW system is the oldest install and has been humming along for about 14 years. Given Heat Pump hot water heaters and low cost panels, I would not install SHW again and would just install more panels. Its hard to see but to the left of the new panels is a roof mounted combiner box. It has a great flashing arrangement and makes a nice roof pass through that isn't going to leak. Installed on it is a Midnight Solar surge arrestor. This in theory will pass any high voltages surges down to the ground system. I also have one on the main panel. There are no guarantees if I get a direct lightning hit but its the best thing they make currently.

    Tom in Maine from this site supplied the solar panels, he did big buy of Schuco Panels when Schuco pulled out of the market. There are a lot of offspec Chinese sourced panels for sale for cheap these days but I prefer taking my chances on panels that were built by a known companies and were built to German specs . Generally panels either work out of the box or don't and if there are manufacturing defects it takes years for them to appear and by then good luck with a warranty. They are nicely built panels and the ones I got were A spec. Most panel companies test each panel and grade them by output, they usually then have 3 or 4 model numbers which are identical except for output. The panels I got from Tom were the highest efficiency, 245 watts as opposed to 215 watt for the lowest efficiency meaning more output in less space. Many of the closeout panels on the market tend to be the lower efficiency models( fine if you have the roof space although the mounting costs go up).

    I haven't added up the total cost, its close to 4.5 K with about $500 extra for the rework on the electrical system. I have already eaten up the NH rebate but will get a fed rebate of 30%. At $2.5 a watt compared to an lot of pro installs in the $4 to 5 per watt range (some pros say they are in the 3.75 range these days) , there are savings to DIY as long as you are willing to learn and follow NEC 2011. Ideally with some help and cooler weather I could have installed itallin a weekend. As is was I did everything solo including pulling the panels up on the roof.

    For general reference on how much it generates, I have a pole mounted PV system not shown with roughly the same capacity as the new array. It will put out somewhat more yearly output as its adjustable tilt plus runs cooler but the combination of the 4 older panels on the house and the pole mount covers all my electrical use and I am running a 750 KW surplus after about 15 months of operation. If I installed 3 more panels on the new system and took down the wall mounted panels, I would have all more power needs covered including a fridge and freezer plus an electric range assuming I installed a Heat pump hot water heater to back up my wood system for hot water in the winter. As I mentioned previously the new install will cover heating in shoulder seasons to cut back on wood boiler use and hassle plus cover the house when I am not home.

    One day when the 660 watt system's inverter dies, there really aren't any good options to replace it as the system voltage doesn't line up with modern grid inverters, I ran all the panel wires down to a junction box in the basement and did the series and paralleling in the box so I could add a charge controller and install some batteries and have battery backup but I am waiting to see what newer battery technologies appear.

    Now on to the next project once I catch up with all the deferred projects.
  14. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Northern NH
    Last Update 8/8
    I got verbal approval to run the system from the utility today, so I am legal to run. They really only care on what sort of inverter is installed to ensure that it meets UL specs for a grid tie inverter. I missed out on the highest sun angles of the summer but expect its still going to increase my surplus.
  15. Where2

    Where2 Member

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    Great news! Highest sun angles or not, there's still plenty out there falling from the sky to collect. Make the best of if before the winter grey-days set in. Nice to know some places are still easy to work with on the installation and connection side, and thank you for all your updates.

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