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Author Topic: Easterdown Plan 'B' help please  (Read 16206 times)
V
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« on: November 04, 2016, 04:12:10 PM »

After two 'wake up call' style inverter failures, I hope you will help with advice/opinions/experience so that we don't end up in a very dark place here at Easterdown.

We've had two of our three SB's fail since February and have been replaced. Other issues aside (like one of the replacements only produces 2/3 of the power of the other two, all facing the same way and all not shaded) it highlights two glaring problems that we have with our system design/installation.

1. We have a generator. But we have no manual switchover so that if the Sunny Island fails that we cannot run the house straight off of the generator.

2. If the Sunny Island fails we also have no means to charge our battery bank

3. I'm not sure there is a 3, but maybe I forgot something?!

Our solar array, 9.7 kW, is sized for winter. But our single Sunny Island will only produce max 5'ish' kW per hour. If we had a second Sunny Island in parallel it would mean that about 2 hours of sun in the winter might well recharge our battery bank.

Is this the answer?

Or...

?

Do I remember someone here has a setup where there is a (?)Morningstar(?) inverter that is set to kick in if there is a frequency drop from the SI which would kick in automatically if the SI failed? Or was I dreaming?

And to start, Heatherhopper kindly said this:
 

I don't have a plan B as such for inverter failure. With two SI's I could reconfigure temporarily if one goes down and I do have a small Victron that could be reasonably quickly up and running. I'm not sure though that having ever more back-up solutions standing around doing nothing is sensible unless you just like playing with stuff, have the equipment anyway or see a must-have bargain. If all or some of my inverters fail in any way I would simply revert to generator operation until repaired/replaced (and, no, I don't have a back-up generator, although I can borrow and short-term hire is relatively cheap anyway). Seems to me this is not too different from those periods when sun and wind disappear altogether and diesel is the only alternative to candles and gas - and yes such periods do occur even if you have a field full of PV. Just one of those off-grid things - lets face it, we probably have less down time than many on-grid people and are certainly more prepared for it - but I appreciate a bit more critical if you are running a business relying on significant power.


And Bautsche this:
I'm in a similar position as Paul as I was lucky to inherit a Trace inverter with the property I bought. That wasn't up to the job, but with careful management of the loads can still handle it. I've got it sitting on the same battery bank (my last single point of failure, unless you consider the switches and wiring of course) and if the need arises, I can simply switch the supply to the site to the Trace from the Sunny Island.
I've been keeping my eye on ebay lately to see if I can't get another SI 5048 cheaply as that model isn't current any more, but alas, no real bargains have come up yet....
Eric

« Last Edit: November 04, 2016, 04:21:35 PM by V » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2016, 04:30:42 PM »

not sure what your plan a was?

we have a victron 3000 multiplus now, the old w7 inverter is still in place incase it is needed simple for wife to do when i am away.
we have a changeover switch so generator can run house when servicing the inverters batteries.
we also have a standby generator with changeover switch from the main one.
other than battery bank have redundancy.

cant answer about solar controller sounds wrongly setup or faulty.
we have morningstar mppt had a few fail but sorted under warranty each time.

steve
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2016, 04:43:53 PM »

Hi V.

I guess the first thing you need to do (here comes the Service Manager) is specify the problem statement: i.e. what is it that you want to guard against?

Assuming you are trying to remove single points of failure, i.e. things that if they go kaboom, you are without electricity, you need to consider the various elements of your system and how a failure would affect it.

It seems to me that since you have three SBs in parallel you are already guarding against SB failure, albeit that if one fails you only get 2/3 of the energy.

That leaves the Sunny Island, the Generator and the Battery Bank.
You could reasonably live without the SI if the Generator could be made to power the house. It'd be a manual switchover in the simplest case, but presumably, given that you'll have a blip one way or the other (it takes some time for the generator to start) it doesn't matter if that blip is 60secs (automatic switchover, finger in the air type figure) or 5 mins (you walk over, throw the switch and start the generator).

You could alternatively go for a second inverter (like I have), but I wouldn't have done that had I had to pay full price for it. Mine came for free with the house we bought, I'd pay a bit for a second hand one on ebay, but really, no more than that.
Re your comment about using the full potential of the Solar in winter, I don't have the SI technical data to hand, but are you limited by the amount of power the SI will take off your grid and put into the batteries, is that what you are saying? If so, you'd probably want to work out how long it would take for the cost of another SI to be offset by the energy you can't harvest now and make a financial decision based on that.

Paul for example has a second battery bank attached to a second inverter. I think Paul paid little to nothing for this second bank, if memory serves. If you have to pay normal prices, I don't think given the likelihood of a battery bank going kaboom in one go, the fact that if you run two in parallel, you also deplete their service life in parallel and the fact that you somehow have to either convince your two Battery Inverters to play nice with each other or end up with two grids, it's not the cost-effective way to go.

Generator then: you need to decide whether one genny is enough. For me it wouldn't be but then I'm not going to be happy with a day without electricity if the genny fails, it takes me a while to get it fixed and the batteries run dry in the mean time.

If I were you (i.e. if I had your system and my requirements and that's the key really, what are your personal preferences/requirements), I'd put in a transfer switch so your "grid" can be powered either by SI or generator and I'd put in another genny.

My 2p only. Really depends on your requirements and whether you are doing some of this just because it's fun and a hobby, too.

HTH
Eric
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2016, 06:15:37 PM »

Thanks so much for this!

...what is it that you want to guard against?
...

It seems to me that since you have three SBs in parallel you are already guarding against SB failure, albeit that if one fails you only get 2/3 of the energy.

Yes, found that out by accident! Lucky us!


That leaves the Sunny Island, the Generator and the Battery Bank.
You could reasonably live without the SI if the Generator could be made to power the house. It'd be a manual switchover in the simplest case, but presumably, given that you'll have a blip one way or the other (it takes some time for the generator to start) it doesn't matter if that blip is 60secs (automatic switchover, finger in the air type figure) or 5 mins (you walk over, throw the switch and start the generator).


Yes, but we were hoping to get this changed when we get the electrician back to finish the house. However I think we need to get this ASAP. First priority. And I don't have an issue with manual switchover. I prefer simple anyway.

But this highlights the bigger problem -  even with the manual transfer switch until I have either a second inverter/charger or some kind of alternative charger,  there are no means to charge the batteries if I my only source is my generator. So far, SMA take the two weeks to replace faulty kit, plus the time to get an installer to look at it.  Batteries might be pretty unhappy by then although I suspect without the SI they wouldn't have any loads on them. Any thoughts about a backup charging solution?



You could alternatively go for a second inverter (like I have), but I wouldn't have done that had I had to pay full price for it. Mine came for free with the house we bought, I'd pay a bit for a second hand one on ebay, but really, no more than that.
Re your comment about using the full potential of the Solar in winter, I don't have the SI technical data to hand, but are you limited by the amount of power the SI will take off your grid and put into the batteries, is that what you are saying? If so, you'd probably want to work out how long it would take for the cost of another SI to be offset by the energy you can't harvest now and make a financial decision based on that.

Yes that is it. The amount of power the SI will take off our grid and put into the batteries. It doesn't really feel like it is a financial decision, because as we are dependent on this, we need a fail safe. We cannot just say that we won't buy an additional charging solution. We can't write off our batteries. And manual intervention is fine. I don't need this to all happen automatically with no intervention whatsoever. However, rewiring Mains voltage is outside of my comfort zone. Having said that, I reckon Chris Rudge might be able to create a 'drill' that we could follow. He suggested that this afternoon when he changed out the faulty Sunny Boy.



Generator then: you need to decide whether one genny is enough. For me it wouldn't be but then I'm not going to be happy with a day without electricity if the genny fails, it takes me a while to get it fixed and the batteries run dry in the mean time.

One of my current projects is turning my Landrover defender into a portable milking bail. The defender has a PTO and I've put a hydraulic generator on it, a 10 kVA. Once I've sorted out the problem of maintaining the revs electronically, not like at present, with a piece of wood on the accelerator pedal (work in progress - nearing completion) I will have a 10 kVA generator in addition to the 3.3 Honda LPG conversion.

not sure what your plan a was?
Ah, longish story - but we bought a place that's off grid with permission to replace the house. After much difficulty getting help to build this, finally SMA stepped in and proposed a spec for us based on our estimated electricity consumption. This has proved to be fine and we are confident we got that bit right. However from point 1 the installers have been a big issue. If it wasn't for the help we've had from this list and from SMA support we would be in big trouble. As it is we are in a pretty good, but slightly precarious position. As you can see from the above.



« Last Edit: November 04, 2016, 06:47:40 PM by V » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2016, 09:15:44 PM »

Vi,

whilst I don't know all the ins and outs of your supply/demand requirements I can fully sympathise with your need for back up on your system.  I see your genny is a Honda so presumably running at 3000 Rpm, you obviously don't want this running for hours on end if you have no other supply, in spite of Hondas' renowned reliability.

To gain a budget price level of redundancy and back up I'd fit a 3 way change over switch to enable the genny to pick up the house loads on a manual switch. I'd buy a couple of 30 amp PV charge controllers that could be set to charge the batteries in the event of total SI failure. At least then some of your PV could be utilised to maintain battery condition. I'd also have a cheap Chinese inverter say 3000w as an alternative when all else fails. Depending on the PV out put voltage and your battery set it might as last resort be possible ti connect some panels direct to the battery, ie 30V pv connected to 24V battery set.

The likely hood of a decent battery set to fail is remote.  They die slowly giving plenty of notice if you monitor them.

I have a Happy Jack 3Kw inverter mounted on the wall with cables cut and terminated ready to be connected in if required.  It doesn't do half the job of the Outback but keeps the basics going if needed and cost zip.

Cheers.

Andy
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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2016, 06:02:32 AM »

HI V

I guess i would get one of those hybrid inverters with high voltage MPP chargers inbuilt  for  about 1100 (InfiniSolar Plus 3KW )  as a  emergency / backup idea  (they handle PV upto 500 VDC+)
http://www.voltronicpower.com/oCart2/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=73

but the 3000 watt one will only handle half of your pv,   the 5000 w version probably all , but more pricey

What string voltage do you have ?

I am a bit surprised about your SB failures ,  do you know/guess a reason for that ?

Its the downside of  high voltage  PV array s , that one not just can hook the PV direct to battery without expensive gear ....

Billi

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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2016, 07:20:32 AM »

Hi V,

I told you my 'plan B' in the other post, but as Bautche says, I got the bank given, the Outback cheap and my power generation is my hobby as well as crucial to life here.

My neighbours house, which used to be mine has a 'plan B' which is now 'plan A' and is along the lines of Billi's. They had a 'quality' Trace SW4548E 4.5kW inverter charger which failed so bought something like the one Billi mentioned which included a large MPPT charger. The cheaper inverter/charger was used whilst the Trace was repaired and proved to be very good. After 6 weeks or so the Trace (which was 11 years old ) failed again (different fault). It was repaired again and now remains 'plan B' with a 'changeover' switch between the two Inverters and another 'changeover' switch so the generator can supply the house loads directly in event of two inverter failures.  Your problem though, with this 'plan B' is going to be that these 'transformerless' inverters are not suitable for 'AC coupling' so the SB's would need be turned off and some of the panels 're jigged' to the 'plan B's' MPPT input.

On a different subject, and I'm sure you've altered the parameters to suit but that wee Honda is waaay too small for the SI's 140A charger which requires something like an 8kW or more generator. I guess your Honda is only going to be supplying 60A at best into that lovely big battery bank of yours.

Good luck, Paul
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V
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2016, 11:06:13 AM »

Thank you all so much for this!

Firstly:

To gain a budget price level of redundancy and back up I'd fit a 3 way change over switch to enable the genny to pick up the house loads on a manual switch. I'd buy a couple of 30 amp PV charge controllers that could be set to charge the batteries in the event of total SI failure. At least then some of your PV could be utilised to maintain battery condition. I'd also have a cheap Chinese inverter say 3000w as an alternative when all else fails. Depending on the PV out put voltage and your battery set it might as last resort be possible ti connect some panels direct to the battery, ie 30V pv connected to 24V battery set.

The likely hood of a decent battery set to fail is remote.  They die slowly giving plenty of notice if you monitor them.

I have a Happy Jack 3Kw inverter mounted on the wall with cables cut and terminated ready to be connected in if required.  It doesn't do half the job of the Outback but keeps the basics going if needed and cost zip.

Re: 30 amp PV charge controllers - I currently have a manual switch so that I can turn off the PV. Would it be an idea to make that a three way and be able to bring the charge controllers into the mix? And I will look  at Happy Jack. Thank you. But am I right that the charge controllers you are suggesting would be DC charge controllers?

Re: Decent Battery set. I've had a great education from all of you and from Paul Byrne about the batteries. And since Chris Rudge came and tightened up the cables which Sungift left loose, I've seen 6 batteries come back from being noticeably lower voltage to the others to coming back completely inline. So I'm pretty confident that they are now good for the long run.


I guess i would get one of those hybrid inverters with high voltage MPP chargers inbuilt  for  about 1100 (InfiniSolar Plus 3KW )  as a  emergency / backup idea  (they handle PV upto 500 VDC+)
http://www.voltronicpower.com/oCart2/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=73


Interesting. I'll look at this. But after a terrible experience with a Chinese generator I'm not convinced that I want to trust anything designed by them. I can have my mind changed, but my 'supposed backup generator' became part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I CAN be convinced, however.


What string voltage do you have ?

I am a bit surprised about your SB failures ,  do you know/guess a reason for that ?

Billi


I believe the string voltage that I've seen from the SB says 435 volts. And re: SB failures - I read somewhere on this list that the transformerless inverters are more sensitive to surges. The first failure was after it snowed and I brushed the snow off of the panels. But I did that the year before and there were no problems. The second failure was after the diggers came back to bury the cable that goes to the SI. Next day, poof.


Would either of these cause a surge in the inverters?

And according to my records on both occasions the SOC was >= 90%, so I wasn't bulk charging, it will have been an absorb charge and the SI would have throttled down the SB's.

... my power generation is my hobby as well as crucial to life here.

...
 Your problem though, with this 'plan B' is going to be that these 'transformerless' inverters are not suitable for 'AC coupling' so the SB's would need be turned off and some of the panels 're jigged' to the 'plan B's' MPPT input.

Yes, Mike and I look on this as an excuse to learn about something we find quite fascinating as well as being dependent on it!

And is it the question of 'plan B's' MPPT input that would be the decider about which Inverter/charger to choose?


On a different subject, and I'm sure you've altered the parameters to suit but that wee Honda is waaay too small for the SI's 140A charger which requires something like an 8kW or more generator. I guess your Honda is only going to be supplying 60A at best into that lovely big battery bank of yours.


Ah, the Honda. That is an interesting case. In theory it could output 5 kW, but both 230 volt plugs are only 16 amp. People have suggested we could 'tie' them together, but someone else suggested it was possible the outputs would be out of phase. SDMO don't make that generator anymore and want us to buy a new one so we've struggled to get good information about this.

HOWEVER - in practice, our excess of solar, even with a 5kW bottleneck at the SI (for charging the batteries) has meant that usually the generator has only been used when the SI would be throttling the generator down to around 3.3 kW anyway (ie. > 88% SOC). We have needed to use it a few times for bulk charges, but we tended to do this at > 75% SOC, so when we've run it, it has been 5 hours continuous at the most.

In an earlier discussion someone had suggested that realistically we would need two generators - one big one for bulk charging and a little one for the absorb charges.

Which makes me wonder if plan 'B' of a second SI in parallel with SI one, which would allow us to use all of the solar might be a good idea? With the enormous battery bank we have 4 days before we get to 70% if it has been rainy and overcast. We've used the generator then. Last November it got used once a week. But mostly we've found that we just use it to finish a boost charge, if, say there are 20 minutes left to go in winter when the sun has gone down.


I know it is a distraction, but this is my landrover defender project which will give me a 10 kVA generator that I can 'drive' to refuel, so no need to store diesel here. My plan 'B' generator to be?





« Last Edit: November 05, 2016, 11:09:21 AM by V » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2016, 12:27:33 PM »

Hi V,

Yes, Mike and I look on this as an excuse to learn about something we find quite fascinating as well as being dependent on it!

And is it the question of 'plan B's' MPPT input that would be the decider about which Inverter/charger to choose?


From memory the OCV of these MPPT chargers in the hybrid inverters is around 120V? my memory is shocking but I seem to remember doing strings of 3 panels when I fitted one. So I guess some 'jiggery pokery' would need done with your panels to make that work. By far the simplest way would be, as you suggest, another SI and you could use a 6 rather than an 8 to keep costs down. It was something I toyed with before coming across the Outback.

Regarding charging from the generator, I only ever do the bulk phase, leave the rest to the PV/wind/hydro. My SI is configured to start the generator at 60% and stop it at 80%, that way the genny is optimally loaded and run times shortened to a couple of hours. My generator is far too big at 12kW but I have a 6kW immersion 'hard wired' into the alternator so it's always running at 50% load. When I originally used to charge to 100% I switched on another 'hard wired' 3kW immersion during the absorb phase.

Love the hydraulic generator but it'll be expensive using that on DERV unless you have a separate gasoil tank or are you using cheese  Grin Is it a TD5? cos the 200/300TDi would be fine with just a hand throttle I would have thought.

Good luck, Paul
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2016, 12:29:44 PM »


2. If the Sunny Island fails we also have no means to charge our battery bank


If your looking at dc charging from a generator I would recommend Eltek chargers. I use them for the majority of my DC charging and they are small, very powerful, reliable, efficient and not too bad to set up.
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2016, 01:19:53 PM »

Why are you keen to be able to charge your battery bank when the SI has failed? You've got nowhere for the electricity to be used as you can't get to it anyway?
Am I missing something?

(he says all of this slightly tongue in cheek as I have myself had a need to charge the battery bank not from the SI, but that involved a very very dead battery bank and an inability at the time to run the site off genny while still feeding the SI with power, a problem I have now removed).

Eric

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« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2016, 01:38:20 PM »

or just troll ebay for some standby goodies..... why? because we like pics of bodger'd together stuff  crack

I've just got a Solis inverter to play with  Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2016, 01:49:50 PM »

or just troll ebay for some standby goodies..... why? because we like pics of bodger'd together stuff  crack

I've just got a Solis inverter to play with  Smiley

I've just got a new 10kw 3 phase 48v hybrid inverter/ charger for 102 inc delivery from Germany- just wondering if it will turn up Huh

EDIT- just got a message from the seller saying it will be shipped in 3 to 4 days.
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« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2016, 02:24:19 PM »


From memory the OCV of these MPPT chargers in the hybrid inverters is around 120V? my memory is shocking but I seem to remember doing strings of 3 panels when I fitted one. So I guess some 'jiggery pokery' would need done with your panels to make that work. By far the simplest way would be, as you suggest, another SI and you could use a 6 rather than an 8 to keep costs down. It was something I toyed with before coming across the Outback.



Sorry to be so stupid, but OCV? and MPPT chargers, are we talking about Sunny Boy ie inverter replacements? As opposed to a Sunny Island (inverter charger I'll call it to differentiate) replacement?




Regarding charging from the generator, I only ever do the bulk phase, leave the rest to the PV/wind/hydro. My SI is configured to start the generator at 60% and stop it at 80%, that way the genny is optimally loaded and run times shortened to a couple of hours. My generator is far too big at 12kW but I have a 6kW immersion 'hard wired' into the alternator so it's always running at 50% load. When I originally used to charge to 100% I switched on another 'hard wired' 3kW immersion during the absorb phase.

Love the hydraulic generator but it'll be expensive using that on DERV unless you have a separate gasoil tank or are you using cheese  Grin Is it a TD5? cos the 200/300TDi would be fine with just a hand throttle I would have thought.

Yes, it looks like I use my 9.7 kW of panels like you use your 12kVA generator?

And the LR is a TD5. RE: derv - looking at whether I can get the LR declared a farm vehicle for the DVLA so I can refuel at the red pump. But even if I can't, it is pretty much my ONLY production expense. And who knows, maybe the Defender could be converted for a li-on battery and then I could refuel from my panels?  Wink

Why are you keen to be able to charge your battery bank when the SI has failed? You've got nowhere for the electricity to be used as you can't get to it anyway?
Am I missing something?


Good point, Bautsche. I don't know what the self-discharge rate for FLA batteries would be, and whether they were in a fullish state of charge when the failure might occur would be relevant.


If your looking at dc charging from a generator I would recommend Eltek chargers. I use them for the majority of my DC charging and they are small, very powerful, reliable, efficient and not too bad to set up.

Thank you for the recommendation Tinbum. I will put these in the mix/on the list.

or just troll ebay for some standby goodies..... why? because we like pics of bodger'd together stuff  crack

I've just got a Solis inverter to play with  Smiley

I've just got a new 10kw 3 phase 48v hybrid inverter/ charger for 102 inc delivery from Germany- just wondering if it will turn up Huh

EDIT- just got a message from the seller saying it will be shipped in 3 to 4 days.

And thanks Mostie too, will try to oblige! Wink .

Tinbum, the hybrid inverter charger you've bought- is this a Solis? Is Solis a brand I might want to look at?
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« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2016, 02:30:20 PM »

or just troll ebay for some standby goodies..... why? because we like pics of bodger'd together stuff  crack

I've just got a Solis inverter to play with  Smiley

I can highly recommend the Solis Mostie, been doing some trials for Hugh Piggott and Powerspout comparing Ginlong's 1500 Mini to several other inverters. So far it has performed much better than an SMA WB1200, and marginally better than an SMA SB3800. Have yet to try it with an Aurora PVi 3.6 but the Solis is a fraction of the cost of anything else I've used on my 'AC coupled' hydro.

Cheers, Paul
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http://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/

'Off grid' since 1985,  Proven 2.5kW, Proven 6kW direct heating, SI6.OH, 800ah Rolls, 4.75kW PV ,4xTS45, Lister HR2 12kW, , Powerspout pelton, Stream Engine turgo, 60 x Navitron toobs and a 1500lt store. Outback VFX3048 and 950ah forklifts for backup,
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