Innovations

They are now making solar modules with power output in excess of 500 watts! Wow, that’s what I need for the Solar Yacht, instead of the 330s I have now. The thing is, you just can’t buy them, yet. The superest, duperest biggest and bestest go to the solar farms. Don’t worry, by the time the Gopher sets sail they will be available, but you’ll be wanting the 600s.

A few years back, someone came up with the idea of making a “microinverter” and sticking it right on the panel. You plug the panel into the microinverter and a big cable runs along the rows, connecting them to 220v. The solar power mixes with utility power and you get a smaller bill. I thought that was a really lame idea at the time, buying an inverter for each module, but the concept has grown on me. Someone dropped off a case of microinverters and a pallet of 300 watt LG panels, so what the heck? I gave them a try. I don’t have a grid-tie agreement with the power company, so I could not use them as intended. I used them in a most peculiar way and found them to be generally satisfactory, especially since I didn’t have to pay for them. Since I could not put them on my power line at the house, I connected them to the MOTOR side of the compressor relay in my outside a/c unit. Using just enough panels to cover the run current of the compressor, I pretty much got free air conditioning. The biggest aggravation with them is a legal requirement that they don’t kick on until the power has been on for 5 minutes. They are coming back to mind, now. I recall they have a communications bus. I need to see if I can use that for another off the wall idea! Can the communications bus turn the modules on and off or is it just for monitoring? Inquiring minds want to know.

5 minutes to start the microinverter was not a big deal last summer, when the a/c ran pretty much all day.

Someone has come out with a new idea for hanging stuff off the back of a solar panel. Now they want to hang a battery! That can’t be much of a battery, but it may not be as crazy as it sounds. It all depends on what they have in mind and I don’t have details on that, yet. It interests me because I am now running my grid tie system, with limiting to prevent inter-tie or back feeding, and I am feeding it with battery. Never mind the advantage of being able to take on nighttime loads, eliminating the variability caused by puffy cumulus clouds, UFOs, Black Helicopters and other troublesome shades you can maintain a steady output from the grid tie inverter (GTI).

I’m holding off on a full article on the subject until I collect a little more usage data, but this one change, adding battery to grid tie, is going to knock off roughly 2/3 of my grid usage, which is already pretty low. The reason it doesn’t get 100% is that I have a clothes dryer that my wife is not afraid to use and it can burn about 3000 watts more than the 1900 watt GTI system can provide.

I am going to keep watch for more of this panel-side battery business. In the meantime, if you go with any of this microinverter or other panel-mounted stuff…mount it on the back side! It’ll work a lot better.

What the heck were they thinking photographing a microinverter on the sunny side?

–Neal