This is the personal blog of Solacity’s owner and green advocate, Rob Beckers. It is a place for news, updates, comments and other renewable energy, or Solacity related information.
Many of our customers have cottages, some are used throughout the winter, some are left to their own devices. Both cases present a challenge when there is an off-grid electrical system: Panels get covered in snow, and therefore don't contribute to charging the batteries. At the same time, the Achilles heel of lead-acid batteries is that they do not like sitting at partial charge for long periods of time. What can we do about this? It is surprising how little snow cover it takes to bring solar panel output to a grinding halt. Just a dusting of snow and there's zero output! One solution is to put solar panels up at a steep angle, making it more likely for [...]
By: Rob Beckers We sell a lot of batteries, and for the longest time I've been wanting to write a comprehensive article about how to take care of them. What has been lacking is the time to do so. Therefore, and for the time being, I'm recycling a post I wrote for a forum as an article here, until I can write something that's better. The information below is for flooded lead-acid batteries, things are a little different for sealed batteries such as AGM or Gel. Batteries are poorly understood, even by those living off-grid that depend on them for power. A better understanding of the inner-workings would go a long way in keeping those batteries happy. Given how [...]
Before solar panels became interesting for people that are on the grid, there were only 36-cell ones for charging 12 Volt batteries (and if you had a 24V battery you'd need two panels in series, to make 72 cells). With 36 cells the panel runs at about 18 Volt, and when it gets warm in summer, the Voltage will drop but still be enough to charge a 12 Volt battery (which really takes about 15 Volt). Charge controllers were developed for these 36-cell panels, to prevent overcharging and damage to the battery. These charge controller are essentially just switches that rapidly (many times per second) connect the panels to the batteries, and then disconnect them. By changing how [...]
Cottage owners are faced with a number of choices when it comes to the expensive batteries of their off-grid power system: Take them home and put them on a trickle charger? Leave them at the cottage? If the latter, should they be disconnected? Or not? Batteries are expensive items and you want to get the maximum life out of them. It is important to take good care of your batteries! To those that do not want to take their batteries home I tell them they have two options: The first option is to make sure the batteries are fully charged, to a full 100%, and disconnect EVERYTHING (charge controller, inverter, etc.). Fully charged batteries only freeze at -65C and they [...]
Confused about kilo-Watt versus kilo-Watt-hours? When even electricians talk about "kilo-Watts" when they actually meant "kilo-Watt-hours" it shows that a little education is in order. Being able to differentiate between power ("kilo-Watt" or kW) and energy ("kilo-Watt-hours" or kWh) will help you make better decisions about your system. Yesterday I was talking to a very nice couple that was about to build an off-grid home. As with any off-grid system discussion I pointed out that we had to find out first how much energy they were going to use on a typical day in summer and winter, and the rest would follow from that. The result was mighty confusion about why several kilo-Watt of solar panels would not work [...]
Showing a further level of incompetence to an already grossly incompetent organization, the IESO (formerly the OPA or Ontario Power Authority) once again showed they have learned nothing from their previous mistakes: They again, without warning, closed the Ontario MicroFIT program from new applications. In doing so they, once again, put all the Ontario solar installers that were busy recruiting customers for the MicroFIT program in hot water. I personally know several installers (and customers of ours) that had customers lined up to sign on the dotted line, who now can go back to the drawing board. The IESO made the vague promise to re-open the MicroFIT program sometime in July. Of course, those long enough in this industry remember [...]