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Articles > Solar > A little about our Off Grid Solar set up > A bit about our Solar setup

A bit about our Solar setup

Published by admin on 21-Jan-2017 16:00 (981 reads)

Our personal story : ( the short version lol )

We began our venture into off grid Solar over 7 years ago now. We,when we began,only ran a tiny 640W system !! that’s right ! , less than one kilowatt! and to quickly answer any obvious question regarding how was our life living with that tiny system? , well , we can tell you that it sucked big time !!. I must admit that at the time many years ago,we did already understand quite a bit about life with solar from research we had done for a few years prior, but nothing could match or prepare us for the actual harsh reality of moving away from the grid and trying to live with ONLY 640W’s …. !

The moment we moved in with our little Solar system, one line of words became very common on a daily basis and bloody annoying for particularly myself. The loud yell from the house to me from Kerri ( my partner) rang out all to often !

” Steve!! , the powers gone out again !! ” yikes!, did I get sick of hearing that! .. lolol Our 640W was good for next to none of the things that on grid, we were used to doing. On a daily basis, turning the TV or computer on was a risk! , even hitting the lights was a hit and miss situation most evenings.

Now, again I must admit that we had a rather old battery set, that should have been swapped out at the start and turned into 6 boat anchors ! :- ) but we tried to get by for as long as we could with them . ( btw that was a big mistake! ) that I will elaborate on later in this article.

Moving quickly forward over the past 7 years, we now live with a really comfortable total of 4 KW and 1000amp battery bank made up of 12 2volt batteries. Our system is made up of 3kw @ 240volt ( through the inverter ) and 1kw @12volt ( I will explain why we use both later ) These days we run very close to what would be considered to be a very normal home,using all the mod cons and even a big arse cooler in summer ! , so life for us now after 7 years of lets say interesting power availability or capacity, is dam good :- )

A brief run down on our totally off grid power setup

I am not going to go on about our first tiny solar system , but I will show and explain our latest effort in this area of power supply.

As I have mentioned , we now run a 3kw (which is by no means a huge ) 240V system along side all of our 4 separate 12 volt lighting setups .
This may sound strange, but until you have gone without power and light for a while , I suppose “redundancy” is not an issue you would be aware of.

What our system is made up of :

Solar panels
We have 12 X 300W Solar panels . The panels are Mono Crystal which are a little better than the older style Polly Crystal . They are wired up using std MC4 couplings to connect them in sets so that the end Voltage stays withing the limits of our solar Controller ..

The Solar controller
The Solar controller ( the smaller blue box in the pic ) , like all our main gear is Victron , a brand well known in the off grid Solar business .
The controller can handle up to 150V and 80 Amps which means as I said is why the panels have to be wired together to come up with figures that do not exceed that.

This power from the panels goes through the Solar controller and is managed , to provide a power flow that matches the battery needs at any given time .
When the batteries are up on full charge these solar controllers throttle the rate of charge that flows to the batteries to prevent over charging . They will adjust the power flow on demand while the sun is providing power .

Our Batteries
Our Batteries are 12X 2V Gel mat 1000AH ,hooked up in series to gives us a constant 24V flow to the main Inverter.
This setup gives us a total battery bank capacity of a 1000AH at 24V .
This sounds like allot , but remembering that any lead acid battery should not be discharged deeper than around 30% we really have 300AH usable once the sun has gone down..

To measure this in battery power another way that is used by many is to multiply the voltage produced by the AH of the bank , giving us a 24,000W (24KW) bank , or 6KW usable when they are at full ..
6KW use available per day is still quite good as a storage system goes ,but we still use quite a bit of restraint or common sense in winter especially , with min disruption.
There are many things that this means as far as use goes , but that I will refrain from writing a small book on here now ..

These batteries are quite commonly used in Solar applications and as the are sealed , they require no maintenance which is good and bad if they have an issue ? They are the type of battery that once dead , they are dead and need to be replaced, which we have not had to do as yet .

The Inverter
The Inverter ( the larger blue box in the pic ) as mentioned is also Victron 24V gear 3KW capacity with an 80AH charger built in and what it does is takes our 24V and converts it into 240V for normal use of most appliances. The Inverter is Pure Sin wave in nature, so the power it produces is very clean and suited to modern appliances .
These Inverters have a few functions apart from converting the power . It also monitors current levels and keeps an eye on power levels as far as low and high input Voltages goes, meaning it is a monitor as well . The other job that the Inverter does as I briefly mentioned in the description , is that when incoming voltages get low for what ever reason , it has a built in battery charger that kicks in when any external Generator is added to the system . These Inverters can be set to switch a good generator on automatically if needed, but ours is set to be manual

The main power board
The board in the picture is one we had made up as a unit ready to connect , which was convenient at the time for us .
It has all the Victron gear on it as well as a few other things that are required to run a good solar setup. .
The board has a main Solar breaker switch to isolate the panels incoming power if need be , it has a large main battery shut off with special power handling capacity to isolate the battery bank if needed . It has a std circuit breaker box to hook your house into in a normal manner and it also has a little round battery monitor that is used for a quick look at where things like power in , power out, voltages and AH levels and battery state of charge ( how full the bank is )
We have as seen in the pic of the board , a std caravan style plug in for our generator to use as input when needed .
All this adds up to a nice clean basic 3KW only Solar power setup that does exactly what we need and it did not cost a small fortune. Total for all mentioned in a DIY install was just under $8000.

This pic below is of our 240V power control board.
It is a 24volt input from our panels It does look quite expensive, but for what it does , it was a great value spend .

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This board is connected to our 1000 AH (amp hour ) battery bank, made up of 12 / 1000amp 2volt batteries, pictured below.

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The pic below is of one of our little 12 volt lighting power controllers.

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They are only 20amp and have only one 200W panel powering each of the 4 we have spread around the property. Each of these is connected to just one 200AH (amp hour ) battery . This type of tiny 12 volt setup runs all the LED lights that we have , which number in total around 35 .

We use these so that it will never be the case , that all our lighting goes down at once! One of these setups run the main house lights, another runs the little house we call it ” stand alone flat and one runs our large shed lighting and yet another actually powers the bridge lights....
(the bridge pictured in our header)

To be continued :- )

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