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Thread: My workshop solar project

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    N CA
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    395
    Which is why a pro is handling the power side. It is best to know your limitations😉

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
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    264
    I have looked into solar too. Location is huge and cannot be overlooked, there are a bunch of jurisdictions out there, all with different rules.

    In general in the Lower 48 ( I haven't looked everywhere) if you can grid tie and not buy batteries you will likely come out ahead. Off grid it gets tricky in a hurry. Most likely I would go with a few deep cycle batteries and wire the whole house with minimal 12 vdc lighting and maybe a couple 12 vdc appliances- car audio runs on 12 vdc for instance -but then have to choose between a switching array to pull 120VAC out of the grid during part of the day or maybe just running a generator part of the time. Maintaining a battery bank to pull 120VAC out of it through an inverter some of the time and still get your batteries charged back up for tonight... There are many 12vdc "things" out there, the sticking point for me is the service life expectancy of a battery bank.

    My mom in northern CA has a grid tied system with no battery bank and it is expertly priced and fee'd to be just barely worth it for her.

  3. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Modesto, CA, USA
    Posts
    4,331
    My town is a customer owned electric utility. Originally the dams were built for irrigation and to make electricity. Today about 20% of the power is hydro. The rest is bought from other power plants. So many people have installed solar grid tie system that they doubled the monthly meter fee But cut power fees. With no solar it averages out.
    They are also in trouble because the electric rates have been subsidizing the irrigation fees for decades. They lost a lawsuit and have to figure out how to pay back the electric customers and force farmers to pay there fair share. Because the hydroplants are over a certain size they are not considered renewable electricity.
    Bill D.

  4. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    MT
    Posts
    326
    Quote Originally Posted by Kris Cook View Post
    Nice job. Am envious. We don't get the solar days to make a system very efficient here. I would be all over it if it made economic sense.
    Actually, after reading Scott's post something clicked with me. Most of Montana does not have net-metering, and I had assumed that was the case where I live now. I did some checking and net-metering is an option where I am. Once I get my shop up and going I will definitely be looking into this option.
    Regards,

    Kris

  5. #20
    We've had solar power going on 10 years now, a net-metered grid-tied system. A solar tracker generates about 3500 kwh/ year which was enough to cove our usage while I was working a day job. When I went back to working at my home shop we were running a deficit with the power co. Last year we decided to add air-to air heat pumps on the shop and house (we'd always heated exclusively with wood) and had a 10,000kwh/year fixed pv array installed which should cover the heat pump and shop demand.

    It's been interesting to see how rapidly the market has changed in only 10 years. The cost of panels has dropped so much that our new setup, which should produce nearly 3 times the output of the original, cost only 20% more. The state has promoted solar installations to the point that the power companies are limiting access and the state mandated price for residential generation has been lowered for new projects. There is controversy about the level of support for renewable energy and the perceived subsidy by folks who can't afford to finance a pv system. There are times when the available wind and solar power generated in state is more than the grid can handle, to the point that some of the wind farms in the Northeast Kingdom are throttled back. We are going to need major grid upgrades nationwide and improvement of storage technology to accommodate the transition to renewables that I feel we need.

  6. #21
    Wow,

    Itís great to hear that itís that good.

    A few years back a number of my neighbors got on the solar wagon. I think the impetus was the by back rate going way down and tax credits the same.

    Sadly my home does not have enough available roof space configured in a manner to warrant the panels. I had a friend whom has a recurring issue with squirrels eating his wires. The cost is huge to fix their.

    When I do make my move north/west whatever part of my plan will be a bunch of panels in a field someplace on my property.

    But itís so good to hear that itís such a viable option our infrastructure cant handle it. Sooner or later that fact will hopefully pave the way even for the deniers..

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Jenness View Post
    We've had solar power going on 10 years now, a net-metered grid-tied system. A solar tracker generates about 3500 kwh/ year which was enough to cove our usage while I was working a day job. When I went back to working at my home shop we were running a deficit with the power co. Last year we decided to add air-to air heat pumps on the shop and house (we'd always heated exclusively with wood) and had a 10,000kwh/year fixed pv array installed which should cover the heat pump and shop demand.

    It's been interesting to see how rapidly the market has changed in only 10 years. The cost of panels has dropped so much that our new setup, which should produce nearly 3 times the output of the original, cost only 20% more. The state has promoted solar installations to the point that the power companies are limiting access and the state mandated price for residential generation has been lowered for new projects. There is controversy about the level of support for renewable energy and the perceived subsidy by folks who can't afford to finance a pv system. There are times when the available wind and solar power generated in state is more than the grid can handle, to the point that some of the wind farms in the Northeast Kingdom are throttled back. We are going to need major grid upgrades nationwide and improvement of storage technology to accommodate the transition to renewables that I feel we need.

  7. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Tampa Bay, FL
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    2,138
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Jenness View Post
    We've had solar power going on 10 years now, a net-metered grid-tied system. A solar tracker generates about 3500 kwh/ year which was enough to cove our usage while I was working a day job. When I went back to working at my home shop we were running a deficit with the power co. Last year we decided to add air-to air heat pumps on the shop and house (we'd always heated exclusively with wood) and had a 10,000kwh/year fixed pv array installed which should cover the heat pump and shop demand.

    It's been interesting to see how rapidly the market has changed in only 10 years. The cost of panels has dropped so much that our new setup, which should produce nearly 3 times the output of the original, cost only 20% more. The state has promoted solar installations to the point that the power companies are limiting access and the state mandated price for residential generation has been lowered for new projects. There is controversy about the level of support for renewable energy and the perceived subsidy by folks who can't afford to finance a pv system. There are times when the available wind and solar power generated in state is more than the grid can handle, to the point that some of the wind farms in the Northeast Kingdom are throttled back. We are going to need major grid upgrades nationwide and improvement of storage technology to accommodate the transition to renewables that I feel we need.
    Duke Energy has quite the stranglehold on Florida. A couple of years ago, they reportedly spent $7M on ad campaigns (and God knows how much more on lobbying) to eliminate net metering. The commercials were very slick, trying to convince non solar users that their bills were more paying for the solar users.

    Amazingly the state Constitutional amendment failed, but I have no doubt they'll try again. No state subsidies here, but the Federal tax credit was nice.

    My array is very large. I came from a house that had electric bills over $1K, and a few months $1500. So I REALLY wanted to never pay for electricity again.

    Last year my array produced 48MWh of electricity. At the utility's rates, that's $6,240 worth of electricity. But since they only credit you back at 1/4 the going rate, plus there's that monthly service charge, I only got back a rebate of a little more than $300. Which they actually don't send you, they just have a credit on your account.

    It's quite a system fixed totally to benefit them.

    What really drives me nuts, is the "Islanding" phenomenon. Basically what this is, is that if there is a power failure in your neighborhood, your panels shut off, and provide no electricity. This happened last week, after a rainstorm with BIG winds. Some tree fell in my neighborhood knocking down a power line.

    Right after that storm cell blew past, I had a perfectly sunny day - and no power.

    Their argument, and there is a little validity to it, is that they don't want a lineman working on a line he thinks is powerless to get shocked.

    If only there was a device called a contactor/relay that for about $50 could prevent that. Oh, and BTW, I think my system already has 3 of those built-in. So it's total BS.

    So here I was packing my refrigerator with ice, with a perfectly intact solar array that could easily power it, in full sunlight.

    One last bit of knowledge to impart. With net metering, at least in Florida, there is no economical way to pay off batteries. If you had a Tesla Powerwall, that every night could power your house, and every day be charged by your solar array, you would just use less energy from the utility, but be paid back at commercial rates, so there is no economic reason to get one. It would have helped me last week with the power outage, but $20K for the two Powerwalls (to power just one floor of my house) buys a lot of ruined groceries. And you can't go off the grid in Florida.

    In other states, if you can go off the grid, or who don't have net metering, batteries can start to make economic sense. Just not here.
    You're like the door closing button on an elevator. Comforting but not necessarily effective.

    After cancellations this year, I have enough frequent flyer miles to orbit the sun.

  8. #23
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    North Dana, Masachusetts
    Posts
    145
    In Massachusetts the electrical grid is a battery for solar producers. I make up to70 kilowatt hours a day. It's enough power to supply the house and shop, and still have an excess. When I put the panels in, I also changed to electric hot water, an electric stove, and supplemental electric heat. In the shop, I added radiant electric heat.

    Massachusetts has added so much solar electric power that we have been able to cut demand for coal and gas. We have a 1.1 megawatt pump storage plant that used to store nuclear, and now stores solar and other electricity.

  9. #24
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Posts
    52,963
    Quote Originally Posted by William Hodge View Post
    In Massachusetts the electrical grid is a battery for solar producers.
    The one issue with that is when the grid goes down locally because of trees down or other disruptions, you're disconnected from that battery...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #25
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Modesto, CA, USA
    Posts
    4,331
    For most folks it is cheaper to install a emergency generator for the few times a year that power goes down. A battery system is a big investment in money and time. A Tesla powerwall is about $7,000 plus intallation. For that money install a Ng generator and it will still be working when you die. How long to batteries last before they need replacing, 10-20 years if you are lucky? Invest the money saved in more panels to pay the extra gas bill or put it in the bank and use the interest to pay the extra gas bill.
    Bill D
    I bet you need more then one powerwall to equal a medium generators output.

  11. #26
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Posts
    2,138
    $7K is pretty low for a Powerwall. I was quoted $10K per Powerwall including installation. And I would need 2 just to power fridge/freezer, 1 Central A/C unit, and some lights.

    So would have been $20K.

    You can easily get a very large propane generator that could power my entire house for $15K. But it actually was more complicated than that as I would have to put in a larger propane tank which would involve digging up my front yard and putting the generator 5 or 6 feet in the air to get it out of the floodplain. Plus all the noise and the need to make sure you had enough propane during a prolonged blackout period so that wasnít a great option either.

    It basically became pretty obvious that if we lose power in a hurricane, we lose power. Certainly not wonderful, but it will stay that way unless 1.) battery backups become much cheaper or 2.)Florida gets rid of net metering so it makes economic sense on a daily basis.

  12. #27
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    El Dorado Hills, CA, USA
    Posts
    63
    If you have natural gas available, that's a pretty good solution for your generator though. We have a 22KW generator (about the size of a 5ft bench) that fires up when the grid goes down, and that size can run the whole house including two A/C units. I made a point to fire up the 240W table saw last time the power was out, just to say I could do it

  13. #28
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    North Dana, Masachusetts
    Posts
    145
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    The one issue with that is when the grid goes down locally because of trees down or other disruptions, you're disconnected from that battery...

    That's a good point. Whenever trees come down on the wires, the power does go out. It has happened in the past, before we had solar panels. It also has happened recently, when we did have solar panels. Given the number of trees, and worsening storms, we will be having downed wires again in the future. We have generators as back up for power outages. The cost and waste from generators is less than waste of electricity caused by storing it, and cost of storing it in batteries. The solar panels automatically shut off when the power goes out. We can't back feed the line, and the solar power is not regulated enough to use it for the buildings.

    The reason we are connected to the grid is that we make more power than we use, and we reduce the demand on the grid.
    Last edited by William Hodge; 05-08-2020 at 2:29 PM.

  14. #29
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    N CA
    Posts
    395
    We fired up the solar system today, briefly, and everything checked out. With a low sun angle we were looking at 16.2 amps on both legs X 240V= 7776 watts.and the meter ran backwards. I have to get the inspection final, & the PG&E interconnection agreement, which can take weeks, before I am up and running. Also to be done is to get the Enphase Reporting software operational. I am working on the network to get internet out to the shop. One problem with a metal building is that no signal gets through it so I have a couple Ubiquiti M5 Nanostations going in as well. If that proves to be problematic I will manage to get a Cat 6 cable out there. I combined my generator on the same permit as the solar and it will be wired next week. I believe this system will pay out. My only labor expense in the system is $1000 to the electrician.
    One point that has come up is cleaning the collectors. We are getting mass quantities of pollen off the east hill side we are tucked against. I hosed them off and they came clean, but I have to be realistic about this. At 71, I did this work and was comfortable up there, but going forward, she will kill me if she sees me up there regularly. She would like a greenhouse so I'm thinking I may build a 12x30 car-port type structure off the solar side of the shop. That would be a low pitch and a better bet for safety and utility in accessing the system. I could make about 15' of it her greenhouse. The rest I could use to store the wood and the other odds and ends of a shop.
    One other thing. I would like to put this down as the product of my thorough research, but really must admit that it falls in the dumb luck category. The Enphase 7+ Microinverter, the Envoy controller and its software can handle batteries. I thought with the MI's I was limited to grid tied. With an LP generator it would not pencil out but depending upon gas prices and how extensive PG&E "safety" outages are I will keep my eye on the battery option.

  15. #30
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Location
    USVI
    Posts
    142
    Great job Jack! That’s a beautiful shop you have there. We’re on solar as well but use the Tesla power walls for storage because the utility doesn’t pay for anything we dump into the grid. We also keep a small generator that can run the refrigerators and well pumps in case of storm damage or other system failures. Pretty much a necessity living down here in the “alley”
    I have not given much thought as to cleaning the panels. How clean do they really need to be to function properly? One thought that came to mind was to use one of those long roof rake poles people have for snow up north. Instead of the rake, equipped with a squeegee. Not sure if that’s the ticket but there’s got to be some way to do it from the ground

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