Solar PV Panel adventures

This is a section to chat about anything that isn't relevant to any of the other forum areas. Discussions on PC watercooling should go in the Hardware forum :)
User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:17 pm

I'm currently going down the path of getting Solar PV Panels installed. There's so much info, so many different products and combinations, and so much conflicting advice that this is still a very complicated process.

First things first, I *highly* recommend the following site. AWESOME levels of information, and the "get three quotes" thing is really good.
http://www.solarquotes.com.au/

It's also worth digging through Whirlpool for reviews, feedback etc.
http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum/143

I had been thinking of going for a 5kw system, which would go for a bit under $10k. As I did more research though I discovered that there is no point going that big. Even though we are a fairly high consumer of electricity and have plenty of roof space, there isn't really any point producing more than you will actually be using during the day. Any excess you produce will pay back next to nothing, and it doesn't count as an "offset" against your usage when the sun is down. Happy to explain further if anyone is interested. I'm sure things will only improve once the whole power industry has been privatised (not).

So it looks like a 3kw system will be our sweet spot, and co-incidentally 3kw is also a sweet spot price wise. Once you go to anything larger you need to go up the next size for inverters and that adds a decent chunk. Current quotes are running for a good quality system fully installed and connected for $5,300, and a slightly higher grade system for $6,400. I'm not considering the cheap option of $4,000 for several reasons, also which I can explain if people really want to know.

I've learned a lot about all this stuff, but don't really expect to be an expert any time soon. As I get more quotes and start the install process I'll add more updates.
Image

User avatar
Piers
Comfortable with my sexuality
Comfortable with my sexuality
Posts: 1408
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:57 am
Location: Horse country

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Piers » Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:59 pm

We can't go solar, too many trees. Every single installer we got out to quote took one look and said they wouldn't recommend it because of the way the cells work.
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:09 pm

Yeah, your place would be a challenge. The newer system have better capabilities to deal with part shade. Older systems could only work as well as the least powered panel, so shade on one panel would bring them all down. Now they can have multiple strings to reduce that somewhat. Probably still wouldn't be enough to help you though.

Just got my second quote, and I think these might be the guys I'll go with. Same panels, a good inverter, and they'll throw in a remote monitor for free and all basically the same price (even slightly cheaper). They've also quoted to redo my power box and replace all the crappy old ceramic fuse blocks with a proper modern circuit breaker block which will then give me space to look at getting the house wiring checked out properly.

First of all though we are getting some quotes to get the roof renovated, and once that's fixed up we'll get the PV installed, and then new pool solar heating as well. The rest of the house to slowly follow... working from the top down.
Image

User avatar
KRaM
Clan Poet
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:04 am

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby KRaM » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:58 am

Roofers - dodgiest of handy men.

Keith
Image

User avatar
Brad
Comfortable with my sexuality
Comfortable with my sexuality
Posts: 1195
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:49 am
Location: planting RDX on your tank

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Brad » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:07 pm

Roofers - dodgiest of handy men.

Keith


Big call - there is plenty of competition.

Scott,

Do you have a smart meter at present so you can estimate the impact?

And can you confirm the way the pricing works in NSW? My understanding is that you sell excess back in to the network at the 6c/kwh or what ever the rate is. Do you know whether that is the excess at any point in time, or is it the net in any billing period, or net in a day, or net in any rate period (e.g. the 6 hours or so of peak cost)?

BTW, I used that site to get quotes for solar hot water and was relatively unimpressed. It took ages to get the 2 quotes - I never did get the third. I think this may be the combination of roofers and plumbers...

Brad
I thought I had an appetite for destruction, but all I wanted was a club sandwich.

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:00 pm

Speaking of roofers - recommendations anyone?

I don't have a smart meter yet, so yes, going through the scary thoughts of what the impact will be. I'm working on the basis that because of 24/7 computer stuff running that the solar will offset its running cost during the day, and even though the peak period is more expensive, I'll be better off by the much cheaper off peak rates. That's the theory anyway. I also have the challenge of a 3phase meter, but a single phase inverter. The newer meters apparently can offset the solar single phase against the combined draw of all three phases, but up to now it usually meant you had to connect your solar to only one of the phases, so you got no offset on the other two phases. There are 3phase inverters now, but only for 5kw and higher and they are about $1200 more than the equivalent single phase.

As for how the plans work, I've been told that you can switch between time of use charging and a flat tariff rate like you get with the old style meters. Probably depends on your provider but I haven't confirmed that capability yet.

The way it all works:
The power produced by the solar is measured against the load your house is drawing only at the time it is being produced. If you produce more than you need at that time then it gets exported to the grid and you get whatever Feed in Tariff (FiT) your supplier offers, if any. I'm currently with AGL who offers the highest FiT of $0.08/kw. So it doesn't give you any credit of Kw towards your usage later in the day or anything like that.

It doesn't matter how much excess you produce during the day, it will have no effect on your usage when you hit the peak period when the solar has stopped producing. I had kind of hoped that it would be a calculation of usage for the day minus production by solar and you pay the difference, but it's not. It only offsets at time of production, that's the reason why I scaled down to a 3kw system because the extra $4000 for a 5kw system will take forever to pay for itself if the only pay back is the 8c/kw produced during the day time.

Keep in mind that peak kicks in at 2pm till 8pm, so the solar production is already starting to decline and will be zero toward the end of that period. It also depends which way your roof faces. I imagine that facing slightly north west might give you a better run into that peak period because it will produce more later in the afternoon. Its all a balance though.

North facing at 30 degree angle is the optimum production for power in Sydney, however I don't think anyone really does it as a measure against the costs of power at the different times of day. I wonder if positioning the panels for maximum power based on the higher cost of power later in the day rather than purely on efficiency would work out better.

Its all very complicated.
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:00 pm

So I've made a decision. Once you start to understand it all a bit things actually get harder. All the little pros and cons you weren't even aware of start to occur to you and the old trap of "every answer provides 10 more questions" starts to happen.

One option I came very close to picking uses micro-inverters. Most system you see have the panels wired to send DC power to a big Inverter bolted on the side of the house near the meter box. The Inverter does the DC to AC conversion and feeds it into the Meter.
Micro-Inverters work by being attached directly to the solar panels themselves, taking that DC, converting at the panel to AC and then just sending AC directly to the meter. No need for a big box on the house. There are of course pros and cons to both options.

In the end I decided to go with the more "proven" technology and chose an Inverter that is generally considered to be best of the lot (without going into gold plated, diamond encrusted versions). Still in the process of sorting out roof restoration so need to get that sorted before getting the Solar installed.

All up looking at $6100 for an SMA SB3000TL-21 inverter, Trina Honey 12x250w panels all fully connected up and running. Some places just install the panels and wiring and you have to arrange your own electrician to connect to mains (extra $600 or so).
I will also get a Watson power monitor which does real time monitoring of house consumption. The SMA inverter also has a bluetooth module so I can pull the data from it for logging to check how well it is all performing. For a little bit extra they are also going to rip out the guts iof my current meter box and replace with new stuff.
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:59 pm

I was going to wait until the saga was really over (several weeks away at least) but decided to post some immediate thoughts now.

Places I got quotes from and comments
  1. Energy Matters - Online only place that uses contractors. Suprisingly *not* the cheapest, and on top would have to arrange and pay for an electrician to connect to the actual meter
  2. AGL - Didn't expect them to be the cheapest, but they were so far out of the ballpark price wise I was stunned. Also would need to arrange my own electrician to have the Meter changed. An energy company that can't arrange that as well?
  3. Nicholls Solar - These guys know what they are talking about. Very helpful and competitve on price. end of the day they were my very close #2 pick
  4. RK Solar - Also very friendly, bent over backwards getting me extra info and details and putting together different options and packages. Spent a lot of time going through tech questions that I had for them. This is who I've decided to go with. Install will still be several weeks away, but fingers crossed
  5. Mark Group - Saved the best for last. I had given up waiting for them to contact me after a little more than a week, then I got a call from them coincidentally just after a reminder email from solarquotes asked me if I'd heard from all the companies. I was surprised by the time to contact given the person talking to me wasn't a tech or sales person, but a "meeting co-ordinater". Next available meeting time was about a week later again. I wasn't going to bother but figured I may as well give them a chance.
    On the day the salesman ended up arriving over an hour late. Annoying, but hey, who hasn't been stuck in traffic. He proceeded to give me a full sales pitch about the company, how they have done the most installs, how big they are in Europe (like that means something here) etc. Despite me obviously knowing a fiar amount of the technical stuff, he still seemed to need to go through the basics (had to stick to script I guess) and then just picked out a pre-printed sheet of options. Not so bad of itself. Prices weren't the best, but between the three that came to see me there was only a couple of hundred difference between them all anyway.
    the Mark guy is the only one that didn't feel it was at all necessary to have a look up on the roof, or look at the meter box (until I suggested it). The other two both inspected roof and meter box first hand.
    The thing that really got me though was his closing line of "So what can I do to get you to sign up tonight?". I'm a techy, and I made that pretty clear to him, so rushing into a decision on technology stuff wasn't happening. I told him there was no chance, but he insisted on trying again. Wound up the discussion because it was getting late and said I'd let him know.

So today I made the final decision, and was going to start calling/emailing people to let them know, thank them for their time etc.
  • Energy Matter were quite polite about it, suggested they might have a better deal to make, but I declined given the extra hassle of arranging electricians etc.
  • Mark Group guy called, was a rather upset that I didn't pick him. Then started doing expected thing of what can we do to make you a customer, do a better deal etc, and slowly went downhill to telling me I'd made a bad decision, would likely regret not picking them instead, new who hiscompetition were and how bad they were, how Mark Group is a 40 year old company (in europe that is, only 5 years in Oz) etc... way to win future consideration... not. Overall Mark Group or probably quite capable and they do have a large scale, but they seem to have become very heavy on the sales focus in an effort to maintain that size and growth. That doesn't work for me.

So one way I like to assess businesses is reading the *bad* reviews they have. Good reviews are always glowing and happy, so don't tell you anything, but the number of bad reviews, the type of review, and the companies response really tells you a lot about them in my view. Mark groups *have* done a lot of installs, probably more than more, but they have a very high percentage of bad reviews, and the bad reviews are pretty bad.
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Fri May 31, 2013 2:28 pm

Just had skylights replaced. Roof work starting next week, should hopefully be finished the following week... then the solar panels. It just seems to take forever to get this stuff organised!

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Wed Jul 03, 2013 3:14 pm

Looks like we are all installed.

Roof Restore complete, new skylights, and the Solar PV was installed yesterday. We still have the old "spinning" meter installed, the "Smart" meter will be installed in the next few weeks sometime.

I woke up this morning to watch the meter get slower and slower, stop, and then start to spin backwards as the solar kicked in. That was about 7:30 in Winter so that's a pretty good sign.

I've got a Watson power meter as well which is a wirless box that sits inside. It has a display that can show the power being used in the house or by the solar, or the Nett amount. It also glows different colours; Green when putting into the grid, blue when low usage, slowly turning to purple and red as power consumption increases.

Apparently Robyn has spent the whole day being careful what she does to try and keep it in the green :)

So far so good. With the TV, Dishwasher, Washing Machine, all my computer gear and the girls playing Minecraft on another 2 PC's we still produced more power than was being used.

I don't have live monitoring setup at the moment, but everything is being logged by the inverter and the Watson so I can upload them to pvoutput.org.
http://www.pvoutput.org/list.jsp?userid=23265
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:33 am

All the roof stuff is done now. Solar panels installed, new meter went in on Monday, pool solar went up yesterday.
We had the old spinning meter for a couple of weeks, so I was able to capture a baseline of power usage. I'll now be able to compare that with the new meter.
One thing I would highly recommend is to get a "whole house" consumption monitor installed. This is one of those boxes that an electrician connects inside your meter box and logs your power usage. If you are thinking of getting Solar then this will help you work out the value and size. Even if you aren't going to get solar it helps you understand your power usage, and you can work out the impact if you ever switch to a net "smart" meter. You can also just point to it in frustration when the family leaves all the lights on. Become a hi-tech grumpy old man.
I've got a Wattson meter which is ok. Pros and cons depending on how you want to do your monitoring. Can discuss further if anyone is interested.
One curious thing about the solar is that even on heavily overcast days like yesterday morning it still manages to produce power (only about 300 watts or so) Another cool effect is that it can actually produce more power than normal when a cloud goes overhead. There's an effect called "cloud lensing" where the edges of a cloud actually act like a magnifying glass and focus more light onto the panels than usual. Quite bizarre. This time of year my panels will produce 2.0kwh, but goes up to 2.5kwh when there is scattered clouds.
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Thu Jul 25, 2013 8:27 pm

I've found a program called PVBean Counter which has some awesome features for capturing the Inverter data and uploading it. PVBeans starts the netbook I'm using once an hour, does the inverter capture and upload to PVOutput and then goes back to sleep. I'll probably just dial it back to a couple of times a day once the novelty wears off.

The consumption monitor is acting a bit strangely, but hopefully the supplier will be able to sort it out.

Best day so far - 13kw - http://pvoutput.org/intraday.jsp?id=232 ... t=20130721
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Thu Oct 24, 2013 3:56 pm

I had discovered that the Wattson consumption monitor wasn't reading the correct usage at the same time when the solar was producing. Due to the way my meter box is wired, the Wattson couldn't tell which *direction* the power was flowing, only that it was. This meant it wasn't differentiating between excess power going back into the grid properly. $60 later and the extra clamp kit to fix the problem has been installed.

So now I have "proper" readings for my consumption to run against my generation. The Wattson isn't super-duper accurate, but it's within 5% so gives a reasonable idea.
Here's the first day it was running correctly. The red is the consumption from the Wattson, the green is the generation taken directly from the Inverter as it's more accurate.
http://www.pvoutput.org/intraday.jsp?id ... t=20131019

So a day of 32kW usage translates to roughly 12kW of power I'll have to pay for.
Image

User avatar
Mort
Alpha-Forum Whore
Alpha-Forum Whore
Posts: 4232
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:40 pm

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Mort » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:59 am

Just got our first power bill for a full quarter on the new meter with solar. Looking better than I'd hoped actually (even with those weeks of rain). Gone from $850 (last year pre-price increase) down to $450. Although I don't expect the same huge savings during winter time, it's looking good for a quicker break even pay-back than I'd thought, especially if (when) power prices keep going up!

Average daily grid consumption has gone from about 27kW down to 14kW.
Image

User avatar
Piers
Comfortable with my sexuality
Comfortable with my sexuality
Posts: 1408
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:57 am
Location: Horse country

Re: Solar PV Panel adventures

Postby Piers » Mon Apr 06, 2015 8:24 pm

Hey Scott, your array has gone dark, what's going on?
Image


Return to “The Watercooler”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot] and 0 guests