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Renewable Energy

The major ‘upgrade’: from 570 Wp towards 1.710 Wp

Posted by Niels in Solar energy Add comments

One year after using my first (small) set of solar panels, and many moments of measuring (weekly), the blue PV-virus took a grip on my life ;) Combined with possibility (both financially as physically) to place more panels on the flat roof, the urge to use this space began to grow….
See and read here in this article where I upgrade a small-size (570Wp) installation toward a ‘slightly’ larger one (1.710Wp).

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As I wrote the initial article a year ago after installing a small-size PV-installation, I opted for an extended solar installation. This also contributes to the sustainable/renewable energy. But first I would like to thank everyone for the positive reactions on my first article.
I am quite happy with the 3 panels which produced lots of free energy in this year. And all is done without any inconveniences (noise, smell etc.) In fact, the panels produced over 500kWh in total, of which approx. 300kWh where fed back into the net.

After all renovations in and around my house where finished, and a small shed (measuring 6 x 3,3 meters) was ready, I couldn’t help it… flat roof screams for PV-panels :D But sadly the local government insisted to use a flat roof (as original my shed was designed with a sloped roof). Also these local authorities are not that keen on environmental-friendly projects (as even no local (financial) support is available!). They just keep their green hands by planting more (small-size) treas (which is also good, but one can improve way much more their contribution in CO2-emission prevention).
But at that time (November 2007) I had some serious questions:

  • When will it be clear if/how and when some support is available from the Dutch government on financial support for solar panels? All small things do help, and certainly for me who invested already in a small size installation without “community-support” I could use it.
  • Will it be possible to fit more than 3 panels on my shed (e.g. 6 or 9 panels)?
  • How to install an extra (dedicated) electrical group for these panels (as it is a dutch law who demands a dedicated group for PV-installations whom are larger than 600 Wp)?

The proposal requests

After sending out a proposal to several PV-companies, the firm “Oskomera Solar Solutions” had to deliver my order. It is the same company who delivered the initial 570Wp set, installed one year earlier. This time the measurement stated it would be possible to place 6 panels on the flat roof. All alligned due south, with no signs of objects to cast shadows. And during preparations, I found out I even had 1 electrical group (unintentionally) left blank

The order

When I arrived at Deurne (the village where Oskomera is located), Dennis (Gieselaar) informed me about the panels. They had a slightly dark-blueish color compared to the MSK panels installed earlier. It all had to due with improvements in low-light conditions or something. See enclosed picture for the differences in color: lightb-blue is MSK, dark-blue is Suntech panels.

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The MSK panels (on the leftside) and Suntech panels (right side).

My order concists of: 2 Mastervolt Soladin 600, 6 panels (Suntech 190Wp),
And ofcourse the necessary materials as the cabling, lightboxes (frames where the PV-panels are mounted on)
To monitor the performance of each string (which contains 3 panels each) I bought a powermeter (Brennenstühl PW 230 as I recall, about 25 EUR each) This meter measures also the phase (cosinus phi), frequency, peak-power, current, voltage etc.
But at this very moment the wish arises to monitor these parameters individually (per string) on a wired/wireless method. This wish is mostly implemented in the larger regulators found in PV-installations of about larger than 2.000Wp. But for now, I settle with this simple setup, and when time comes to replace 1 (or more) regulators, it can be good to invest in 1 larger, complexer unit… But asides that, due to 3 regulators there’s a certain amount of redundancy available: if one unit fails, you still have (a smaller amount of) energy production…

The installation

When I arrived at my house, I unloaded all materials. In fact, all took up considerable space in my garage. Due to strong winds on December the 7th (Friday), I didn’t start installation immediately. Because these panels are quite large (measuring 148 x 95 x 3,6 cm (length x width x depth) and become good wings to fly with ;) when the wind catches them. For the load each panel I used second-hand tiles (50cm x 50cm), and about 60-70kg per panel was installed. On Saturday (December 8th) I started installation at around 9 o’clock. All materials where easily placed onto the roof of the shed, and correctly alligned with the sunshine (which is at/around it lowest point during winter).

The worst thing had to come: lifting lots of tiles onto the roof. Believe me: your body will ache after a while, certainly if you’re like me doing office-work all day….

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All panels installed on my shed and garage.

As these panels are about 148cm long/wide, I alligned these quite close to another. Between the panels on the shed (wooden building besides the garage) there’s a gap of about 3 cm. This can help in ventilation (cooling the panels is always good for efficiency reasons), and second: during strong winds some subtle movement is allowed and distance prevents noise to be expelled.

All panels are alligned due south (180 degrees) on the shed, on the garage there’s a slight deviaton towards 184 degrees (which should give 100% on a radiation diagram handed over by the company). In fact, I can’t notice any difference, and alligned the garage-string also due south (180 degrees).

Before questions arise, there’s a small ledge on the garage/shed. And the distance between is smaller than a panel, so upgrading another 3 (making a total of 12 panels, and approx. 2.300Wp) is not possible :( .

All panels were lifted by rope (all by myself) one by one. On ground level I mounted the 4 bolts on each panel. These bolts fit into the lightbox (the frame were the panels are mounted on).

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6 shiny-new Suntech (190Wp) panels.

The plan

Some steps I followed for installation:

  • unwrap panels and mount 4 bolts/nuts onto mounting tabs.;
  • Distribute rubber tiles over 4 to 6 points where the load (concrete tiles) is placed later on;
  • lightbox (frame) placed on the roof, and onto the rubber tiles (to prevent damage to the roof);
  • Use a rope to pick-up a panel, and place the panel onto the lightbox with the nuts/bolts attached;
  • Place the load (concrete tiles) carefully onto the lightbox/frame, where also the rubber tiles are placed);
  • Attach the frame onto the PV-panel with M13 bolts/nuts (self-locking types!);
  • <repeat previous steps for each following panel>
  • connect the panels using the enclosed cables, and feed per string 2 cables into the wall to the invertors;
  • Mount the Soladin invertors onto the wall and connect to the string;

After all things were installed, I took some rest and enjoyed the result: 1.710Wp ready to generate lots of energy!!

The two Mastervolt Soladin 600 inverters

And what does it deliver you?

At least a good feeling of an empty wallet and a durable investment :) But wander yourself with questions: how many people buy a house with a kitchen, in expectation of “added” value to their property?
Personally I think the government should encourage people to take opportunities in their own hands. Also, the Dutch government implemented by law an energy-rating for each house, which is mandatory when it will be sold. It will inform the potential client how well it scores on issues like energie-efficiency etc. By this investment I hope te reduce the monthly costs for my house in considerably small amounts: instead of the initial payments to the utility company (around 150-170 EUR in April 2006 when I got the key of this house) it is now calculated to EUR 85 a month (ultimo April 2008; I placed the panels in Dec 2006). Nice!! You can follow the performance of my installation on my own site.
And because I am rarely at home, the electricity bill will be deducted in large amounts. I think when more people will follow, worldwide it can make a big difference. There are lot of things to question, but it is sure the oil rises to skyhigh prices… and maybe more things to come. So if you have some savings, please think it over and try to invest it in PV-panels, or similar environmental-friendly /CO2-emission reduction techniques.

And because these panels can be easily be moved to a new house (when I have intentions to move…), it is a long term investment. Although, maybe I leave these here behind, because efficiency of solar panels will improve by time.

I also opted for solar-heated boiler, but in my household (1-person) I use minimal amounts of gas (purely for warming, cooking and washing). And because I am away often, the hot water is mostly not used (I guess, if anyone has experiences in this situation (1-person household & solar boiler) please let me know. It is still on my wishlist, but only when my household consists of more than 1 person :)
But for now: I did what I could do, and (at least) “I put my money where my mouth is”.

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