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Old 12-19-2015, 07:34 PM   #1
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Sourcing Solar products in the PNW

I'm looking for recommendations for solar panels, MMPT controllers and monitors in the PNW. I'm looking to build a 450-500 watt system depending on available space on the Pilothouse roof. Depending on duty and tax considerations I may end up buying in Canada, but I'm still interested in recommendations for the Puget Sound area...

Or, are most people buying online?

Thanks!


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Old 12-19-2015, 07:50 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by JDCAVE View Post
I'm looking for recommendations for solar panels, MMPT controllers and monitors in the PNW. I'm looking to build a 450-500 watt system depending on available space on the Pilothouse roof. Depending on duty and tax considerations I may end up buying in Canada, but I'm still interested in recommendations for the Puget Sound area...

Or, are most people buying online?

Thanks!


Jim
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Looking at you Pilothouse roof there would be a lot of shadows on the panels that would render them useless .I fitted 2 x120 a month ago and whenever the radio aerial casts a shadow the panels stop working
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Old 12-19-2015, 08:15 PM   #3
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There is a non-profit group on the Sunshine Coast that doing a bulk buy of panels and controllers etc., they are planning to do houses and schools (and my boat 8^)) but they were waiting for the new government to quit f*rting about in Paris and offer some funding/rebates/carbon tax benefits for "sustainable energy." Before I start trashing sorry praising the saving of the world in Paris, (somebody has to, we've been saved!) I'll let you know when the group announces the final price/timing/whathaveyou as soon as I get the info. I wouldn't get excited for a few months as they have been working on this for a year or more and the present government hasn't finished with the Vogue thing yet, they are still trying to figure out how much dosh they can steal sorry hand out to their supporters. Rumours have it the prices are pretty good (non-profit, I mentioned that?) on the panels etc. and the controllers are those good Aussie ones.
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Old 12-19-2015, 10:05 PM   #4
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Looking at you Pilothouse roof there would be a lot of shadows on the panels that would render them useless .I fitted 2 x120 a month ago and whenever the radio aerial casts a shadow the panels stop working

Except there are a number of kk42's with 450-500 watts of panels installed and they are very pleased with the results:

http://ghtacruising.com/tag/boating-news/page/19/

I've talked to David and been aboard his boat, and he's very pleased with his set up. But it's been several years since he bought his panels so I'd thought I'd check with others in the know.

Thanks Xsbank! I have heard that there is very high duty applied to solar panels in Canada to "protect" local industry. Not sure it that is the case.


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Old 12-19-2015, 11:51 PM   #5
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You're welcome, Jim, I think the prices are pretty good, I'll search through my emails to see if I can find any more info. You don't live on the Coast but I can't see why that would be a problem, I'm sure if it works out and there is a problem I could get them for you.
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Old 12-20-2015, 12:02 AM   #6
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Hmmm,

XsbANK,

Would you please add me to that list. I too am on the coast. I'd not heard of that. Or if not going to upset people point me to the group so I can contact them. T.Y.


Jim,
there are panels available now that do not lose much capacity when shadowed, at least with small shadows. Ask about that specifically. Also even with the older panels if all the panels are paralleled with each other, then if one quits from shadowing, the others will still operate properly.
I've not done the panel bit yet but know a few who have and part of the calculations they went through was allowance for shadow loss of a panel. The older panels did quit totally or almost so if one cell was shadowed. But like all, most, things there is a way around it.
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Old 12-20-2015, 02:08 AM   #7
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I have panels bought on Ebay years ago, which still perform. Controllers too. Determining quality is an issue, I factored in the quality of panels and framing and connectors, if the framing is cheap and light the panel may be similar in quality. If you investigate Ebay available products take your time. Most panels seem to originate in China, we had local producers who could not compete and gave up, I don`t think the origin is a major concern, many houses here now have a mini solar power plant on the roof and that`s where the panels mostly come from. YMMV. Just trying to help, based on experience.
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Old 12-20-2015, 04:33 AM   #8
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Work great, shadows or not.
Total cost about $525 inc;luding Four 110W panels and two 20A controllers.
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Old 12-20-2015, 07:52 AM   #9
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If someone is looking for the very latest/most efficient PVīs - wait until spring next year - Toshiba is starting producing and selling their latest, marketleading in efficency (+25%) PVīs, -I know Iīm going to wait for that! As for MPPTīs - Mastervolt claim they have the marketleading design, probably priceleading too!
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:23 AM   #10
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Some of the following is specific to the US, but may be relevant for BC as well:

12V nominal (17V MP) panels are limited to about 135 watts but can be shipped by UPS. Amazon is a great source for these under the Renogy brand. 24V (34V MP) panels are usually 200 watts or greater and because of their size, cannot be shipped by UPS, only motor freight. When the freight is added in, 12V panels are often cheaper if the total wattage is a few hundred. For example a 150 watt 12V panel from Amazon is $1.37 per watt, whereas 200 watt panels are about $1.00 per watt, but shipping is more than $50.

Some 12V panels, like Kyocera's, have blocking diodes that will let it continue to operate in partial shade. I don't think that this is true for 24V panels as these are produced for the mass power installations where there is no shade.

You can buy the 24V panels from an online retailer, but not Amazon as they are geared towards UPS shipments. Google online solar panels and you will find dozens.

Even though the Chinese dominate the world market in panels and their panels are as good as anyone's, the same can't be said for their controllers. Buy a US (well US designed at least) controller from Morningstar, Blue Sky, Outback, etc. They cost several times as much but won't fail as much. Amazon is as good a source as anyone for controllers.

There are two critical parameters for controller selection: the maximum input voltage that it can handle which is dependent on your panels. Virtually all MPPT controllers can handle the Voc of a 24V panel. The other is the output current. Take the wattage of your panels and divide by 12 to get the maximum current you are likely to produce. I would add a safety factor of 10-15% to this value.

Wire the panels for a 3% voltage drop from the panel to the controller and the same for the run from the controller to the battery which will have to be a size or two larger if you are using 24V panels. Fuse the battery connection. You don't need to fuse the run from the controller to the panels because the panels themselves have a finite current capability which the wire can handle. You can wire directly to the main DC breaker on your DC panel if it is more convenient than to the batteries.


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Old 12-20-2015, 11:25 AM   #11
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Here is mine, 2 seasons on it so far. 320 watt single panel, mppt controller. Have seen 20+ amps out of it. I dont plug in at home dock, unless running water heater or tools. We did plug in at Port McNeil for a couple of grey windy days this past summer, but that was it, and we were out 100 days. It would be nice to have it track the sun, but that woud be a real chore.Click image for larger version

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Old 12-20-2015, 01:15 PM   #12
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Sourcing Solar products in the PNW

Thanks everyone. Here's the issue:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/repor...ticle23320323/

"While a final decision is months off, this ruling puts in place immediate provisional duties ranging from 9 per cent to 202 per cent on nine specific Chinese panel exporters, and a duty of 286 per cent on all other Chinese exporters."

Edit: and...

http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/deta...#axzz3ut3szWOT

...so I'm nervous about bringing $500 in panels across the line and being slapped with 300% duties and taxes.

So...what Richard paid ain't gonna be what I will pay.


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Old 12-20-2015, 01:18 PM   #13
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Further to this I found this: "On January 31, 2015, the US Department of Commerce made a final ruling that photovoltaic cells from the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan have also been dumped and are subsidized. As a result, the US International Trade Commission has imposed countervailing duties. Those products or components within the scope of the ruling are now subject to duties of 91%."




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Old 12-20-2015, 02:28 PM   #14
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I used this company for my solar gear. http://www.solar-electric.com/
The controller was bought thru them, but I picked it up in Arlington Wa, where it was built. (MidNite Solar). Total cost was around $800. I used some mounts called sticky-feet, so there is only 1 hole in pilot-house roof and that was for the cable. Panel was a Kyocera, made in Japan.
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:41 PM   #15
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I installed 3 250W panels on our hardtop. They are Kyocera panels, and I used an outback MPPT charge controller. I used one of the outback controllers before so had some good experience with them, plus my boat's inverters are Outback so the whole system integrates together pretty well with a single common control panel.

I'm bought all my solar gear through AtlEStore.com. I know the principals, though I have no financial relationship with them. But they are good people and very helpful when it comes to putting together a system. They ship all over the world, but I don't know any details about getting product into Canada.

Here's the blog write up on the project Adventures of Tanglewood: Installing solar panels
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Old 12-21-2015, 02:04 AM   #16
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Panel shading is quite an issue. Yes, there are panels that can tolerate shade quite well but they typically have less watts/sq m output, so have a larger footprint for a given wattage capacity and are not necessarily the answer.

Recently I observed 500 Ah for a days performance, from a total of 7 x 260W panels. But, 4 panels produced 360 Ah and the three which can get shading at times of the day or boat orientations contributed only 140 Ah to the total. So shading on them reduced output by half.

I do lower my two tall VHF antenna when wanting maximum solar performance at anchor. At some stage I think I'll relocate the 2 panels on the PH roof up onto the FB hardtop. There they will still suffer some shading from my mast (and stuff on it) in some boat orientations but it should lead to better performance. I am also trying to figure out some way of moving the mast out of the way when anchored. The mods should in theory add another 130 Ah per day. I'm yet to decide how important that is to have in comparison to cost of the mods.

Another consideration is whether to use semi-flexible panels. Some of these can be walked on if need be, or be incorporated into a bimini soft top. Whereas house panels have rigid frames and are relatively heavy. The semi-flexible panels at first appear to give less bang for your buck, but might end up being the better option for a lot of boats.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:43 AM   #17
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Very happy with the Renology panels from Amazon.


I bought their starter pack for something like $315. 2 -100watt panels plus connectors and PWM controller.


If satisfied, I can add 2 more and either use the same controller or upgrade to a MPPT controller next year.


My trick was mounting on hinges vertically on the sides of the flying bridge. Out of the way when not in use, and can be tilted from 90 degrees, to flat like most panels, then to over center to get sun angle from the other side of the boat. The panels are very efficient this way from sunup to sunset. Last night right up to 15 minutes prior to sunset, one panel was still putting out enough to overcome parasitic loads of TV, computer charging, chartplotter, anchor light and cabin lights...so close to the rated 5+ amps. Which is nice getting a start on long winter nights at anchor.
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Old 12-22-2015, 10:55 PM   #18
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From MV Tanglewood blog:
"I used a roof mounting system that is popular on land consisting of two rails that run the width of the hardtop and bolt to the decking with 3 feet on each rail. . . . It's a very solid system with wind rating up to 150 mph. "

Peter - could you provide a manufacturer name for the "roof mounting system"? Sounds like it saved quite a bit of time and is robust.

Thanks,

John
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Old 12-22-2015, 11:17 PM   #19
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In Washington and Oregon, you can buy panels from Platt Electric. Call them up and they will deliver them to your local store, with no freight. In Washington, if you fill out a form, they will waive the sales tax as well.

Everything else can come UPS, just search for the lowest price. The Midnight Solar Kid controller is a nice piece of gear. A very nice and inexpensive monitor can be found here:

RV & Marine Battery Monitor

For mounting on the pilot house roof, this source has both sticky and screwed-down mounts that are of above-average quality:

Fixed Flat Photovoltaic Solar Module Mounting System - RV Solar Connection - Denver, Colorado
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Old 12-23-2015, 01:08 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldenDawn View Post
From MV Tanglewood blog:
"I used a roof mounting system that is popular on land consisting of two rails that run the width of the hardtop and bolt to the decking with 3 feet on each rail. . . . It's a very solid system with wind rating up to 150 mph. "

Peter - could you provide a manufacturer name for the "roof mounting system"? Sounds like it saved quite a bit of time and is robust.

Thanks,

John
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It's made by IronRidge. Here's a link https://www.altestore.com/store/sola...tom-cut-p8011/

I used two rails and I think a total of 6 of the L-shaped feet, 3 on each rail.

There are also brackets that anchor the panels to the rails.
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