Neal your taking over my blog. Thank god.

Hey Neal please send me all your best photos with little titles. I either didn’t know how to publish some, missed them because they’re are too many emails in my inbox everyday, or I screwed it up trying to publish them!

Especially the recycled, recycled roof tiles.

For those of you who got part of the FREEEEE 30,000 ! 24 watt roof tiles we gave away. Neal sent me one heck of a picture of his shed. It’s about 4,000 sq. feet. And I mispublished it because I’m ignorant of a lot computer skills and tricks.

Well I’ve survived a long long time anyway.


Here’s another great letter for my blog by Neal Collier

Hi John,
I took a look at the refurbed website.  It is too early to for critical comment, but looks like you are on the right track…except “Lightin” arrestors????  It will be good to know exactly what you have for us “a la carte” purchasers.  Hopefully you can streamline the purchasing system, too.
I did notice that neither the new one OR the current page have links to the blog!
I will try to get you another blog article, soon.  I have a couple of ideas.  Between my taxes, Mom’s taxes, the Medicare signup barrage and the Solar Shed, I am staying busy.  I have most of the new solar shingles connected to the new 48v system and will get the rest of them as I reshuffle the older tiles from the 24v system to the 48v system.  At present, there is more on the  new system than the old and I plan to cut over to the new system, today.  I will have to bring another cable online before I tie into the heat pump.  These 100% recycled clunkers are putting out very consistent power levels from one bank to the next.  It is interesting to see the differences between one model of charge controller and the next.  There are  4 controllers/3 models on the 48v system.  One likes to sleep late and quit early, but when it is needed it is solid and steady.  Another is steady, but more aggressive.  Another is like a little yappy dog, very aggressive and jumping all around!  Each has its merits and every watt counts.

Neal Collier again with more Solar tips and smart logical solar opinions.

Hi John,
Last time I came down to Miami, I went through the Panhandle at night.  I could not really see the hurricane damage, except for the trees that were cut off even with the edge of the road and the signs saying that the rest areas were closed.  Friday, I went through there for a family day in Georgia.  The right-of-way is pretty well clear, but work crews are hard at it, getting out the damaged timber.  Some people still don’t have a new roof!  This is over a distance of maybe 60 miles, with some areas looking like they were carpet-bombed.  Even mile markers were blown away.  I think it is 4 rest areas that were decapitated and still out of commission.  This is well inland from the coast.
I keep wondering what it would take to get a big push for solar in those towns, like Chipley, Marianna and Chattahoochee, as well as the coastal communities.  I found this about New Orleans, which is huge on solar power.  It seems they had some help with “programs.”  That’s personal rooftop solar, too, not corporate farms.  Whatever they did needs to happen here in Florida!  Somebody with some clout needs to get the ball rolling.  Any ideas?

Neal Collier again.

After playing phone tag the other day, John and I were having a conversation about all things solar and my Solar Shed phase 3 performance.  He asked how well the modules were performing as these are all recycled salvage panels in the form of roof tiles.

I replied that they are doing well, having seen around 8kw with a 10kw nameplate rating.  That concerned him and he seemed a little surprised when I made the point that modules never seem to make full rated power…not in the real world anyway.

You see, panels are tested and rated at an industry standard under conditions that are rarely encountered at most sites.  It isn’t exactly a lie, but neither is it the real world.  Never mind that mine are panels that have a permanent grime on them and were stomped and thrown off the roofs of their original installations. I have seen some panels with a second set of numbers on the label that represent a more likely scenario.  These lower numbers are closer to what most folks will see.

First of all, there is the matter of the sky sometimes being reluctant to provide the industry-standard level of irradiation. In our area, we go for days at a time in winter with clouds and gloom.  In the summer, with 95 degrees and 95% humitidy, we have a 10,000 foot layer of humidity that looks sorta like blue sky, but it blocks some of the sun.  My Phase Two version of the solar shed had plenty of power on sunny days, but not enough battery to ride through the gloomy ones.  After 4 days, I’d have to switch back to grid to save the batteries.  Phase Three has enough modules to charge the larger battery pile, even on cloudy days.  Getting the right balance of relatively cheap solar and expensive battery is tricky, but I think I have nailed it and have added more loads to the new 48v system.

Electrical resistance can take a small toll.  Keep your cables fat and short for lowest resistance.  Long skinny wires and parallel strings will give you a power loss.  Each connector loses a little power.  Since my system uses relatively small 34 watt modules, there are over 700 MC3 connectors up there!

Then there is the matter of the sun’s angle, relative to the panel surface.  They test with the sunlight coming dead-on square with the panel.  Tracking racks are available, but I don’t think they are worth the extra expense.  If you have a fixed installation, then you will get that max output for an instant, twice a year.  Right now, the sun is a little low to be hitting best power on my array.  This summer, the sun will be high, but the days will be longer, so I am looking forward to sun-powered central air conditioning!  Don’t let somebody tell you that you have to have your rooftop panels at a really ridiculous and ugly angle to improve your performance.  I saw photos of a system mounted on an otherwise picturesque barn at such an angle as to make the image hideous.  Mount your panels at the roof angle and just use more of them if you need to.  Keep solar beautiful and fashionable.  If I remember any of that sine and cosine stuff correctly, you’d have to be 60 degrees out of alignment to drop the output to half and on a cloudy day the diffusion of light by the clouds would make up for some of that loss.

I mentioned that these modules of mine have a permagrunge. Nothing cleans them!  Then there is the layer of pollen that the pine trees are presently giving them between rain showers.  In May, cropdusters at my place will give them a coating of red clay dust as they go roaring back and forth.  That’s right, anything that blocks the sun blocks the power.  The big solar farms are now playing with the use of robotic panel washers to keep the modules clean.  One of those long-handled RV brush/squeegee thingamajiggers will probably do well enough for you.

There is also the temperature factor.  Note on your label that your panels are rated at a certain temperature.  Mounted close to the roof or even out in the open you are likely to find much higher temps on a sunny day.  Output goes down as temperature goes up.  The solar roof tiles I use probably benefit from being mounted on open purlins instead of a sealed plywood roof deck as code dictated in their original residential installations.  Let your panels breathe!

So, if you use your panels on a cold, dry Himalayan mountaintop with sun trackers, you might come out even with the rated output of your modules.  The good news is that they start making power as soon as the sky makes light, even down here in the hazy flatlands.  My batteries are usually bulked up by 9:30 and it just keeps getting better until mid day.  You’ll end up with 5 hours equivalent at full rated power if you live in Florida and a little less as you move northward up the map.  Your mileage may vary! Since solar panels are no longer the expensive part of the system, add another string of 3 modules modules (John’s 305 watts special) for about a hundred bucks, each, for a little extra insurance and peace of mind.  You won’t regret having “too much.”


Neal Collier

Hi John,

While I generally support Trump’s trade negotiations with China, I agree with you that we should end the solar tariff.  You just can’t make money building modules, so let the Chinese take the loss.  They don’t really understand the need for profit, anyway!

Kinda makes you wonder how all these new solar farms are going to be built.

Neal Collier, again!

Hi John,
Solar everything, even the honey dipper!  If you spend much time around boats you know that you can’t just flush overboard.  The holding tank has to be pumped out on occasion. Now there is a solar-powered roving pump station.
In my opinion, they got this wrong.  There is way too much motor on this thing, probably because it was set up by the motor maker.  Or maybe they can actually get that rig up on a plane, for speedy service.  Torqeedos have a fair reputation if you can tolerate the noise they make.  Where it is underpowered is up top.  They are going to have to plug this thing in at night if they use it much or if it has to travel very far.  It is a FREE service for boaters and won’t use any gas, so I shouldn’t be too critical.

Another email from Neal Collier, He is a fascinating man, excellent writer, PV engineer, inventor, witty and one hell of a do it your self kind of guy.

I publish many of Neal’s letters because they are smart solar technical tips with very funny commentary, easy to read.

Oh and he Proffesor reads his stuff so it’s P E R F E C T!

From Neal today:

For some months, the wife has been grudgingly patient about the Trace 2524 in the living room.  Why was there an inverter in the living room?

I’ve been engaged in a multi-year evolution in my power system, so lots of new stuff has been coming in and out of service.  In our Southern climate we have humidity to spare and when you add temperature swings you get condensation.  Stuff sweats, especially stuff containing heavy transformers.  In operation, these bits of equipment put off a little heat, so they don’t sweat.  The inverter spent a couple of decades in my attic, but it buzzed along happily because it was warm.

You do not want water creeping into your electrical gear.  You just don’t.

The new power room in the Solar Shed is not quite a room, yet, as there is the fantail of the solar launch where the last wall should be.  That will change, with the latest expansion, but until it does there is humidity.  So, I have left unused things powered up to keep them warm and dry.

The 24 volt system is almost gone, now.  Only one charge controller on the control panel and a couple in the launch, and the big 24 volt inverter are running because I have not run the new 120v wiring for lights and outlets in the newly expanded shed’s 48v system…and I have to keep the boat’s electronics warm.  There isn’t much solar energy for the boat inside the shed, unless it comes in by wire.

The 2524 inverter is now out there, wrapped in plastic.  Each charge controller is getting wrapped and stowed in plastic storage tubs as it comes off the old control board.  Some will be used in the Solar Yacht project, others will probably be used in the barn or sold.  Until then, the plastic wrap should keep them fresh and dry until the control room is closed in.  The heat of the control panel equipment should keep the winter humidity low and eliminate the condensation threat once the wall is in place.  (Mexico has not offered to pay for my wall, either.)  During the summer, there will be an a/c in there.

Batteries sweat, too.  The danger there is that the moisture creates a small current path and you not only lose a little power, you get corroded terminals and attract crud.  Mine are all outside the control room, now, and the hope is that an insulated battery enclosure will keep them from cooling down and sweating during the summer months.

Unless all of your equipment is in a climate controlled environment, or Arizona, add Saran wrap, plastic bags and tape to your supply list and keep your unused electronics dry!