How tough is a solar panel?

Hi John,

It’s a beautiful, cool sunny day here in NW Florida and you’re right, John, you can knock a hole in a solar panel and it’ll still work.  Just don’t try it with a hammer, because there is a tough plastic layer under that glass and another on the backside.  You need to be forceful to get a hole.

I started with a Suntech STP280 that must have fallen off of somebody’s roof.  Yup, that’s a busted one!

Note:  We now know how the module got bent and cracked.  It was hit by a front-end loader bucket when the tractor got just a little too close.”


The frame is bent, the glass is cracked, the J-Box and all the wires were ripped off, the cells are cracked and it has been left out in the weather for a few years.  I soldered on some wires and new diodes, then I took it down to a safe place and wired it up to some batteries on the solar jalopy.  It was making a decent charge

I had a little test in mind.

So I shot it with a .45 pistol and it was still making a charge.

So I thought I’d try to make a bigger hole with a 12 gauge “ring load”.  Nice, but no change.  So I went with straight bird shot and that was better.  Then I backed up and gave it some more bird shot.  Then I shot it some more with the .45.  Hey, I could go broke on ammo before this thing quits!

Since I was out of ammo, I unhooked the batteries and connected an offroad driving light to it… it still works!

Now it is really busted up, but still runs.  Hey John, is this still under warranty for output?

Now we know.

Neal

Thanks Neal.

John Kimball

If you want to help me helping others to utilize solar energy, surviving disasters, etc. please send your stories to me at jk@sunelec.com. Good advice of any kind, humor😂, etc. is welcome.

Not so high math. By Neal Collier

Hello John,

What’s all this higher math stuff that folks think you have to know to get into using solar power?  When I was in college, studying engineering and physics, they loaded me down with all kinds of math courses.  Crazy stuff like calculus, differential equations and Boolean Algebra.  Some people are math people and some are not.  I am not (except I’m a whiz at Boolean Algebra) and my first 3 semesters of Calculus 101 didn’t make much of an impression.  In all my years of electronics design I never used it at work.  Not to say I never used it.  You can calculate how high an anvil will fly by measuring the interval of time from when a charge of gunpowder placed under it goes off to the time it thuds back to earth. That’s not something most people ever need to do and it certainly has nothing to do with solar, but everybody needs a hobby.

There are a couple of handy formulas to keep in mind, though, if you are into do-it-yourself solar power.  The first does not involve the technical side, but it is very important.  It goes like this:  $/w.  You know that “$” is money and the “w” stands for watts.  This is the formula you use to figure what stuff costs.  You should know this already because it is in all of the Sun Electronics ads and emails.  There are variations on this. You usually want to know the cost of panels/modules.  This used to be a very large and critical number.  I designed some remote monitoring equipment many years ago and we paid $11/watt for small solar panels.  I think the latest Sun email blast offers them for $.34/watt.  Imagine, today you can buy a 300 watt panel for what I used to pay for 10watts!  There are solar dealers who will sell you modules for over $1/watt, but why would you pay that much? The $/w formula can save you money.

You’ll need more than the modules, of course, so you can use the same formula to determine system cost.  Looking at the latest email flyer, I see nice systems for a bit over $2/w.  Yeah all that other stuff costs more than the solar panels, but you need it.  You also need to figure in for the stuff to bolt it all together.  And installation, but if you are the handy type you can usually do it yourself, though you might need to hire a pro to inspect and sign off on it if rebates and incentives are involved.

If you are like me, you probably get letters and emails telling you the sender can fix you up with solar power through some “program”.  Ask them the $/w cost.

OK, lest this should start to sound like a sales pitch, let’s look at a formula for the technical side of it.  Watts = Volts X Amps, where the unit of power is Watts.  For some silly reason, this is usually expressed P = E x I.  Silly, isn’t it?  Anyway, remember this one.

Here is one real life example of how you might use it.  Let’s say you have a 60 amp charge controller on a 24 volt system.  60amps x 24volts = 1440watts.  Now you can see that if you have a 1000 watt system you are in good shape, but if you have a 5000 watt system you are going to need several charge controllers or maybe a really big one.  I think you can find one rated at 300 amps.  300 x 24 = 7200, so that would easily handle your 5000 watts of solar power.

Or maybe you have one of those 300 amp charge controllers in your shopping cart, how many of those 305 watt panels that are on sale can you use?  Remember, this controller will handle 7200 watts, so the really basic math is 7200/305 = 23.6 panels.  Sorry, you will have to round it down to 23.  In practical terms, you’d make it 21, because of the nature of MPPT charge controllers, which would usually put your panels grouped in series strings of 3 (7 times 3 is 21), AND it is often best to not push the limits of the rated power on some controllers.  Sorry to throw that little complication in at the last minute, but that gives us a good reason to discuss charge controllers in the next post.  You’ll find some more uses for your power formula, learn how to get more power out of your modules and, best of all, save money,

Neal

Thank you Neal.

JK

3,700 used 305W solar panels for sale!

We finally did it again, and it wasn’t easy. We have approx. 6 containers of these modules, maybe more. The first container sold out in one week by the pallet or less. But we just received 3 more in Miami and 2 in Texas. Instead of pallet or less than a pallet pricing, we are now selling by full container loads as well. Call for prices.

We have inspected every module and they all meet the original specifications. They have a 20 year warranty. We have them in Miami now and are ready to ship anywhere. We also have them on our Texas 3PL to allow for lower cost shipping to the western and central U.S.A.

I believe these are the best deal you will find in the PV module market. As usual who pays first, gets shipped out first. Deposits to hold are ok, but payment by W.T. is best to guarantee fast delivery.

They look and perform perfectly. The only problem is that they were on a solar farm for approx. 2 years. They have a short number on the side of the frame made with a magic marker. The frame may also have some scratches. Those are the only flaws.

Go to www.sunelec.com it should be listed at the top of our home page.

Also, Take a look at our new warehouse in Miami, It looks like a Home Depot. We have free design services and every component needed for your PV home system listed on hanging signs, aisle by aisle. We also stock the most efficient/low cost appliances to help keep costs down on your PV system.

And remember be sure to ask for a discount if you buy a lot of stuff or additional components i.e. inverters, batteries, appliances or generators or one of our complete system packages.

At Sun, we’re always willing to negotiate!

Look , if you find a better price on inverters, batteries, etc. We’ll try to beat it.

I have 46 years devoted to my passion, promoting solar energy use.

John Kimball, Owner

Oh and if you ever have a problem of any type with your order, shipping, quote, please call me 🤙 I can solve any problem faster than anyone!

My cell number is 305-322-1086 🙂

The 0.32/Watt SUN 305W Module is the lowest module price in the USA!

We finally did it again, and it wasn’t easy. We have approx. 6 containers of these modules, maybe more. The first container sold out this week by the pallet or less. But we just received 3 more in Miami and 2 in Texas. Instead of pallet or less than a pallet pricing, we are now selling by full container loads as well,

We have inspected every module and they all meet the original specifications. They have a 20 year warranty. We have them in Miami now and are ready to ship anywhere. We also have them on our Texas 3PL to allow for lower cost shipping to the western and central U.S.A.

I believe these are the best deal you will find in the PV module market. As usual who pays first, gets shipped out first. Deposits to hold are ok, but payment by W.T. is best to guarantee fast delivery.

They look and perform perfectly. The only problem is that they were on a solar farm for approx. 2 years. They have a short number on the side of the frame made with a magic marker. The frame may also have some scratches. Those are the only flaws.

John Kimball

Go to www.sunelec.com it should be listed at the top of our home page. Take a look at our new warehouse in Miami, It looks like a Home Depot. We have free design services and every component needed for your PV home system listed on hanging signs, aisle by aisle.

We also stock the most efficient/low cost appliances to help keep costs down on your PV system.

And, be sure to ask for a discount if you buy additional components i.e. inverters, batteries, our one of our complete system packages!

I really don’t have an idea for this blog so I guess I’ll just ramble till something comes up. (Warning, reading my blogs like this one, “I’ll just ramble,” can damage your brain cells.

Ya know you don’t see solar in the main news much these days. I guess it’s not so new anymore. “Been there done that.” One solar farm looks like the next one. Unless , of course, it’s particularly ugly. I’ve seen some horribly ugly ones.

It’s always the 100% independent solar powered home that grabs my attention. Their all unique designs and especially UNIQUE home owners and owner/installers. Their the last guys that have skills in this country. Most of them built their own house, from top to bottom.

We don’t get too many people sending us photos of their homes anymore. You know why I think? Because we used to have this cute Cuban girl named Coset who spoke broken English with a lovely accent. So I gave her the invoices of all our customers and she called each one like a thousand and spoke to them asking for a photo and a little caption about their home. She got 500 guys and a few ladies too to send her their pictures. If only they could have gotten one of her! She was a real knockout! Great accent and lilting voice!

When she first started she spoke very broken English so Charlie, a very funny guy, who sat next to me, thought it would be helpful to teach her a few lines. Her first complete sentence was “shut up, get out of here.” Since we knew she had “guy problems, ” every time she stepped outside or went to one of Miami’s night clubs.

In the office she was a real hit. She had this weird but cute habit of smiling at you and then winking at you all the time. She did it all the time. But, she was a great employee and like all the Cubans that came to Miami she learned to speak English.

Anyway, we’ve had several hundred very interesting employees and interns (100 of them from different countries) over the last 35 years.

Interns are tough to handle if you don’t keep them busy. Once about 7 French ones tried to pull a mutiny on me. They didn’t like the jobs they had been assigned and lack of attention and guidance. It was totally my fault so I had to calm them down with more work. Then they were happy.

There was a time utility grid connected homes didn’t exist and most of our customers would have thought , that’s stupid who wants to be hooked up to the stinking utility company! The whole point of most PV homes was INDEPENDENCE FROM THE UTILITIES! Utility companies can’t be entrusted with PV because that would be a clear conflict of interest. Everything we sold was for 12, 24, and 48V off grid homes, (like teepees, cabins, and geodesic domes) telecom mountain top repeaters, water pumps, telemetry, oil pump platforms, fun, marijuana growers especially, military gun ranges, RV’s, sail boats, hippies, clinics, schools, etc. Now of course the utility companies are fighting to gain complete control of all sunlight that’s changed into electricity , but nobody seems to be watching or even cares. The utility lobby in Washington is one of most powerful. I know I worked on Capitol Hill for 4 years.

Anyway Solar Panel J boxes were simply 2 screws and the modules were all 12 volts and 35 to 55 watts ea. They cost about $6.00/watt wholesale, but only if you bought a whole pallet. All solar panels had round cells. The only PV factories were in the USA (qty. of 4).

The biggest residential customers were in Northern California for rich off the grid marijuana growers. The straight residential off the grid PV users were primarily in Northern Arizona, New Mexico, Maine, New Hampshire, Arkansas, and the Florida Keys.

There were only 4 manufacturers in the whole world and all of them were in the USA. There was ARCO in Ca., Solarex in Maryland, and Solavolt and Photowatt in Tempe Arizona. All of them except Photowatt were owned by oil companies. Spectrolab was in Texas but they only made cells for satellites in outer space. Today Spectrolab’s cells are super efficient, around 40%! The rest were only around 12%.

The lowest wholesale cost modules were usually sold by me at Photowatt because, as a company salesman I was on the side of the customer every time more than the company’s, not very nice considering they all failed after about 5 years with the exception of Solavolt. But just recently they failed too but under new management known as Solar World.

Anyway, within a few years there were factories in almost every country in the world, China had 600 of them at one time.

Then solar incentives, besides the big one , the Federal Gov. 30% tax credit, were created by cities, counties, states, utility companies, etc. Some were literally unbelievable! New Mexico had one for 100% of the cost of a solar system, basically with no limit! Boy was I a happy camper, as happy as a kid in a FREEEE toy and candy store. And, I had a girlfriend in El Paso, but I lived in Tempe, and worked at Photowatt one of the first PV module manufacturers right next door in Arizona! What a great combination being in love with solar energy, selling free solar panels and free plane tickets to my girlfriends house! I suggested that we move the whole Photowatt factory to New Mexico.

Then I moved to the Beach – Del Mar, Cal. Heaven on Earth to work for the first foreign PV panel manufacturing company to show up in the USA.

But as fast as solar incentives appeared appeared in those days not just in the USA but practically the whole world. It was like soccer , every country in the world had to have a soccer team, ya know what I mean. I mean a PV factory. From Australia to Norway to Argentina they all had one. And the governments in those countries were all throwing tons of (other peoples) money at solar energy in the form of tax incentives from taxpayers, utilities, utility rate payers etc.

Now all that money has sort of disappeared. POOF except in California , and so have most factories.

Within relatively the last 15 years all the factories except in China have almost disappeared. Go figure? Every state and country in the world wanted to be in on the solar power craze, whether they had Sunlight or not, like Canada Norway and Germany etc.. I even took a sales trip to Anchorage, Alaska looking for dealers, once. I didn’t find any dealers with money, by the way, but it was a fun trip. Hmmmm that kinda sounds familiar. Like the industry.

Which brings us to the present. The Big one, the Federal 30% solar tax credit is about to end. If it isn’t renewed by Congress we may be headed back to 1973 when there weren’t any PV incentives and no one new what “PV” meant.

It’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t know what PV stands for nowadays. Although there was this one girl on the Beach in Miami a year ago who walked up to a me wearing one of our companies “I ❤️ PV” tee shirts and then she asked, “what does that mean I love PV, Penis and Vagina?”

I’m sorry I just had to throw that in. Got to quit typing on my cell my eyes sting and tears are hurting my eyes.

Don’t worry, we’ll never give up, and it’s all just one passing show. The Sun can’t set forever as long as the Earth keeps turning , right? I mean I think there will be a big solar breakthrough sometime and one way or another for the last 46 years since we ran out of gasoline in 1972 due to the oil embargo by Saudi Arabia, solar energy just keeps picking up speed . The solar farms saved me so I guess I should shut up 🤐 it’s just one more passing show.

John

JK

Cheap solar for hurricane survivors

Hi John,

Me again.  The other day I mentioned all the solar that went up in New Orleans after Katrina and suggested that we might see a similar surge in the Carolinas.  Duke Energy, the power company in much of the Carolinas, has a residential rebate of 60 cents a watt, up to 10kw, on a system installation in North Carolina.  Based on your prices, that could mean free solar panels and change!  Throw in the Federal tax rebates and the system gets even cheaper.  As I understand it, there are 600 slots open in the NC residential rebate program.  There are also programs for businesses and schools.

South Carolina residents have more than twice the number of available rebates.  I don’t know what the current SC rebate rate is, but it was $1/watt in 2016 when I helped a friend put in his system near Greenville.  His total installed cost was approximately $0!!!

Now these numbers are for 2018 and a lot of the positions may be taken.  It may well be 2019 before people get to the point where they are rebuilding, so there may be a new round of rebates.  Carolinians would do well to sign up early.  Info is on the internet.

Do-it-yourselfers could even end up with a free system by shopping at Sun Electronics and self-installing, but be forewarned there is a lot of paperwork involved!

Neal

Free solar in South Carolina…Yes, we bent them!  Courtney puts in the last screw before we knock down the scaffold.

Neal at the end of a long day of bending laminates.

I apologize but I’m so busy being happy.

Hello Bruce: what a great dive we had into the Caribbean.

Neal sorry it took so long to publish your comment.

From Neal:

Here we go again. Hurricane Michael is projected to hit our vicinity as a Cat 3 storm. Get ready everybody!

Hi John,

John, you live in a glass tower, but out in the neighborhoods you can hear the generators buzzing after a hurricane has taken out the lights.  200 watts for the fridge and 50 watts for a ceiling fan and they’ve got those darn 3500 watt generators blasting away at 3600rpm.  Dumb.  Well, maybe not dumb, they just don’t know any better.

At my house, the ceiling fans have a slight buzz from the inverter in my backup power system, but I can’t hear it because I have the windows open and hear those generators a quarter mile away at the neighbor’s house.  Listening carefully, I can make out 3 or 4 of them.  Most are those loud, cheap ones from Home Depot or Lowes and most people don’t realize that you have to change the oil in them every 25 hours (50 hours for the better ones with a filter).  That’s an oil change every day or two!  Cheap air-cooled engines use a little oil, too.  Do people buy a case of oil and some filters when they go out and buy 2 cans of gas in preparation for the storm?  Nope.

After about 3 days the generator will probably quit, assuming enough gasoline has been found to run it.  If it has a low oil safety shutoff, like most Hondas, the homeowner will scratch his head and wonder why the generator won’t run anymore.  If he checks and adds oil, he will be back in business.  A lot of engines do not have the low oil shutoff and they will soon die a horrible death.

That assumes, of course, that the owner bought enough gas to keep it running.  How long will 2 cans of gas run a generator?   Not that long.  Maybe a day, depending on model and load.  Try buying gas after a hurricane.  I know of exactly one gas station with a backup generator.  Some will have power and some will rig something up.  Back around 1960 I saw a gas station owner running a gas pump with a Maytag gas washing machine motor.  Yes, Maytag made gasoline-powered washers!  The owner took cash for the gas.  Who has cash today?  Credit card readers and ATMs don’t work without power.  Oh, and every one of your neighbors will be in line with you, so you will be spending some time getting those two gas cans refilled.  Maybe you need more than two cans.

Don’t think I am knocking gas generators, here.  What I am knocking is how they usually get used.

One of the most perfect home power systems ever made, made before power lines came to us country folks, was the Delco-Light power system.  Everything in the house ran on (usually) 32 volts DC.  When the batteries got low, you started the generator (some models started themselves) and it ran until it ran out of kerosene or gas (they’d run on just about anything) or the batteries were charged.  The engine was a low rpm machine that would run just about forever.  I have a half dozen of them and none are worn out.  Moreover, engines have an operating range where they are most efficient and that is with a good load on it.  A fridge and a ceiling fan do not load your generator at a  point of high efficiency and, remember, it takes a certain amount of gas just to buzz that thing along at 3600 rpm, even if there is no load at all.

So why do I seem to be drifting off subject.  I’m not, I’m just setting the scenario for you to do a modern recreation of the Delco-Light to power your AC world, use less fuel and make the night a quieter place.

Here’s what you do.  Take appropriately sized inverter/charger, a bunch of batteries and add them to your generator.  (If you want to add in some solar panels, then good for you.)  You can have the inverter wired in through a transfer switch or you can put a plug on it and plug it where you would have otherwise connected the generator.  Now take the output of the generator and connect to the input of the inverter.  4 golf car batteries (I prefer 24v configuration, but 12v will do and your car can be the generator in a pinch) will run your lights and fridge for 24 hours.  There’s probably enough power left over to fire up Mr. Coffee to wake you up and nuke something from Mrs. Stouffer’s kitchen to fill you up.  Run the generator in the morning before going to work (or before you begin removing the tree from your roof) and again a bit in the evening, as needed, maybe even getting a little TV or A/C time in, too.  The generator will run under load and not for many hours.  Now you only have to change the oil every week and maybe the power will be back on by then.

There is a security side to this configuration, too.  After Hurricane Katrina, many people in the city were afraid to show any lights and run the generator at night because predators would know where there was somebody with food, light and comforts.  The generators were ok in the day because there was lots of activity to mask the noise.

Do NOT run the generator in the garage…it will kill you.  If you don’t want it stolen, chain it to the tree in the backyard when it is running and put it in the garage when it is not.  BTW, a padlock and a piece of chain should be considered a standard accessory if you buy a new generator.  DON’T refuel when it is still hot.  Buy some extra oil and get more than 2 cans of gas.  At the end of the season, put the gas in your car so it won’t sit until next season and get stale.  No-alcohol gas is best and running the generator dry by turning off the fuel valve or just running the tank dry will save your carburetor from an early death.

Just some things to think about.

Neal

How to survive after a hurricane using a couple of solar panels and just a little smaller and more efficient appliances.

Magic Chef and Ryobi are the best you’ll find. You can probably still get them from Home Depot close to the worst areas.

What do you need?

Ans.: A small, portable, super efficient generator that will last practically a lifetime .

I never thought I’d say this but Ryobi’s 2,300 watt portable generators are just as good or better than a Honda! Honda’s 2000 I , 2,000 watt generator cheaper, more powerful, just as quiet, be started and turned off remotely, and with the same efficient The offer more features, in my opinion.

Just 2 or three solar panels with 4 deep cycle batteries or any batteries you can salvage from cars, for that matter, that are totaled from flood water damage. The batteries are probably still good!

An inverter with a built in battery charger runs quieter we have found. And they have eco-throttle as well.

We have Solar panels in stock and anything else you need to become independent and survive a hurricane . Also we carry all magic chief products cheaper than the

We get a contractor’s discount and don’t have to pay tax, resulting in a 15% savings. We give free technical support and always have inventory plus we ship worldwide, speak 5 different languages and have an old Owner whose never done anything else but distribute low cost solar systems , 46 years for that matter.

So even if your home is destroyed there’s still hope call me and I hope you will be surprised.

John the owner.

Cell 305 322-1086

Or go to Sunelec.Com

You can get all Magic Chef appliances from Home Depot if you want, since it’s kind of wasteful to ship them long distance when you probably have some left at Home Depot .

Trust me, while everybody else in the PV industry is pushing solar farms we are doing the opposite. We have all the lowest/ watt energy using appliances and we have the world’s lowest prices when it comes to PV modules.

The panels are on the highway and more are coming only $.395/watt.