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Solar Energy System Questions Answered Here

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Well, if Mach10 would return maybe he could answer my question.  It can be done I just need some guidance!

My apologies for the late reply. I was traveling with the family and have had limited access to a computer.
I like to explain off-grid solar systems like this. There are basically three components to an off-grid system. 1) Solar array 2) Battery bank 3) Inverter
The solar array is the water shed of the system. The size of the water shed determines how much rain can be collected and funneled down into the reservior. The same goes for your solar collectors. The reservior is your battery bank. A reservior can only hold so much water before it begins to overflow. It is important to match the size of the battery bank with the amount of solar to keep it topped off. Next is the your orchards, vegetable crops and domestic water demands. These are like the appliances you use around the house. Some of them run consistently, on a daily basis and draw very little and some are used intermitently and draw significantly. It is also important to match the size of the first two components with your personal consumption. The sizing of each of these components is highly dependent on what you plan on using it for, how big the household is, what type of appliances will be used. I just designed a system for a guy who has a 30 X 40 ft workshed/compound out in the boonies. He is going to need to keep his cordless power tools charged, run a table saw and drill press on rare occasions. He will also be running motion sensor lights, normal lighting, (all CFL) in the evenings. There will also be a small energy star refrigerator running about 4 hours a day, and a small electric heater for his beloved pet Bobcat, Katrina, who apparently is in love with me. Seriously, the domesticated wild animal jumps into my arms and does not want to be put down. This system is expandable by adding more solar and more batteries. This system includes 4 top of pole mounted 170 watt modules, 4-6 volt deep cycle batteries, Xantrex sine wave inverter system;  4000 watt inverter, distribution panel, conduit box, charge controller, auto generator start switch. He does have generator back-up so if he ever needs to draw heavier amps from the system he can. The system is probably a little overkill for 90% of the time but he will have a very reliable source of electricity for a building that is many miles from the nearest utility pole. He is planning on building a house in the future and this system can be expanded to accomodate this. This system will end up costing about 18k fully installed. He will get a 30% tax credit worth about 5k when he files his taxes in 2010, so the net cost will be around 13k.

This system is not large enough to run 220/3 phase machines, but off-grid solar systems can easily be designed to do so. Running a generator to run bigger equipment is far cheaper than designing a large enough system to run big machines on sporadic occasions.

ColdHaven: To answer your question about trickle charging 12 volt batteries is that it is cheap and easy. All you need is a small solar module (8 - 100 watts) and a charge controller. These can easily be purchased from many online stores and they start at about $100.


Yes coldhaven, that is what I used  I had a tiny (12" x 4") solar panel, a deep cycle battery and a charge controller like Mach10 said and could probably have powered more than just lighting but I never had the occasion to use for more than that.

I'll need to check the stuff I want to be able to run for wattage use and let you know so you can tell me what I might need.

Thanks for the topic!

I have another question about being "off the grid".  If you had a choice to be totally off the grid without the option of city electric, would you choose that as a good survival homestead (as opposed to a combination of solar and city electric)? Most of the totally OTG homes we have noticed are really out in the boonies and our real estate agent said they are harder to sell if we decide we aren't happy with the area.  I would like to know others thoughts on this.

Can you get something with the option?  Like electric grid is there but the new owners would need to pay to have it hooked up?  It doesn't look good for alternative energy now with the bail out money for auto coming out of green energy money. 


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