Posts Tagged ‘setup’

lil-solar-drawing

How the Solar Power System is Setup

OK, so you’ve buttoned up your house and it is as energy efficient as is practical and are now familiar with some of the hardware.  The next step is to decide what configuration you’ll choose for setting it all up.  There’s almost an infinite number of ways to accomplish your objective.  For the purpose of brevity, I’m going to go into just three potential solar power system setups…simple on-grid without battery backup, on grid with battery backup, and hybrid wind & solar on grid.  (I didn’t include off-grid because it is basically the same as on-grid w/ battery, just not connected to the utility company.)  I’ve included some simple wiring diagrams and videos for reference.  Later I will include a post with useful links for finding additional information and DIY solar power kits that are easy to install.

Please keep in mind that each of these can be done in different ways, and with different equipment than I show below but, they should give you enough information to get your gears turning.

Simple On Grid System:  This is the type of setup that you would use if you want to power your homes appliances and potentially sell power back to the utility company (if you make more energy than you use).  You can either save or make money with this type configuration.  Also know that there will be no batteries involved and the system will NOT provide emergency backup power regardless of it’s size!  It is technically possible to do but against regulation / law / code pretty much everywhere in the US.  I think this is do to safety concerns with ‘islanding‘ but, don’t quote me on that.  Anyway, this is a simpler and cheaper setup compared to the others.  You can also scale it up easily over time by adding more solar panels.

grid-no-battery

Below is a video discussing some specifics regarding a simple grid tied inverter.  He explains about running straight through to the utility and skipping the battery bank.

On Grid with Battery Backup:  This system can do what the one above does in addition to providing power during a power outage.  It differs in the fact that partial shade on your panels can keep all of your panels from producing power if wired in a series.  It’s more expensive but much more versatile.

grid-with-battery

The two videos below demonstrate good grid tied solar power systems with battery backup.  If you open the second video in a new window, below it (click more on description) he lists links to all of the individual parts.

Wind Turbine & Solar Grid Tied with Battery Backup:  This type of system can provide power when the sun isn’t shining.  It can also make electricity when there is no wind.  It costs more but is very reliable and will pay for itself over time.

wind-solar-grid-battery

Next, will be useful resources for each of these steps and links to do it yourself solar electric power kits.

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Determine your solar energy goals.

solar-goal

You’ll need to decide what you want your solar power system to accomplish.  There can be 4 primary objectives. (at least in my head)

  1. Emergency Backup Power – [can be tied into the grid or stand-alone]  Having emergency backup power in the event of a natural disaster, or otherwise, is a good idea.  It can prevent the food from spoiling in your refrigerator – freezer, power emergency radios / cellphones and make life a whole lot more tolerable in general.  This can be tied into the power company or be separate, providing energy only to your home.  This option will require an investment in batteries and will cost more that a standard grid-tied system which doesn’t supply backup power.  This type of system can also be used for option number two.  When the batteries are charged, power produced from the solar panels can flow to household devices saving money on utility bills.  (or sent to the utility co.)  This type of system can become very complex.
  2. Reducing Your Utility Bills – [grid-tied]  Home utility bills are a pain in the wallet and will only continue to rise in the future.  You can reduce a portion or all of your bill by supplying energy for household devices when the sun is shining.  Any power not used is routed to the utility company any can be used after the sun goes down.  This setup is cheaper than option one due to the lack of batteries.  It is also scale-able  meaning that you can start with a small system and add components later to increase power production.
  3. Making Money (Long Term) – [grid-tied]  Although setting up a solar power system can be expensive upfront, they will pay for themselves & even make you money over time.  I can’t think of too many things sweeter than having the power company writing ME checks every month.  With this option you’ll want to have a larger setup and produce more power than you use.
  4. Living Completely Off-Grid – If the place you want to power is way out in the boondocks, you may not have any other choice but to look at alternative energy sources for electricity.  (if you’re into using electricity powered devices, that is)  This type of setup would likely contain a hybrid system containing things like DC powered appliances, large solar arrays and potentially a wind generator.

If you are not sure about how solar powering a home works, here is a short video explaining the basics…

Deciding which one, or combination you are interested in will determine the components and some of the setup required.  In the next post I’ll explore options that may or may not be available to you regarding installation (law) and ways to save money on your purchases.