Solar Project 2010 - 2016

 

 
 
Questions: Colin Mckinney

 
 
 
        I found a lot of help designing and installing my system from several sites out there - hopefully I can return a little myself - the section on the permit - at least for central Florida - should help the process a little.
 

        My inspiration for adding thermal and voltaic solar to our home is not to stave off global warming - if you notice the main advocates of that theory; they make millions touting it, while shuttling between speaking engagements in private jets.

        Nor is it because I support the current administrations theory that if you tax the growth out of Americans through carbon taxes; they will gladly shift to alternative energy - they will not. I subscribe to the theory that it is ridiculous to purchase oil from dictators, human rights abusers, despots, and heads if states like Hugo Chavez that use the profits to undermined the average American. I see the wave of electric vehicles (EV) and extended range (EREV) from GM (Volt), Nissan (Leaf), Tesla (Model S), and a host of other companies as finally providing the catalyst to get our Nation off of a DEPENDENCY on oil.

        

        Probably 90% of drivers only need to get from A to B - and an electric drive train will do that easily; the technology to supply the fuel for these vehicles is fast getting to the point of paying for itself - in other words - drive for FREE (virtually). Until 2016 you can keep 30% of the cost involved in the form of your own taxes.
 

        If you are NEVER planning to drive electric - then a solar project can just be to save money on utilities - a thermal water heater can pay for itself in 3-4 years, after that it lowers your bill for free - plus it is HOT showers with no guilt on the energy used. As a DIYer, the solar voltaic project provides hours of "FUN" during the design, installation, and the monitoring of the finished outcome.

Voltaic arrays were $10 / watt installed just a few years ago - today about $4-$6 /watt installed (if you DIY some of it) after Fed rebate. As the price drops a little more, and energy prices rise (either normal inflation or because of tax and cap) - these will become even more attractive projects. 
 
JUNE 16, 2012 Update: Quite a few people have shown some interest in solar - in the 2 years since I started the price has been getting very close to grid parity, and the ROI without ANY rebates is actually possible. However, until 2016 there is still 30% fed rebate and check here: http://www.fpl.com/landing/solar_rebate/index.shtml?cid=aliassolarrebates  for $2 per watt from FPL - a VERY GOOD DEAL! - With a little planning you can put any size system in for $2/watt, providing you do it yourself or by contracting only a little out.
   
 
 
 4-25-2010: Initial project. 14 x 230 watt Canadian Solar panels with Enphase 190W micro inverters. Roof faces almost exactly 180 degrees. On a cool, sunny, April/May day around noon you will see a little more than 190 watts per panel. Actual average per day was 13.5 Kw. I relocated the sat dish about a foot north - the tip of the LNB cast a 4"x4" shadow at the top of a panel, cut the power in half for that one panel.
 
Right after a rain shower during the really hot months you can see the watts spike up. There are a couple companies/individulas looking at how to cool off the panels, possibly with a mist, to increase efficiency.
 
 MJM Electrical service provided the master electrician license and the electrical knowledge. DMSolar, Ft. Lauderdale for panels and inverters. DMSolar, Affordable Solar, and Million Solar Roofs for the racking, etc. Shipping cost was high at close to $500
 
 
 
 
 
 
 PRICES ARE DROPPING: Prices below are for panels, inverters, racking, some labor, permits. It does not deduct 30% Fed tax rebate or for the last 12 panels (2.76 kW) it does not include FPL's $2 / watt rebate. After all taxes and rebates the price will be $0.67 / Watt. 
 
 
The Sun Shot initiative - http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/ - one of its goals is to bring solar prices down to $1 per watt by 2020. At the rate prices are dropping and efficiency rising - I would think it may be sooner. 
 
 4-17-2011: Added 4 more panels. Actual average per day was 18.3 Kw. Peak power is now around 3.3KW. Behind me is the water heater panel. This side of the roof below the thermal panel gets shade starting late afternoon. It fine for the thermal - an hour or 2 is all it needs to keep the water hot. For PV we would need to trim the oak on the side of the house. The ridge going off to the right may be the next area, especially if a solar tracker could be used. Id really like to try a passive tracker that uses heated fluid to keep the panels orientated.
 
Sun Electronics for panels, Affordable Solar for inverters (I had plenty of leftover rack material. Shipping was $160 - Sun salesperson took extra time to find the best deal. No electrician needed as I hooked in to the existing M190 inverters - very easy!!
 
 
 
 7-19-2011: FPL announced $2/watt rebates worth about $5.9 million this year and will do something similar for each of the next 5 years. I was lucky to get in on it, and was not really considering adding panels at this time - although I did need more to be able to fully fuel an EV. I am removing an old oak tree, only partially because of some late afternoon shading - it looks to be a problem waiting to happed during a good storm.  Added 12 x 230 panels with the new Enphase 215W inverters. Actual average per day is expected to be 30 Kw - I do not have any history to calculate yet.
 
4 panels were added along the south facing roof, 8 over a back bedroom with east and west facing roof.
 
Using PVWatts calculations the 4 east and 4 west facing panels will provide at least 85% of the true south panels.
 
I used MJM electrical services again - real good people. Solar Electric Distributor (WinElectric group) for everything needed from panels to end caps. Prices really coming down - $40 off inverter if bought with a panel, and the panel prices were 10% less then most sites I looked at. FREE SHIPPING!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The new Enphase inverters use a proprietary cable system that you can order cut to length, it has connectors evenly spaced and can be spliced into off the shelf electrical components. The per drop rate I found was ~ $23, but since the 215W inverter is up to $40 cheaper that the older 190w - it is a good deal.
 
 
< < <  Cheap way to get the panels up onto the roof, 1.5" PVC is cheap, strong, and the panels slide easily up to the "T - couplings" so about a foot of panel sticks up above the roof line.
 
 
 
Part of the "Engage" Enphase cabling system - (Power Shift Solar of Melbourne won an i-Pad II from Enphase for the honor of naming the cable) and an image of an inverter. Watertight flexible conduit, boxes, and connectors put it all together.  > > >  
 
 
 June 16 2012 - Probably final phase as I have about a foot left of roof - allthough while I was finishing up I counted 5 open slots amongst the other panels..... If I was to add more I would probably look at a pole mount. With a passive sun tracker and an adjustable azmith mount you would get excellant coverage - 1KW and hardware would barely be $2K.
 
<<< Simple same install - went very quick as I worked assembly line style - 1. mark all the studs. 2. Drill 40 holes 3. Drill, tighten 40 footers 4. Snap in rails 5. Slide on the end/mid clamps 6. Run Engage cable and tie wrap in place 7. Drill pilot holes for 10 invertors - then bolt them in, connect, tie wrap.
 
After that I just laid down the panels - the first one took a week since when I tried to plug in the M215-60-2LL-S22 inverter (the S22 denotes M4 connectors) - the panel had TYCO connectors. Since you specify the inverter model during the order but the panels you do not I would think the guy taking the order would ensure they match. I quickly got tyco <-> MC4 adapters but as of now I was charged for them - I will see if they honor my request for a refund of that charge - but lesson learned, make sure you specify. Panels were 250W Hyundai - Average per day is expected to be close to 45 Kw - I saw 48.4 the first full day!        >>>
 
 
 

March 1, 2013 - Maybe now the final phase. The clear plexi-glass roof over the patio acted like a green house, the temps would get 100+ in the summer making it unusable. We decided to put a solid roof over 1/2 of the patio, just so happens it was enough flat space to put 6 Canadian Solar 245s with Enphase M215s.

I was not too concerned with the panels laying almost horizontal (there is a couple degree slope for rain dispersal) - and after the full month of March I see that those 6 have out produced almost all the other panels. During midsummer I am thinking they will stay top producers because of how high the sun sits.

Efficiency, based on combined total of Enphase modules (9.44Kw) and the peak power recorded (9.27kW) is 98.2%. Seems a little high but I will take it.

Daily/Monthly records were passed in March - I was struggling to see 50kWh in a day - now I shot up past 60 and the month of March will produce a little over 1.5m MWh. Our FPL bill for March should be around $30 (there is ~$10-$15 charge even if you use 0).

 
 

 

 

 Relocated to Melbourne Village Florida Lots more trees to block solar More efficient home - so need less. Lifestyle (Local Melbourne builder) Lifestyle includes the solar hot water heater and solar attic fans with the build. High R value insulation, double insulated windows, block AND stud construction all go to provide a home that obtains a Home Energy Rating Scale (HERS) of 60. They provide an independent rating energy to certify the HERS rating.
The point being, adding 16 panels on this home probably cuts my FPL bill by the same percentage as the 44 panels on the old home.
 2-10-2015: To start we put 8 panels per side. Later in the year FPL held its final $2/watt rebate offer. The way it works is at 8:30 sharp a web site opens up and you fill in your information. $15 million was up for commercial and residential. For some reason the site opened at 8:27 AM and was closed a few minutes later. Anyone who was initially approved were told at the end of the day that because the site opened early (FPLs fault) anyone that submitted at 8:27 cheated and approval pulled.  
 4-19-2016:  
   
Enphase "Enlighten" site - shows the real time output, as well as historical data:
 

 


 
 
 
 
New meter arrived 7-15-2010. I was told it would be a double analog type - pleasant surprise. The meter displays the power used (IN) and power generated (OUT) in alternative cycles - about 5 seconds each. The power OUT only accumulates when very little juice is being used inside the house, otherwise the power IN is slowed when the panels produce. The 2 bars under the numbers go left to right when you are using power, right to left when panels are suppling more, and they move faster depending on usage.
 
   I was hoping they were "smart" meters - meaning maybe I can view information online. I saw an article on how to build a wireless meter that displays current power usage - it supposedly works by counting the frequency of the LEDs flashing in one of the 2 holes below and right of the display. Personally I think a display should be standard in every home. Right below the thermostat or in the kitchen - something that shows $/hr at current rate and an accumulation of the month in $. Most people do not give electricity much of a thought. But if you could see; in real time; the savings based on small life style changes - I believe MILLIONS of homeowners would save quite a bit.
 

My OLD meter - spinning backwards