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Old 05-20-16, 08:49 AM   #61
earloflondon
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Hey all, have been reading this thread all week with great interest but just now actually have a few free minutes to jump in! There are of course MANY considerations when thinking about going off-grid. As many have said here already, and I would agree, the grid is probably the cheapest form of back-up battery - BUT there are many caveats with that statement.

Accessibility: if you can't connect to it - you can't use it. Although currently connected to the grid for USEAGE, I cannot connect to PROVIDE. I will spare the political crap that the originator of this thread is all to aware of here in Ontario Canada.....suffice it to say that while monster turbines are going up all around us, our utility has no way to be able to handle the massive spike in power output from a few 10kw arrays....(blood pressure rising)

Cost: As costs for electricity rise - off-grid becomes more and more cost effective. As randen stated in his original post - we are presently at around $.26-.28/kwh. With my small diesel tractor and the PTO mounted generator I can produce power for $.32/kwh so we aren't that far apart on cost for my most costly form of production.

Location: Like the old real estate adage says "location,location,location" If you live downtown in a major city - it is going to be more difficult although as others have pointed out - not impossible to cut the cord. For me, I have 100 acres so I can put up as many panels as I need. If you able to supplement with wind and/or hydro - awesome! You will burn less or no fuel in the winter to run a generator. 20 acres of my property is woodlot, so my heat is also taken care of. In 20 years I've yet to have to cut a live tree - cleaning up everything that dies or falls over has heated our home...and my wife likes it warm.

Lifestyle: This is probably the hardest one to judge. As others have said the needs of a 4500 sq.ft. house differ greatly from a 1700 sq.ft. house. Again in my situation I have planned my system so that we continue to live as we do now....otherwise I think I might find myself single again.... Due to our "time of day" rates for electricity we have all basically had to become vampires in order to do everything we need to do as it is 3X more expensive during the day. Using power during the day will be a welcome return to "normalcy" for us once we cut the cord.

Resourcefulness: If you can design, build and maintain your system it is obviously going to be more economically feasible. Many in this thread alone have given valuable tips for cutting electricity needs. I ran 240v Hobbs meters on my electric hot water tank elements for a year. This showed me that hot water was 30% of my electrical use. I invested in an evacuated tube solar water heater with the 50 gal tank mounted on top. I have a small circulating pump hooked to a 10w panel that runs water between the HWT inside and the solar unit when the panel gets sun. By 4PM I have 90 gallons (40 inside 50 out) of 130 degree water. For the past 5 years I shut my HWT off at the panel from May-Sept. and I live above the 42nd parallel. I also have an external heat pump to add to the HWT for winter use (summer project!) which should take care of my hot water needs throughout the winter at substantially less cost.


I appreciate all of your feedback - this truly is a great site and everyone is most helpful!


Tim

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Old 05-20-16, 09:47 AM   #62
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Hi Tim,
I had long talks with the president of our electric coop. The biggest hurdle for them is demand. Everyone comes home after work and turns on the air conditioning, TV's, takes showers, etc.
What this means is that the power company has to have a reserve for this spike in power and that costs us more. If they didn't have the surge the grid would be able to run much less overhead and costs to consumers would be less.
What NY Power Authority did was really neat, they have a reservoir that PV power pumps water into all day. When the power surge comes the water runs down tubes and powers generators to absorb the extra power.
The thing is that people have no idea how fragile the grid is, worse they don't care and they care less about conservation of power. I constantly get people asking me if they can heat their 5k house with a couple of PV modules. We know who won the Super Bowl but we have no idea of our own needs! That will only change when the grid comes falling down. A single relay took down most of the US East coast several years ago, that's how fragile the grid is.

Rob
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Old 05-20-16, 10:16 AM   #63
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Hey Rob!

Yes I remember "the blackout" well. As of 9:45AM Nuclear is producing 8000Mw and Hydro 5000Mw Gas 1500Mw Solar 96Mw Wind 73Mw and biofuel 36Mw. Nuclear and Hydro are our main base (88%) and the gas ramps up top cover peaks. Our spikes are actually very gradual and fairly easily managed. The reason I say it is mostly political is because.....well.....it is. I have applied over 25 times over the past 5-7 years to grid-tie, with systems ranging from 10kw down to 1kw - all have been denied due to "lack of capacity from our feeder station". I could believe that, if dozens of new houses hadn't been built just in a 2 mile radius of my place - all connected to this same inadequate feeder. They are able to provide power TO you just not FROM you. In all honesty a 1kw system probably wouldn't even see an electron leave my property, let alone make it past all those new houses to the feeder station. This is what I mean about it being political. Just this week our provincial government has decreed that natural gas as a heating fuel will be banned in the coming years and everyone will have to use electricity.....double speak for sure.
In all fairness though my desire to grid-tie isn't sustainable. If we all did it or were able to the utility would fold. It works solely to my advantage as I use them as my battery, yet doesn't address the main issue - we all want power when we want it and want to store it when we don't. Whether it is on our electricity bill to be carried forward or in a battery bank in the shed....We are a society that wants what we want...when we want it! As long as we as individuals are willing to pay for that ( off grid is a perfect example ) then combining our knowledge, successes and failures ( like on this forum) is I believe the best way to go about that.

Tim
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Old 05-20-16, 11:30 AM   #64
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Tim,
I think you're pretty much right.
I've contoured the perfect set up for me but I don't think it's the best for my utility but that's technology and technology is what changes how we do things.

I see a future where every house is autonomous and power lines are the anachronism. We're getting to that. I remember when satellite dishes first came out, they were these mammoth things with elaborate control systems to pick satellites. Home power will go the same way and the politics of single point control of energy won't be able to hold off the technology or simplicity of individual systems.

Rob
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Old 05-24-16, 07:57 AM   #65
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So back to Randen's initial question......I apologize for getting somewhat off topic....

Plans are indeed in the works to "cut the cord" or "go dark"!

I've had a micro-offgrid system working for a couple of years now to run my wood kiln. As we have been hit with the Emerald ash borer I decided to make new flooring for the house rather than firewood out of the hundreds of ash trees that died. A 420w 2-panel homemade tracker charges a 12v /1000ah battery bank via an Outback FM60 charge controller. A small modified-sinewave inverter then powers the kiln. This has allowed me to make mistakes and fine tune the system at a level that is manageable and allowed me to collect lots of data.

My plans for off grid equipment are as follows:

40 @ Eclipsall 250w panels (10kw)
6 @ Canadian solar 205w panels (1.2kw)
3 @ Jingwang (or something like that) 210w panels (0.6 kw)
20 @ single-axis polar trackers (homemade)
2 @ Magnum MS4448PAE inverters
2 @ Magnum PT-100 charge controllers ( was going to use outback FM80's but these new controllers allows me to get away with 2 instead of 3 controllers)
Batteries are still up in the air - I already have 700ah (48v) of reclaimed AGM's that I will start with and add a few more strings as needed. They probably have another 5 years left in them.
1 @ solar shed! This is my holdup right now - of our 6 kids, 4 have decided to get married over the past 4 years - let's just say the "shed fund" is rather depleted. Hopefully in two weeks when the 4th is married the shed will begin! I want everything out in the shed - the front half will be a pool shed and the back half will house the batteries, inverters, charge controllers and anything else I might need out there. I'm hoping (planning) that the well insulated shed will be heated by the inverters,etc in the winter months, and cooled via AC with excess PV in the summer.

Tim
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Old 05-24-16, 09:38 PM   #66
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Here is a different take on home batteries, that is very interesting:

Saltwater Battery | Safe Sustainable Batteries | Aquion Energy

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Old 05-24-16, 10:45 PM   #67
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The saltwater battery looks very interesting but a Tesla battery pack still has my attention. The power capacity of 85 kw is quite attractive. We're in the process of installing 4 kw of solar and shortly after an additional 6 kw.

The 10 kw of panels will net us about 14,000 kwh/year

First thing first 4 kw's installed to power the house's air-conditioning and charging the car/truck. The electronics is going to be a little tricky. Looking at islanding the Enphase micro inverters.

Randen
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Old 05-25-16, 07:42 AM   #68
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Randen,

I have looked into islanding the Enphase microinverters. Supplying a 60 Hz, 240 V source to "trick" the inverters is not hard.

More difficult is balancing the load. It looks to me like a dump load is absolutely necessary to keep output voltage in limits. Not hard to do - a large resistive element (hot water tank, element from a 240 V oven, etc).

Harder is to do seamless switching between your true load and the dump load.

Thoughts?

Steve
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Old 05-25-16, 07:54 AM   #69
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Steve

I've been looking at a small pure sine wave inverter (100w)240v 60htz. I believe its purpose is to sink a larger format inverter. As far as balancing, the two loads I'm looking at are 240v so balancing maybe a non issue.

I've seen another fellow use a Magna sine which is a bi-directional inverter battery charger/inverter and its a pure sine wave. I've been cautioned to make sure the sine wave is spot on.

As of yet work is keeping me hoppin. I have the Enphase inverters here in a box and the panels are still on their pallets. No time to play.

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Old 05-25-16, 12:06 PM   #70
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[QUOTE=NeilBlanchard;50236]Here is a different take on home batteries, that is very interesting:]

Hi Neil, the Aquion batteries are quite interesting however the amount required kind of puts them out of range. Each stack is only capable of 10amps, so I would need 20 stacks to cover max load on the inverters. That takes up a lot of room in the battery room, but leaves lots of room in my wallet!

I also like the Redflow zinc-bromide unit: Redflow ZBM 3 - Redflow Limited
I'd only need two of those babies - much less floor space and smaller dent in the wallet. They are also coming out with a "powerwall" sized unit that you can just plonk outside that will store 10kwh and 100% DOD daily, it may be a year or so out though.

Exciting times for battery technologies for sure - I feel we're one good technology away from a mass exodus from the grid.

Tim

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