Now it was time to fire up the system to see if it worked. We flipped the circuit breakers and the AC disconnect and into what turned out to be an easily fixable problem; a short-circuit in the line to the basement. That was quickly and easily fixed by James, the master electrician from Current Plus Electric.
So, we once again flipped all of the circuit breakers and the AC disconnect to the ON positions, and waited; the enphase microinverter literature says that it takes about five minutes for the microinverters to kick in. Eventually, we saw the little dots on the digital meter reverse direction - we were in the power production business!
Next we fired up the enphase envoy, a small computer that monitors the microinverter production and passes the information through the Internet to the enphase. This allows the homeowner to monitor production on a continuous basis, while allowing for trouble shooting once the project is registered with enphase. Enphase has a nifty subscription service that graphically portrays your solar installation, while showing you the production for each solar panel. This is a subscription service that is free for the first 9 months. Even without the subscription, however, minimal system health information can still be derived from the envoy, such as the number of inverters operating, the instantaneous production, and the cumulative production. Since our subscription was still pending, we used that information to determine the daily production for a while.
The production estimates I previously built based on the PVWatts simulation (see the attachment at the bottom of the first page: PV Production and Usage Estimate.pdf, Photovolatic Project) seem very consistent with the actual production from the array. PVWatts estimated an average production of about 18.3 kilowatt-hours per day for the month of May with my particular system design. That includes overcast days with lower production. Our array was producing nearly 23 kilowatt-hours per day on fully sunny days - giving us some buffer for those cloudy days. Preliminarily, it looks like I can get as much as 10 kilowatt-hours on a mostly overcast day in May.
To see real-time and cumulative electric production charts for our PV system, click here:
I've already filed for the SRECs through the Illinois Solar Energy Association http://www.illinoissolar.org/RECAP. Since they offer $200 for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced over a year I should be able to get a few hundred dollars a year from that program. The program tends to run out of quickly, and they closed in March for 2011; I'll be on a waiting list until January time frame, and my application is not guaranteed to be accepted, but I'll hope for the best.
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