Power Shift: The Plan in Place

By , March 23, 2015

All the steps previously outlined in the Power Shift essays here on the blog, most recently Power Shift: Sizing the PV Array, led to assembling our new PV array.

With help and guidance from the tech experts at Real Goods, where we bought our first array, I assembled a pretty robust system of U.S. made solar panels. We will use four Suvina Optimus 260 W panels tied in two parallel strings into the battery bank with a Midnite Solar Classic 150 charge controller.

It appears that we could put them right where the old array is now. According to the techs, the wire in place will work for the new array, so this would almost be “plug and play”.

On the other hand, if we were to get really fancy, and build new mounts elsewhere on the edge of the beach that could be pivoted by hand, we could conceivably harvest additional power from our limited sun shed. I’ll talk more about this in coming posts.

We’ll need to make new mounts either way. The current panels are amorphous, a lower grade solar collection material that is light and flexible. The new panels are monocrystalline, the highest grade currenlty available commercially, but rigid. We’ll need some good, beefy timbers to support them, where ever we decide to put them.

They may arrive on the barge this coming Tuesday or Wednesday. I say “may” because I have yet to confirm that they made it from Real Goods to the Seattle seaport in time to catch the boat last week. When they come, it’ll take me a few days to hump them over the hill, then we’ll see about switching them out.

We may yet keep the old panels in play, or we may stow them for a while as we think up a new application for them. Keeping them would mean running the old charge controller alongside the new one, as we can’t run both sets of panels out of the same controller.

We should be able to get the power we need from the solar panels much of the time. In the darker months, probably the latter half of November to the latter half of February each winter, we’ll likely need to rely on the wind generator for some or all of our power.

We are considering purchasing a smaller wind generator in the 400 W range, roughly half our current generator’s output. We’d likely keep the new one in reserve until our current generator wears out or malfunctions again. The smaller units weigh a third of our current generator or less;. With that cantilevered tower, we’d likely be able to keep the tower dropped, or even store the generator in the shed until it’s needed, then raise it on demand.

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