HOLIDAYS

I had a very good time hope you did too. To tell you the truth I was dreading it but I felt that as long as I did my best nothing else mattered. And it worked. The 3 shots of Mescal helped immensely!

JK

Florida Solar Incentives. By my friend, Neal Collier

John’s recent blog post about taxing (or not taxing) solar led me to think how fortunate we are here in Florida, at least tax-wise. The state has a pretty dismal record on solar promotion and subsidies.  I didn’t even know there was a program until I read about it in a California magazine!  The first couple of years, it appeared that most of the program’s budget was spent on office furniture and administration, leaving only a few slots for participants.  Then the rules were a bit too burdensome to make it worth the bother, in my opinion.  Maybe this has changed, in later times, but I went my own way.

The good news, though, is that there are some pretty good tax provisions to help out a Florida homeowner with solar power!

First, there is no sales tax on your solar hardware.  To enjoy this benefit, though, you need to deal with a solar dealer, like Sun Electronics, because other outlets may not know about or comply with the provision.  Case in point, you need a set of batteries.  If you go to your local Walmart or Sam’s Club, it sure is convenient to buy their heavy duty EGC2 batteries.  BUT, you can argue until you are blue in the face and they will charge you a core charge, disposal fee and sales tax, in addition to a higher unit cost.  You’ll end up spending at least 50 bucks more for each battery.  At that rate, you can order the Sun 230 batteries from Sun Electronics and have them trucked to your town and still save money.  The batteries are rated a little higher than the EGC2, as well.

Second, if you spend 10 grand to add a nice solar system to your house, the property appraiser, by law, cannot add 10 grand to your taxable property value.  Sweet.

For those of you in the other 49 states and various territories, you can check with your state’s official website for tax breaks and solar promotion programs.  You may find it easier to find the info by doing an internet search for websites that have listings of such things for all states.

Don’t forget to save your receipts and go for the Federal tax rebates, too!  The forms are pretty simple.

Neal

Tesla Elon Musk

He actually said something this week , I actually was thinking of years ago. So now I like him, right?

“Now we have to hope that the government doesn’t tax people for using solar energy.” Nov. 2018

I put the testimony from the Union of Concerned Scientists from Dec., 1974 in the House of Representatives’ Science and Technology Committee in my Blog recently that predicted this same potential major problem. 1974, yes that’s 44 years ago! (And keep in mind , in the end the government also controls the utility companies., right?)

I’ll try to attach both peoples ideas here now if you want to see them:

Mr. Elon Musk talking first:

“Now we have to hope that the government doesn’t tax people for using solar energy.” 2018

The Testimony of the Union of Concerned Scientists: 44 Years ago.

It’s so long pretty hard to read.

it’s what Mr. Musk said in one sentence:

Anderson Plug

In my last post I mentioned that I had gotten carried away at Sun Electronics’ Miami warehouse and had filled my trailer and truck to the point that I decided to leave some batteries behind. I shredded one tire at one A.M. and only had one spare, so maybe that was good that I didn’t try to overdo it. Will I have enough battery power to get by until my next trip to Miami? Probably, yes. You see, I have figured out how to incorporate some other battery sources that I already own. Many of you may be able to do the same.
Before I explain, I’d like to introduce you to the Anderson plug. If you have ever noticed how a forklift battery plugs into the lift truck or the charger, well that’s an Anderson plug. It is a flat, two pin plug that is polarized. One plugs into another, they are both the same and you can’t plug them in backwards, which is a neat trick. They come in at least 3 different sizes. There is a small one like on my niece’s ride on electric car, a big on used on forklifts (350 amps) and a medium one (175 amps). Moreover, they come in colors, but not to make them pretty.
At my house, I have gray, yellow and blue in the 175 amp size. Each color has a slight change to the shape, so you can only plug into the same color. The first I ever used was gray, and I have one on the front of my truck. I replaced the two tow hooks on the front with receiver hitches, so I could slide a winch on and off, as needed., and plug in to the Anderson plug. I also have a 3kw inverter I can mount there for power in the boonies. Gray became my 12v standard.
My solar-powered expedition boat has yellow connectors and I can plug it into the 24v system that powers my house at this time, adding an extra 350 a.h. of battery, without buying more batteries. For some reason, I haven’t had the boat out all year, yet it’s batteries stay active and contribute at no additional cost.
The new 48v system has blue Anderson plugs. There is no way I can screw up and connect the 3 different system voltage levels to each other. I have two 48v golf car/utility vehicles that can plug in to the blue line and add 350 a.h. to the 48v system. I got to considering it, and since the boat has two banks of 24v, I can use a special 3 connector cable to change them to another 175 a.h. at 48v. No screwups will be possible when reconfiguring, connecting or disconnecting and I get bunches of additional storage from batteries I already own. A similar adapter cable could be used to connect a golf car to the 24v system without making smoke and sparks.
The utility golf cars, little trucks actually, allow me to move my solar power around. I no longer even own a functioning gas generator. I cut my firewood with an electric chainsaw, trim trees with an electric pole saw, trim my hedge without a long extension cord and operate power tools for construction and repairs around my farm. The inverter plugs into the blue Anderson plug. There is also a homebrew stick welder to plug into the blue plug. Why limit your solar power to the house?
Photos: Blue Anderson plug and 3kw inverter on the solar jalopy. Solar-charged Yamaha G19 powers the chainsaw to cut wood and then hauls it to the house. They both add to the storage of the solar power system.

But back to the main topics, Anderson plugs, once successfully set up, allow you to do all kinds of configuration changes without worry about connecting something wrong. Using them to add underutilized resources to your system can help you get more out of your system without buying more.
In my 48v system, with what I have, it tallies up to 460a.h. of main system battery plus 525a.h. of battery that otherwise wasn’t doing anything at night. That’s 47 kwh, good for several cloudy days.
Don’t overlook what you already have!

-Neal

Gas Generators and more. By Neal Collier.

One thing I’d like to do when I come down is to get a better idea of all the stuff you have in inventory so I can name specific products that I feel good about, like today and the mention of MNSPD surge eaters.  I know you have those because you are including them in your kits.  They work, too.

You’ve been bragging about your Ryobi generators, lately.  I bet if you look closely they have Honda engines.  Honda’s standard for starting is they have to start on the first or second pull of the rope.  My Ryobi pressure washer with Honda engine does.  I have been inside a Honda engine and they are superbly made.  I have seen a comparison and one Honda is equal to about 8 Briggs & Stratton engines!

I have done all of these essays in the morning, in bed, while drinking my coffee!  I probably need to structure the subjects.  If you can think of anything that might be of interest, I’ll have a go at it.

Neal

Battery Safety Tips. By Neal Collier

Bring a big truck when you visit and work safe when you get home.I write this stuff for fun and to be helpful.  I’m not an employee of Sun Electronics, I’m a customer.  In my role as customer, I set out the other afternoon for my third visit to Sun’s Miami headquarters and my first visit to the Miami Lakes facility.  This place is a lot nicer than the Miami Gardens warehouse, though it lacks the artistic touch left at the old place by some tag artists.

It is a round trip of 1482 miles for me, so I like to make a good haul of it.  I brought my big trailer.  We stacked panels until the fenders rested on the tires and I made the decision to leave two pallets behind.  14kw will keep me busy for a while, anyway.  I also didn’t get as many batteries as I wanted.  Upon calculation back home, I figure I brought home close to 6000 lbs.  I could have carried that extra stuff, after all!  We just needed to pry the fenders up a little further off the tires.  Live and learn.

Well, back home, I had some ideas how I was going to treat the batteries on my new 48v system a little differently.  I like to improve safety and efficiency as I go.  I know ways of doing it wrong, both from investigation and from practical experience.  One of the easiest ways of blowing up some batteries is to hook them up backwards.  The things are marked plus and minus and we all know not to mess up the connections, but you get tired, the area may not be well lit and the batteries may have some dust or baking soda on them to obscure the markings molded into the cases.  Furthermore, those pesky cables get in the way!  Believe me, you CAN hook them up wrong and I HAVE done it and didn’t like how it worked out.

First thing I did before taking them off the tailgate was to hit the POSITIVE corners with a dash of white paint.  I thought about red but Trojan batteries are sort of red, so I think the white will stand out better, even in poor light.  White on the black Sun batteries will not be confused.

After the paint dried, I used a felt marker to put the date, 11-18, on the white patch.  Time gets by, you know.  If you don’t date them, 8 years from now you’ll be wondering why those batteries you JUST BOUGHT aren’t holding a charge like they used to.  My Dad dated every tool and appliance he bought and I have decided it is a good idea.

Next step is to get out a little tub of grease, or maybe get into the grease gun you use for the pickup.  The area where the lead terminal pokes through the plastic case should be sealed, but you will always find one or two that eventually leak acid fumes and make green stuff corrode your nice battery cables.  Take the grease and smear it around that transition from lead to plastic.  Then save some to coat the terminals when you get your cables connected.

And speaking of terminals, why not make new battery cables for your new batteries?  I checked and found I have a good supply of double-ought (2/0) cable and around 30 big, tinned terminals for 5/32″ studs.  That’s probably overkill, but I am good to go.  I need to order a bit of marine shrink tube.  Some people crimp with a tool that looks like a bolt cutter with dull jaws.  I have a couple of tools that look like little presses.  You put the terminal on the wire, poke it between the jaws and beat the heck out of it with a big hammer.  For even less resistance, I then heat the terminal with a torch and slip some solder inside.  I finish by covering the transition from wire to terminal with marine shrink tubing.  This is available in red or black, coding + and -, and it has an inner lining of melty glue like you get from a glue gun.  You shrink that stuff down with a heat gun or torch (if you are careful) and nothing is getting in.  AND the color gives you a surefire coding for polarity.

Why is polarity so important?  If you try to connect two banks of batteries in parallel and do it backward you will blow yourself up.  Usually the cases don’t blow apart, but everything gets sprayed with acid and your battery caps get ruined if they are the push-and-twist variety.  If you blow up a set of the expensive water saver caps you will be especially displeased with yourself.  If you aren’t wearing your safety glasses you can be blinded.  Your hearing might be damaged.  Your clothes will need to be replaced, even if you wear a protective apron.  Don’t blow up your batteries. That’s hooking batteries up backwards.  What if you get the battery banks right and then connect backwards to your charge controller or inverter?  If you bought hardware with “reverse polarity protection” then nothing will happen.  NOTHING.  If not, there will be a spark, a puff of smoke and you just trashed a $500 charge controller or a $5000 inverter!  The synopsis of all this is that it is best to hook the batteries up right and any trick you can come up with to help you avoid a mistake is smart procedure.  So, wear your safety gear (goggles, gloves, apron), color code your batteries and cables and check your work with a meter before making the connection.

Something else to consider is that some things will give you a spark, even when you do connect it right.  Charge controllers and inverters have big capacitors that will draw a huge quick current as they charge when you connect.  If you connect to a battery post the pop may ruin the threads and I don’t think you will have a lot of luck rethreading that stainless stud.  Make a quick jab at a place that is not threaded on a battery or equipment connection.  Let it get the pop out of its system and then slip on the terminal and the nut.  Oh, and making that pop on the battery ends of things is making a spark near a source of hydrogen gas, so best to do your sparking elsewhere.  I have a big knife switch that lets me disconnect all the charge controllers when connecting the battery bank and I just slip the fuse out of the inverter.

And, hey, next time you see some of those nice LED shop lights on sale, get one to put over the batteries to make it easier and safer to hook up, tighten up and water up when installing or doing maintenance.  More battery ideas next time.

Neal

Results Edition: Inquiring Minds Want to Know!

Over the weekend we really went to extremes to show just how tough solar panels can be.  Today we’ll tell you the results.

We started with a Suntech STP280 that had been hit by a tractor.  The frame was bent, wires were ripped loose, glass was shattered and many of the internal cells were broken.  Short circuit current of a shiny new panel should be around 8 amps.  Open circuit voltage should be 44V.  In the “as found” condition, we had 4.5 amps and 43 volts.  Connected to a load we could get about 68 watts.  Not bad for a module someone had thrown away.

Especially for a panel that looked like this.

And to recap what happened next:

After the shooting, I measured output under varying conditions.  The hole sure was a handy place to put a voltmeter!

And the open circuit voltage was….39V.

Next I added a 24V driving light as a load.  The lamp pulled .961 amps at 24V or 23 watts.  That’s all the lamp needed.  Was there more?

Next, I added a 12V battery, to be charged, and an ammeter.

Now we have 2.508 Amps at 13.8 Volts for 34 watts.

How about 2 batteries in series and the light?  26.2 Volts X .880 Amps = 23 watts

Here’s a look behind the scenes…no trickery, just honest destruction.

Conclusions?  Obviously, PV modules work better if you don’t smash them with a tractor, shoot them with a pistol and shoot them again with a shotgun.  The worst damage appears to have been done by the tractor.  That hit took it down from 280 watts (rated) to 68 watts.  The first two shots, from a .45 and a 12ga. slug, had no effect on the output.  It was the huge hole from the shotgun when I backed up that cut the output in half.  The point is that the panel continues to output usable power and it did a good job of topping up those batteries.

Oh, and remember “Don’t Try This At Home.”

Neal