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I think, on a personal level, I am going to start trying to get solar systems set up for Khmers who may want / need them. I hate going up and down the road at the farm, knowing that, every night my family has power, while others are sitting in the dark.
I am currently in negotiations with a company to build a solar controller that will be reliable, yet much cheaper than your average controller offered by companies here. The controller would be manufactured in the USA. My first PWM controller here was $250 USD! This controller should easily come in under $100 USD, and will be customized for this project. It would still be a 20a to 30a controller, offering a 10a load circuit. It will be enclosed for the environment of Cambodia as well. So, it could even be mounted outside, if necessary.
EDIT: July 28, 2018 - Some MorningStar SL-10L-12v SunLight Solar Charge Controllers were donated to me a while back, specifically for this project. So, I will be going with them, rather than the previous controllers I was considering.
I am going to try to get a solar module (panel) manufacturer on board as well, Just Solar. If I can do that, the only significant cost then will be the batteries.
So far, my plan is to include the following in one package price:
PV Panel Parts
1 - 100 watts 12vdc PV Module
1 - 1.5" angle iron mount (could go with aluminum here if cheaper)
1 - Assorted hardware for mounting the panel
PV Panel to Controller Parts
3 - meters two conductor #10 wire
1 - Assorted hardware to secure the wire against the building
Battery to Controller Parts
1 - MorningStar SL-10L-12v SunLight Solar Charge Controller
1 - 10a 12vdc fuse / breaker 1.5 meters red #6 awg wire
1.5 meters black #6 awg wire
1 - Assorted hardware to mount the controller and secure wiring against the wall
Controller to Loads Parts
1 - 12vdc - 50ah Deep Cycle Battery
2 - Brass Battery Bus Bars (to attach loads)
1 - 10a 12vdc fuse / breaker
1.5 meters red #12 awg wire
1.5 meters black #12 awg wire
1 - Assorted hardware to mount the bus bars and attach the wiring against the wall
This is between an off-grid project and a mains electrical project. So, I wasn't really sure where I should post it. The Mains, Solar, Wind & Hydroelectric Power forum won.
So, it just so happens that I have 3 - 100 watts panels sitting around collecting dust, and not producing a single watt of power. I also have 135 watts panels doing the same. So, I need to come up with a little project for them. Anyway, the 100 watts panels project, for now.
I am going to buy a (cheap Chinese made) 6oo watts grid-tied inverter. I will then connect the 3 - 100 watts panels in parallel, directly to the inverter. Then, I will plug the inverter directly into a mains power point (wall receptacle). That will sync with the mains and start pumping up to 300 watts directly into the electric veins of the farm, depending on the amount of sun they receive, of course. This will help alleviate some of the power needed from the mains to run the farm.
Anyway, these inverters run between about $82 USD to $120 USD, each. That would buy you a 500 watts, up to a 1000 watts grid-tied inverter.
The reason behind powering a 600 watts grid-tied inverter with only 300 watts of panels, is so as not to overdrive it and possibly cause it to fail, catch fire, etc. The last thing you want to do, is to overdrive a cheaply made inverter, or any inverter for that matter. Besides, you can always buy another inverter, and three more panels to connect to it, then plug it into the mains. The second inverter will sync with the first, as well as the mains voltage.
Also, when you experience a mains power failure, these inverters will automatically shut down in order to protect anyone who may be working on the cables. You certainly don't want to be responsible for someone getting electrocuted. I know I don't. Once power is restored, they will come on line again.
Anyway, as soon as I get around to ordering one of these, and receive it, I will give you good folks an update on this little project. If this works out okay, I will definitely expand the system so as to reduce our power bill even more, each month.
SUMMARY: A grid tied system can help you kill your power bill, by back feeding power into the mains. It is as simple as installing an array of solar panels, connecting them to a grid-tied inverter, and connecting the grid-tied inverter to your mains power in your home.
I am continuing with a project I have been researching and wanting to complete for some time.
After calculating everything I would need to power, including lighting, I have determined a 300 watts solar array is what I would need to start with.
To begin with, the array will be made up of 3 - 100 watts solar panels. I will add additional panels to expand the total array output.
I was going to order a single 285 watts Yingli, but recently decided against it due to a couple of reasons.
One reason was time constraints. I want to finish this system this up coming week. It would take me about two months to get the panel here.
Another reason was no guarantee of the panel being received in good condition. After all that waiting, I could end up with an issue with the panel. Knowing my luck, I figured I would go with the safer option - let the company I buy from replace a non-working panel at his cost, not mine. Not to mention, the local supplier has all the panels I need in stock, and then some. If I want to expand the system, it will be as simple as dropping by his office, picking one up and taking it to the site and installing it in the current array.
I will start with four (4) deep cycle batteries, 120 amperes each, on a 12vdc system. I am leaving room for expansion panels as well. I will probably add three to five more panels, over the next several months, as power requirements increase.
The batteries are connected as below, to help guarantee equal charging among each battery in the bank:
I am going with a MorningStar Solar Controller for the array. The model controller is a Morningstar ProStar-30 (meter version). They have a great reputation among solar power enthusiasts, and from reviews I have read online.
Take a look at their 2012-2013 catalog: Morningstar-catalog-2013.pdf
UPDATE: Here is their 2013-2014 catalog: 2013-2014-MS-Catalog-Oct-EN-small.pdf
I haven't decided on a voltage inverter yet, primarily because I have one already that I can use, until I have decided what to do there. All lighting will be 12vdc. The bulbs will screw into standard lighting sockets.
Total cost, a modest $835 USD. I will have a complete 300 watts solar array installed and running, for this cost.
I won an auction today, one I didn't expect to win. Honestly, I had second thoughts about even attempting it. Money is a tight with what we are putting into the farm. But, I figured if I could keep it under $160 USD, I would give it shot. I just remained apprehensive about getting it, because most on auction sites are more costly than the figure I set as my maximum bid. But, sometimes, you get surprised - you win. I did today.
It's a 1,500 watts continuous, 3,000 watts intermittent, 12vdc to 220vac, 50hz, soft start pure sine wave voltage inverter. Chinese made, but most are nowadays. Will see how well this one holds up. Besides, I won't be maxing it out anyway - far from it. I figure 500 watts will be the maximum draw this ol' boy will see for some time to come. Anyway, I won the auction at $156 USD, including shipping, to Cambodia.
If you have the option, you will be much better off running a pure sine wave inverter, rather than a modified sine wave inverter. Electric motors, especially aren't crazy about Modified Sine Wave power. They run much more efficiently, and are better for running your appliances.
For the record, the most recent prices I got, from a Chinese company nonetheless, are as follows:
1,500 watts - MSW - plus shipping : USD118.30 + USD 53.70 (DHL) = USD172.00 2,000 watts - MSW - plus shipping: USD127.20 + USD 58.80 (DHL) = USD186.00 1,500 watts - PSW - plus shipping : USD193.00 + USD110.00 (DHL) = USD303.00 2,000 watts - PSW - plus shipping: USD221.00 + USD115.00 (DHL) = USD336.00
During my first trip to Battambang, the first week of this month, we sat down with a representative from Khmer Solar. We spoke for a while, and let her know what we wanted installed, concerning our solar array at the farm house. At that time, she seemed fairly knowledgeable about solar power in general. I felt comfortable enough. So, we laid sthe deposit down on the table, and asked her for an official quote on company letterhead, as well as a receipt for the deposit.
Stupid me - I would later learn.
I should have asked her a few more questions prior to paying the deposit. For example, she should have been queried concerning the difference between PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) and MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controllers. We ended up going with a PWM controller, well - because it was the ONLY type they had available. Got to love limited choices when trying to set up a tailored solar solar array at your home. Do a lot of research on any solar installation company in Cambodia, prior to doing business with them.
By the way, if you are interested, the differences between PWM and MPPT is explained in the following PDF document:
The first part of October is well into the rainy season, here in Cambodia. Little did I know, we had arrived in Battambang just before one of the worst monsoons in the past few decades. Knowing my luck, I should have guessed that one the minute the rains started to come down.
So, we ended up heading home later that week (after 8 days in the hotel), due to the major flooding caused by the heavy rains that Cambodia was experiencing at the time. Nothing was completed during that trip, with the exception of purchasing the rain water harvesting project parts. That was a shame, really. Lots of water we could have stored, was simply lost. That's okay. Next rainy season we will be cookin' with gas!
Fast forward to the third week of October.
On Monday, the 14th, we headed back up to Battambang. This time, we decided to do it with a one night layover in Phnom Penh. The next morning, Tuesday the 15th, we headed on to our destination city - in a no-so-comfortable, seven (7) grueling hours ride. Fortunately, the hotel in Battambang was comfortable, as usual. After getting refreshed, we dropped by Khmer Solar's office, and scheduled the installers to show up Wednesday morning, 9am sharp. Yes, Paul, hold your breath for that one.
We woke before day light on Wednesday, had breakfast, and off to the farm we went. At 7am, the representative rang us, letting us know the installers would not arrive until 9am. I informed her that we were there waiting, and they needed to get on the ball and get their asses up there.
Time to throw a wrench in your plan for the day.
Sure enough, about 9:30am, Khmer Solar rang up again, letting us know the installers would not arrive until about 11am. I was not a happy camper, as they didn't have an excuse for being more than two hours later than previously agreed upon. This company was not looking good, in my eyes. Hindsight, people. Hindsight.
About 11:00am, they had not arrived. So, we decided to head out to Highway 57, a good 5 kilometers away, to meet them and show them how to get to the farm. (I didn't want any further delays.) We waited along the highway about fifteen minutes before they rang us, letting us know they were 10 kilometers away. They finally arrived to meet us at 11:35am.
We led the way back to the house, with them following along.
Arriving at the property, we, that was me and most of the male family members, as well as Chan, filled our hands with "solar stuff" and headed toward the house with it all. (Bear in mind, there is a dyke, a not-so-small dyke (about 20 meters across), between the road and the farm property. We had to cross it, and part of the perimeter of a rice field, to get to the farm house. Talk about rural living. Green Acres ain't got anything on us!
FINALLY! Everything was there and ready to be installed - except the damned installers. They were out by their car, hood (bonnet) popped up, and using a voltage inverter and power tools to cut up some angle iron, which appeared to be 1" x 1", or perhaps 1.5" by 1.5". (They apparently, had been constructing the bracket to which the panels would be mounted.)
A while later, they finally crossed the dyke, and with the balance of the parts in hand - the frame, a ladder, and one solar panel. By now, we were bumping on 2pm. Needless to say, I was definitely NOT happy with these people. I mean, Khmer Time is fine for most things. However, when it comes to work engagement, especially after you have agreed to a specific time, that is just rude and disrespectful as hell to your customer. Not to mention the money we were paying these guys to get this done - $110 USD, just in labor and deliver fees! They were not worth 10% of that!
It gets worse.
Once inside, one installer, the one in charge, began taking out his little handy dandy combination wrench, and started tightening down the already tightened (snug, as they should be, by me!) battery terminal bolts on one of my batteries! The fecker thought he was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bear in mind, these are battery terminals that were ALREADY torqued to appropriate specifications. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine what a half turn past snug means.
I immediately stopped him from continuing on, and hollered for Chan to come into the house to translate for me. She was some distance away from the house. So, I had to get my big boy voice out to get her to go there - fast - before I ended up killin' this guy and burying him in the rice field! Basically, and I am sure, by using much nicer words than I had, she convinced him to leave my batteries alone, get out of the house, and climb his happy arse on the roof to start the panel install.
I later found out that the installer had told Chan that the batteries would not charge properly, unless the terminals were "tight". Well, apparently, his idea of "tight" was measured in inch-tons of pressure, not foot-pounds. The idiot.
After I saved the batteries from being tightened into oblivion and ruined, I grabbed the charge controller, a MorningStar ProStar 30m (with meter) and began installing it. Khmer Solar was very limited in their stocks, having only one other controller on hand. It was also a PWM. So, I chose, what I felt to be, the best option - the ProStar 30.
The meter on the ProStar 30 rotates reading Battery Bank Voltage (the voltage at the batteries), PV Amperes (charging amperes from the panels), and Load Amperes (what your circuits are drawing from the batteries), continuously.
Below, you can see the controller is showing the panels are charging the batteries at 13.8vdc, and in the second image, charging at a rate of 10.1 amperes.
If you are interested in a rural project similar to ours, and want a decent controller that is fairly reasonably priced and packed with features, I can recommend the MorningStar ProStar 30M Charge Controller. I would recommend buying one from the states, though, as you can import one cheaper than you can buy one locally. Here is information you may find beneficial about this particular unit:
Now, to keep this story from getting much longer - yeah, I know, too late for that, Paul.
Well, the bottom line here is, everything these guys worked on ended up shotty. I wish I could have taken a photo of the bracket they mounted the panels to. (EDIT: I have since purchased a camera and taken images. A photo of the controller and one of the controller and current combiner box is above. A photo of the (installed) bracket is below this paragraph.) Oh, yeah, the panels. They cut the FACTORY INSTALLED MC4 plugs off brand new PV panels so the installer could junction the wires on the panels. This was done rather than buying the proper MC extension cables to add length for the wires to the combiner box. There goes the 20 year warranty on three PV panels.
Oh, when they mounted the bracket and panels, they didn't bother to see what angle the roof was at, which would determine the proper elevation (just under 13.00 degrees) for the panels. (I have an azimuth / elevation gauge I will take back with me, to make sure the elevation is correct.)
I am glad I changed the setting on the controller to lead acid (flooded) batteries. (There are three settings, depending upon which type of battery you will be using for the array.) The installer didn't even bother to check it to make sure it was on the appropriate setting, when he connected it!
To top it all off, they didn't finish the install until that evening - long AFTER sun down. Soooo, we couldn't even check to see how well the panels were performing until the next morning.
So, folks, if you are looking for a solar array to be built on your property, definitely, do NOT EVER use Khmer Solar. I cannot believe a professional business could be so shotty. But, they are.
As far as I am concerned, the next install / upgrade we do concerning the solar array, will be done entirely by me and Chan's family. An extra $110 USD would buy us a lot of beer for the after install party.