Solar power system upgrade dreams

If I may quote from a certain book,

[T]he saving grace of Solar is that – within certain practical limits – it’s scalable. Once you’ve got the system in place you can add to it, or replace bits that aren’t working out, as needs require and resources permit. Trust me, this covers a multitude of sins.

Generally I’ve been very happy with Electrical System, Secret Lair, Mk II. But there’s always room for improvement and a person who lives on scrounged parts must always keep his eyes open. A year ago next month my system got hit by lightning which destroyed my beautiful free 4000W inverter.
Fortunately for me, thanks to my older brother I’d already retrofitted the Lair with a bunch of 12V lighting and thanks to my neighbor S I soon replaced the old inverter with two smaller but brand-new inverters.
Since then I have frequently pondered the sight of those inverters, one of which doesn’t do anything but decorate the wall, and thought, “You know what I need? I need more redundancy.” Then I ponder the memory of that fried inverter, the one I could never have afforded to replace in the same class, and I think, “You know what else I need? I need some circuit protection.”

Yeah, well. I need a silent VTOL aircraft and the power of invisibility, too, so I just put those on the list of “Things Joel Needs” until recently. You can’t just go to the hardware store and buy a breaker box and some circuit breakers, these need to be DC rated. They’re expensive. (For the record, the inside of the Lair is fully covered with circuit breakers or fuses, even the DC lighting.) The best I could do, until now, was pay attention.

And now it seems my time has come.



Imagine with me a ground-mount rack with four old-but-serviceable 200-watt solar panels, between the chicken-chopping block and the erosion swale. This will approximately triple my power-generation capability, which in the fullness of time (if it works out that way, I don’t really trust these panels until they’re tested) will permit me to double my battery bank*. In addition to some construction and trenching this would require money outlays for a second charge controller and a whole bunch of DC-rated circuit breakers – except this morning I learn that the overhaul job from which I’m scrounging the solar panels (on which job I’m already signed up as ordinary labor) will also be casting off – you guessed it, campers – a 60-watt (amp, dammit) PWM charge controller and a whole bunch of DC-rated circuit breakers. They can go to the county dump…or to the Secret Lair. None of that is yet written in stone, I agreed to do the job in exchange for the panels only, but I know which way I vote.

So there may be a major electrical upgrade in my very near future. Guess that means I need to update the book. Electrical System, Secret Lair, Mk. 2.55!

*I currently have two six-volt 232 Ah batteries with which I’m not at all unhappy, and they’re only about two and a half years old. More would be nice but not particularly required, and the virtue of what I have is that I could afford to replace them. The power generation capacity, though, while usually adequate doesn’t have a lot of margin and can’t cut it when I get a succession of gloomy days near the winter solstice. That’s the only time I really stress my batteries. So more panels is way more important to me than more batteries.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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5 Responses to Solar power system upgrade dreams

  1. jabrwok says:

    Congratulations on the electrical doodads!

    And, on an unrelated note, I just wanted to say a big “thank you” for your writing style. You use pronouns correctly! You don’t end your sentences with prepositions (that I’ve noticed anyway)! Reading this blog is a joy, not least for the proper grammar. It’s become so rare to see well-written, clear, properly spelled, *grammatically correct* prose anymore that I treasure it when I do find it.

  2. Joel says:

    Thank you, kind sir!

  3. Ben says:

    “…a 60-watt PWM charge controller” Did you mean a 60-AMP PWM charge controller perchance?

  4. Joel says:

    Amps, watts. Whatever it takes. 🙂

  5. Tennessee Budd says:

    Uncle Joel, I’d like to second jabrwok. I’m not obsessive about it, but sloppy English does grate on my nerves. I’ve never had that grit-your-teeth moment here. When someone uses the language correctly, it’s easy for me to take it for granted. As with anything else, you don’t notice when things go well; it’s when things go wrong that you pay attention.
    I’m Tennessee born an raised. I recently had an buddy’s girlfriend say, “You’re from Ohio or somewhere, ain’t you?”. I mean no offense to Ohioans, but that is a deep & terrible insult to a TN hillbilly. Upon investigation, I found that it was because “you say things all proper”. I’m not insulted by that–she’s an idiot, which I already knew.
    I thank the good teachers of Robertson County public schools.

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