Solar part 9

First off I want to apologize for the previous posts and the images embedded. For some reason WordPress messes with the formatting and things get all wonky.

I am still not complete with the install. There are going to be many more weekends putting things back after the tear out. All that and I have to clean, the house is a wreck!

I glossed over a lot of the last 12 + weekends, like running out of washers, screws, bolts, conduit fittings, all the rework, moving the HAB. Just all those little things that can put a project in a holding pattern. It has been frustrating at times but over all very rewarding!  I was absolutely stunned when I threw the “switch” and everything worked as it should. I think the dog actually gave a slight nod of approval when the fans kicked in to cool her carcass off. She has been a good sport throughout and always followed me around in all that heat just to see what I was doing.

I still have a lot to do, like wire the generator into the ePanel and test that functionality. It will be nice to have come those cloudy days when the battery isn’t charging fully, I can kick the generator on to do a quick charge or flip the by-pass breaker and run purely off the genset.

Overall is has been a rewarding experience and the ePanel is worth the few extra dollars in my mind after questioning the original purchase. It puts everything together in one place, all your DC and AC breakers are in one spot along with all your wiring home runs into one panel.

The folks at Altestore did me a solid and helped throughout. I don’t think I could have done this project without their help. I just don’t see myself trying to kitbash together an entire system myself, there are a lot of moving parts and incompatibilities out there. Although there is kind of a loose standard manufactures use (I am not referring to the NEC) but I have seen a number of inconsistencies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Granted most of the stuff is made in China these days, however the big players in the solar game have QA standards and I would say for the most part it shows in the quality as opposed to a full blown Chinese knock off. I didn’t go high end on my solar equipment and I didn’t go low either, I went somewhere in the middle overall. Yes I could have purchased a cheaper inverter that gives more wattage output, but is it better? Is it compatible? Sure I could have built my own ePanel, but would it be engineered as well? probably not. Is there a central way to control all the hardware? or are you accessing multiple interfaces to manage? Are you flipping dip switches to make a change on the fly?

It is interesting how the publicity makes solar all exciting, your saving the planet in a small way! your reducing the strain on the grid! It is easy! It is simple! It’s not all those things, it is some of them.

Granted this is my first blush at solar and it will probably change and grow over the years. Would have done things differently? maybe, maybe not. I do know if there is a next time it will be different. Baring any major hardware failures, I can pretty much say I am set for the next 10 years. My alternative was to spend twice the amount of dollars spent on solar and connecting to a rural semi unreliable grid. I have control and I am the guy I call on to fix also. Being further down the food chain in the woods, who do you think is going to get power first? me or the large town an hour away?

There are lots of pros and cons to each, and a one size fits all doesn’t work for everyone like the marketing says it does. I work for a utility company currently and we are getting into solar because our customers are asking for it, municipalities, businesses, average joe’s, are all asking for solar and batteries. People are buying electric vehicles and want to charge cheaply. All of this adds to the overall grid problem and does nothing to really solve it. On average, when you place 3 vehicle charge stations in a neighborhood you are now looking at replacing the transformer that powers that neighborhood so it can scale up to meet the needs of that area to the tune of 100’s of thousands of dollars. What if you have multiple neighborhoods where multiple homeowners have EV’s? Now the utility is looking at upgrading sub-stations at a cost of millions of dollars. I have seen the numbers of my employer when they have had to do this. One solar farm (locally) required a dedicated substation and infrastructure (right of ways, etc) almost $2 million in the end. This doesn’t include the cost of maintenance over the life of the sub station.

There is a SLATE article that describes what the failing state of California is going through now and the realities of “renewable” energy on a macro scale can and can’t do. When you excise a nuke plant you loose grid capacity in the 100’s of megawatts, how do you replace that loss? Wind mills only turn when the wind is blowing, solar only create electricity when the sun is out, well you build more gas fired peaker plants to make up the difference, then you buy foreign natural gas to power those plants. In the end it is the consumer that pays for all the feel good economics. But we don’t want to talk about these realities cause it doesn’t? feel good.

I haven’t even touched on the waste. What are we going to do with the waste “renewable’s” produce? We have a massive amount of solar panels that are reaching their half life now, where does that waste go when they do mature at 25 yrs and start failing? Silica is sand, that is an easy solution, what about all the lead, cobalt, lithium, and the glass? toss it? there is no reliable infrastructure in place currently to recycle solar panels. Christ we can’t even recycle paper efficiently in this country today what makes us think we can count on our bureaucracy to recycle renewable energy hardware efficiently and cheaply?

I’ll step off the box now.

To be honest? Solar meets my needs and the rest is all chaff. If I were to offer advice, and I have said it may times, do your research. Understand the terms. Understand what you are getting into, understand the costs, the downsides, the upsides and the time involved. Most importantly be safe! If you don’t have the skills get a professional and shadow them during the install. You will learn a thing or to. Take your time and leave slack in the schedule you have created for yourself. have multiple plans as a fall back. It’s not hard, unless you don’t understand what you are doing. Know how many 8 gauge wires you can put into a 3/4″ conduit, how many 0/1 gauge wires can go into a 2″ conduit. Use mechanical connects for splices (don’t splice if you can help it). Safety is not an accident!

Here is a link to a video on how not to install a solar system.


I have included a break down of the hardware below for reference. Again, this does not include all the other “stuff” you need to put it all together.

8800Wh/day / 3.2 worst case / 0.65
system losses = 4230W array
2 strings of 4 = 2480W

PEI310SG310MB Peimar 310W Mono 60C Solar Panel, BLK 8 $184.00 EA $1,472.00
PVCMC4-MF-50FT 50′ MC4 Connector Extension #10 AWG 2 $54.72 EA $109.44
GENMC4KEY Disconnect Key for MC4 Connectors 1 $9.95 EA $9.95
MAGMSPAE-4448 MS-PAE 4448 Inverter / Charger 1 $1,775.00 EA $1,775.00
MIDMNE175STM240 E-Panel White Steel 175A Magnum MS-PAE 1 $626.00 EA $626.00
MAGME-ARC50 ME-ARC50 Advanced Remote Control 1 $239.20 EA $239.20
MAGPT100 PT-100 100A MPPT Charge Controller 1 $875.00 EA $875.00
MIDMNEPV100 100 Amp 150VDC Din Rail Mount Breaker 1 $42.80 EA $42.80
MIDMNEPV50-300 50 Amp 300VDC Din Rail Mount Breaker 1 $27.80 EA $27.80
KLVHAB7.5 KiloVault 7.5kWh HAB 1 $4,995.00 EA $4,995.00
ALTBC-1/0-60RB Battery Interconnect Cables,1/0 5Ft,Pair


Millie says peace out!

Solar part 8

The end is nigh? Lets get to the cooler stuff here. Midnight solar has a product called an epanel. When I first looked at this my initial thought I was being up charged for something I really didn’t need, in hindsight it has been a life saver. The epanel is partially prewired at the factory […]

Solar part 7

The following weekend after the jack exercise, I found a 9U server rack on Amazon nicely priced. I pretty much gave up on getting the HAB into the bathroom at this point, which also caused me to relocate a lot of conduit and wiring. How do you fix a 2″ hole in a tin wall? Not easily, or you don’t.

See I drilled and ran all kinds of conduit in the prep to mount that HAB and inverter into that tiny space only to change the layout again for the third time (I think this is third change, I have forgotten what change I am on by now). But back to the server rack. The rack is stout enough weight wise to hold the HAB, the weak point in this part of the plan is the wheels were only tack welded to the rack bottom. As I rolled the HAB around the wheels broke loose from the welds and now visualize me trying to keep the HAB from falling over and creating that escape hatch I talked about  previously.

Losing the wheels off the server rack, caused a loss of 4″ of height overall, which then brought another issue with the 0/1 battery cables not able to reach the HAB from the inverter. What to do? Field expediency again. You will see in follow on posts, images that I created a box to sit under the server rack and gain those few inches back. Visualize a box on a box. I had to have those few extra inches to allow the 0/1 battery cables to connect between the HAB and the inverter. Another source of consternation was the 0/1 battery cables are fairly flexible considering the diameter of each but not that flexible, so I needed to have as straight of a cable run as possible without to many twists and turns.


I am not going to lie, just positioning the HAB on the server rack, cutting access holes took a better part of a day.