Solar Power Baby

Well, it certainly took a while, but I’m finally running on solar power. Bought, or as they say in New Zealand, brought a 190W 24V mono-crystalline solar panel and a 30 A MPPT solar controller last week, when I was in town, and hooked it up the other day. So far, so good. Panels are getting quite affordable these days and you can get a good deal for your buck. Prices are between 3-4 NZD per Watt. My 190 W (24V) panel had a price tag of 551 NZD and the MPPT solar controller was 330 NZD (rated at 30 Ampere; on 12V it can run two of these panels, on 24V it can handle almost 4. A big shout-out goes to my brother Bahram, who donated some money towards the setup. Thanks, it sure makes a difference. I’m sitting here, the batteries are charging, the laptop is working, I can even use my little fridge and don’t have to worry with burning diesel exhausts and the noise. Free power, I like it! The 12V home made diesel generator will stay and be used as a backup, I suppose.

I read the other day somewhere that it’s not what you know that counts, it’s what you can DO. There is certainly a bit of truth in that, and before I start blabbering about that we need to respect the ‘do-ers’ in our society more. Yeah, those who build your roads, service your cars, build your homes, etc. Those who actually do something, while – one could perhaps say – others ‘think’ or don’t even do that but shift and reshuffle goods and services without actually producing or ‘do-ing’ anything. You see, I’m starting to blabber, but yeah, give some more respect for your ‘fellow’ men and women. A bit black and white, ‘thinkers’ and ‘do-ers’, but what good is a person that knows it ‘ALL’, but can’t do shit when it counts. So really, if you think you are a ‘thinker’ work a bit on your ‘do-ing’ skills as well, it can only improve your total skills!

Anyway, I’m enjoying the whole alternative power thing and playing around and whilst understanding the concepts behind them, it’s also great to – perhaps I can say – ‘experimenting’ with it. I see many people over here that can do pretty much anything. And it is true, once you put your mind to something and work it out, you can do pretty much anything. I hope, one day, I will look at tasks and challenges from the prespective: ‘Sure I can do that, just gotta get my head around it.’ Rather than: ‘Hmm, I have never done this, will I be able to pull it off?’

Alright, back to the solar panel. This is what it looks like.

24V Solar Panel, 190W; max. current I_max 5.21 A @ V_max 36.5 V. Around 16 kg and 158 cm x 80 cm. Financial support from my brother is greatly acknowledged!

The solar panel is hooked to the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking – what a stupid name) controller, which in a way mediates between the panel and the batteries. My battery bank consists of 5 (used) lead-acid car batteries rated – when they were new – at around 250 CCA (cold cranked amps) and runs at 12 V (direct current of course). I bought the batteries almost 6 months ago from a junk yard at 35 NZD a pop. The whole setup cost me around 1000 NZD.

Have you noticed that many of your daily appliances convert alternating current – we’ve got 230 V @ 50Hz here in New Zealand – into dc. Your laptop, phone, camera, all your apple products, your stereo and what not all come with an ac-to-dc converter (not sure how you call them, but that’s what they do anyway). My laptop for instances requires 15 V at 5 A.  So, realistically, you can run all such appliances on a 12 V car battery and that is what I’m doing.

MPPT Solar Controller - Maximum Power Point Tracking.

Once you’ve got a solar panel, it is a good idea to buy a controller as well. There are a few types out there and I certainly don’t know much about them. From what I gather, there are two types. The, let’s say, regular ones and the MPPT ones. The latter has a few advantages. First, they can control solar panels running on 12 V or 24 V and supply batteries running at 12 or 24 V. Second, these controllers are more efficient. For instance, you buy a 120 W panel rated at 6.5 amps at 18.4 volts. This is will be a 12 V panel with maximum current being 6.5 A and maximum voltage 18.4 V. However, once you hook this up to a battery with a ‘regular’ controller, it will charge the batteries with 6.5 A at the charging voltage of the batteries. Let’s say, the batteries were used heavily and were run down to 11 V. So really, the controller would put out 6.5 A and 11 V. That gives ca. 70 W, instead of 120 W.

A MPPT controller, however,  will take the 18.4 V at 6.5 A for the same scenario and ‘convert’ it so that the battery gets no longer 6.5 A at 11 V, but ca. 11 A at 11 V. Thus, running more efficiently. Well, that’s how I understand it anyway. This controller needs to know the operating voltage of your batteries, if they were 24 V battery banks, it would put out its maximum current 5.2 A at the maximum voltage 36.5 V. This would ‘cook’ my batteries or worse damage the controller, so it is important to make sure that the batteries are always connected first to the controller before the panel. That’s why I wrote it onto the controller.

We had tremendous south-westerlies throughout the last few days and believe me, unless you live on a very high wind area, you don’t know what it is like living with strong gusts. It affects your thought process and I’m so glad that it is calm today.

Going to take Iranium for a walk now, pick some greens and carrots from the garden and start making dinner. I’ve been quite busy the last two weeks, it’s good to be busy as it keeps you out of trouble, but sometimes it’s also great to relax and enjoy. Here are two pictures for you, little Iranium cooling off in the shade and my beans. I’m amazed by them, grow so quickly, so surely; let’s hope they give a good yield. I’m hooked on beans!

Climbing beans and some corn. There is sugar pea on the right and I have since put a net above them, too.
Iranium. Everybody loves her and she's done so much in a week. Has been to different beaches, rivers, on a yacht, in a motor boat, on the quad....

And last but not least. It’s Sunday after all, so here is my word for the end of the week. Procrastination is great. If you do something today, you might have it easier tomorrow, but if you don’t do anything today, you certainly have it easy today.


8 thoughts on “Solar Power Baby”

  1. Alter,
    schon die erste Ernte…wow…irgendwie fehlt mir gerade die Vorstellungskraft, den Frühling zu sehen!
    Dein kleines Iranium wird mal ein richtiger Rockhopper.
    Hast du absichtlich “deutsche Wertarbeit” gekauft oder war das ein Unfall? 🙂
    Ick bleib dran an deinem Blog!

    1. Hey Mo(ses), mittlerweile ist es sogar Sommer hier. Es erscheint mir aber, als sei alles um einen Monat oder so verspaetet. Die letzten Tage waren ruhig, etwas regen (habe ich nix gegen) und kaum Wind auf meiner Seite… Yau, Iranium war schon einige Male rockhopping. Die locals sagen mir aber, sie sollte nur wenig gehen in den ersten 6 Monaten, ansonsten kriegt sie Beckenprobleme im Alter. Ist wohl was dran, aber ich kann sie auch nicht ueberall hin tragen. Wie sieht das denn aus?

      ‘Deutsche Wertarbeit’, ‘ne war Zufall. Yau bleib unbedingt dran, wer weis/, vielleicht geht ja bald was mit dem angeln… Cheers, B

  2. With your 12v generator acting up frequently in the last weeks you must be glad to have a second power source. No more emergency repairs on the fuel hose that create more problems 😉

    Oh, and your garden is really coming along nicely. Fantastic crop for the first year of growth.

    1. Oh yeah, much better now. I don’t even need the generator anymore. Will keep it as an insurance, however, the price for solar panels keeps dropping. Perhaps I should get rid of it and invest into another panel or into a windmill. Actually, I need more batteries now. I’ll have a ponder about lead acid batteries over the holidays, I should look into making them and into reconditioning used ones. Getting the chemicals will be a bit of a problem, but I’ll find a way around it I suppose.
      Cheers, I’m not too happy with the garden, did heaps wrong. But I know so much more for next year and will have a go at having a huge garden. Peace mate, B

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