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Posted: 10/27/2013 8:50:47 PM EST
is almost complete.  It has taken over a year to source parts, do research, and finally finish this project with the wife complaining that I was in the garage too much, my wallet thinning out, many hours of research and lots of trial an error.  

My initial interest in this project was to have an emergency backup power solution that was of a renewable source.   It has since turned into a practical, portable generator that has found some uses besides the original emergency power requirement.  I work in the TV/movie industry and needed a solution to power a small set in the field that made no noise, emitted no fumes and was portable.  I also wanted a way to have AC power while camping for some creature comforts and the ability to have an inverter that was more powerful than the one that's included in the trim package for my Tacoma.  

I started with some panels form Ebay that were made in China but had decent specs and construction.  I was looking for at least tempered glass, MC-4 connectors and monocrystalline panels.  I bought at 2 different times so ended up with (4) 70 watt panels and a 90 watt panel.

Next was buying Pelican cases and sourcing most of the parts online with a lot of local trips to HD and Lowes and the local electronics shop.


I settled with a Samlex PST UL listed inverter that outputs 2000 watts continuously and peaks at 3500 watts.  I already had the Morningstar TriStar MPPT 45 solar charge controller so I bought the digital display readout so I could know more than just looking at a red/yello/green led.  


I started by fitting the inverter in the case and getting an initial idea of a layout.


I had to call Pelican to find out anything I could about cutting and drilling into their cases.  If you cut or drill their cases it voids the factory warranty and I didn't want to do it wrong.  They said their cases are made of 100% pure polypropylene.  They said drill and cut slowly and don't melt it.  
When I made my 1st cut I was relieved to see that it cut relatively easy at low speeds.



You have to chase all the stringy pieces of plastic with a vacuum as you do this.


The workbench started to look like a mad scientist area and the wife was not happy with the mess.


These 1440 Pelicans are my battery cases


I am using 2/0 battery cable as running at 12 volts uses a crap load of amps to get an inverter to output 2000 watts AC.




I used Concorde Sun Extender AGM batteries for this project because I didn't want hydrogen gassing out of the batteries as I might be using this indoors.


I needed a panel made and I wanted it to be somewhat dummy proof and practical.  My local electronics shop has a sister company next door that makes custom LED panels and has laser and CNC capability.  




Now I had to wire it all up.  Keep in mind every connection is being cut to length, soldered and shrink wrapped.


I had to put in a raised ABS plastic piece for all the buss bars and to have somewhat of power supply section for the controller box.


Mounted the cover in place and bench tested for any faults or shorts.  


I decided I wanted a quick disconnect for my power pig tail so I went with Neutrik's Powercon connector.


The solar input is also a quick disconnect connector that locks in place and you cannot install this plug backwards so the polarity will always be correct.


The one thing that I have to be careful is to make sure I hook up main positive and negative correctly or I will fry the solar charge controller and inverter.   So I made sure to color code all my cables for positive identification.  I am using 8/2 UV resistant tray cable for the run to the panels.  


I wanted to build a better tripod mount for my upper array but this what I have parts for right now to start this project.


I'm going in series on all the panels to up my voltage so I can have as little power loss as possible for trip to the charge controller as my total run is about 25 feet.


I had a 1k soft box tungsten light running off the inverter to see how the system acted with a good load.  It handled it like a champ.  This whole time the cooling fans are running quiet and I'm smiling.


I am happy with the results so far but I do realize I need more panels (watts) and more storage, but this is a portable solution and not meant to be a high amperage long run time generator (unless I keep my load controlled and reasonable for this size setup)


I am working on what I'm calling a baby panel setup and a really portable folding panel setup that I should be getting done this week.

Will post more pics when the baby panel setup is done and report back some real world run time specs.

Thanks to ARFCOM and all the threads related to this and other projects.  I have learned a lot here.

-R



Link Posted: 10/27/2013 9:00:10 PM EST
[#1]
Wow! That's amazingly well done.

Do you have DC out available for running LEDs and charging smaller batteries, or is the only output AC?
Link Posted: 10/27/2013 9:06:43 PM EST
[#2]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Wow! That's amazingly well done.

Do you have DC out available for running LEDs and charging smaller batteries, or is the only output AC?
View Quote


(2) 400 watt 12v cigarette lighter plugs (fused and ran with 8g wire)
(2) Dual 2.1 amp USB output charging ports
(1) 15 amp AC output (I used a magnetic breaker that actually breaks right before 20amps)

I might add 4 pin XLR plugs to run production monitors, but I can get that from the cigarette lighter plugs.



Link Posted: 10/27/2013 9:16:16 PM EST
[#3]
I was just telling my wife this morning that most of the DIY projects I see on the Internet are absolute shit.  Yours is very very well done.  It's great to see people doing things the right way.  

Have you tested the USB charging ports to see if they'll charge an iPhone?
Link Posted: 10/27/2013 9:25:06 PM EST
[#4]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
I was just telling my wife this morning that most of the DIY projects I see on the Internet are absolute shit.  Yours is very very well done.  It's great to see people doing things the right way.  

Have you tested the USB charging ports to see if they'll charge an iPhone?
View Quote


A lot of DIY's are pretty bad and don't follow any sort of safe practices.  I'll be using this to power hi-dollar cameras and computer media stations.  It has to work and work right.

I found some panel mounted 2.1 amp per port USB charge ports that will fast charge Iphones and Ipads, and newer large Android devices.   If you have ever been on a tv or movie set, there are tons of Iphones and Ipads and they are always in need of charging.
Link Posted: 10/27/2013 10:07:51 PM EST
[#5]
Fantastic job. If you had to guess, how much money do you have in this setup, not counting your labor?
Link Posted: 10/27/2013 11:27:46 PM EST
[#6]
Just a guess... you're not big on doing anything half-assed, are ya?  
Nice work.  Better quality than any of the commercial offerings, and quality = reliability in this area.
Link Posted: 10/28/2013 3:32:40 AM EST
[#7]
Very cool  project. Looks like you spared no expense.

All my DIY projects look like hammered shit.  

Typical problem for me on this site is seeing the cool toys. Now I want a checkmate laser machine.


Link Posted: 10/28/2013 3:57:17 AM EST
[#8]
WoW That kicks ass!!!!!
Link Posted: 10/28/2013 4:51:23 AM EST
[#9]
That's pretty neat.  There could be a business in that for you.  I am sure there is a market for something like that if the price is reasonable.
Link Posted: 10/28/2013 6:07:51 AM EST
[#10]
Thanks for all the positive comments.  

I wouldn't have built it any other way than the way that makes it worth it and is actually safe, practical, and reliable.  

Efficiency can be improved some (my rigid panels are at about 18% efficient, my folding panels are @ 21%) but I'm at the mercy of sealed AGM lead acid batteries (they take about 125% charge to actually end up at 100%) and whatever load I maybe running.  

When I can afford to at triple to quadruple the cost, I will make the switch to Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) and half my battery weight while doubling my capacity.
Link Posted: 10/28/2013 6:25:09 AM EST
[#11]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Thanks for all the positive comments.  

I wouldn't have built it any other way than the way that makes it worth it and is actually safe, practical, and reliable.  

Efficiency can be improved some (my rigid panels are at about 18% efficient, my folding panels are @ 21%) but I'm at the mercy of sealed AGM lead acid batteries (they take about 125% charge to actually end up at 100%) and whatever load I maybe running.  

When I can afford to at triple to quadruple the cost, I will make the switch to Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) and half my battery weight while doubling my capacity.
View Quote



Sounds like you could market and sell these to generate the funds needed.

TRG
Link Posted: 10/28/2013 6:39:37 AM EST
[#12]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:



Sounds like you could market and sell these to generate the funds needed.

TRG
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Quoted:
Thanks for all the positive comments.  

I wouldn't have built it any other way than the way that makes it worth it and is actually safe, practical, and reliable.  

Efficiency can be improved some (my rigid panels are at about 18% efficient, my folding panels are @ 21%) but I'm at the mercy of sealed AGM lead acid batteries (they take about 125% charge to actually end up at 100%) and whatever load I maybe running.  

When I can afford to at triple to quadruple the cost, I will make the switch to Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) and half my battery weight while doubling my capacity.



Sounds like you could market and sell these to generate the funds needed.

TRG





I went with the lithium batteries myself. Weight was my major concern but not needing a charge controller, never worrying about maintenance and being able to mount them upside down or whatever, made the cost worth it for me.
Link Posted: 10/28/2013 5:23:57 PM EST
[#13]
Dude this is top notch.
Link Posted: 10/28/2013 8:21:07 PM EST
[#14]
Yep, nice work. But just to clarify, spending this kind of money on a small PV system is not required to make it safe. It don't have to look purty to work, and to work safely..

How does your tripod hold up to wind?

I am using 2/0 battery cable as running at 12 volts uses a crap load of amps to get an inverter to output 2000 watts AC.
View Quote

Seems vastly over-sized, but better over-sized than under-sized. 2000W @ 120V = 16.7 amps. 2/0 copper is rated for 175 amps.




Link Posted: 10/29/2013 3:05:00 AM EST
[#15]
That's pretty dang cool.

What was your approximate costs?

I'm trying to decide between generator/gas back up or solar. But cost wise I am seeing gas/generator as being a little more cost effective over a short term need.

Large generator and small back up with stored gas.

$1500 in generator costs and 200  gals of gas at 3.25 a gallon is $650. Add in fuel stabalizer and I'm just over $2k.
I am thinking 5gallons a day to run power to basic supplies for a few hours a day. That gives me 40 days give or take some for power needs.

Link Posted: 10/29/2013 6:47:44 AM EST
[#16]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Yep, nice work. But just to clarify, spending this kind of money on a small PV system is not required to make it safe. It don't have to look purty to work, and to work safely..

How does your tripod hold up to wind?


Seems vastly over-sized, but better over-sized than under-sized. 2000W @ 120V = 16.7 amps. 2/0 copper is rated for 175 amps.


2000w@12v=167A

ANd that is assuming 100% efficiency and fully loaded.
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Yep, nice work. But just to clarify, spending this kind of money on a small PV system is not required to make it safe. It don't have to look purty to work, and to work safely..

How does your tripod hold up to wind?

I am using 2/0 battery cable as running at 12 volts uses a crap load of amps to get an inverter to output 2000 watts AC.

Seems vastly over-sized, but better over-sized than under-sized. 2000W @ 120V = 16.7 amps. 2/0 copper is rated for 175 amps.


2000w@12v=167A

ANd that is assuming 100% efficiency and fully loaded.


FIFY
Link Posted: 10/29/2013 9:59:50 AM EST
[#17]
I finished the smaller array today.



It's mounted on a 50lb base and is extremely stable and doesn't wobble or want to tilt over.

Here is one of the folding panels for a truly portable solution.


These are 21% efficient panels with nice rigid backing but folding capable.   I have yet to peel off the protective plastic they shipped with to keep them from scratching.






-R
Link Posted: 10/29/2013 12:41:02 PM EST
[#18]
Your project is a technical work of art, Ra-ra!


Link Posted: 10/30/2013 4:35:17 AM EST
[#19]
Nice.
Link Posted: 11/4/2013 4:39:48 PM EST
[#20]
I'm interested in the estimated cost also.  My guess in the $3K to $4K range (parts only, no labor).  Am I close?  The exact amount is not huge concern for me.  Also, very nice craftsmanship like installation, well thought out and I'm impressed.  Good job sir.
Link Posted: 11/5/2013 5:58:32 AM EST
[#21]
I have all the receipts saved in a bundle and I haven't had a chance to tally them all up.   I suspect I'm at around the $4k mark.   One thing for sure is that you don't get into solar to "save" money.   What I need to do now is to figure out ways to cut costs for the next one I build.   For example, buying large reels of wire and cable would drop my costs down.   I found a local source of aluminum that is both better and cheaper than the Home Depot or Lowes varieties.    I need to source out stainless steel screws, bolts, washers etc. as they were expensive to buy in small quantities.   I need to do research on turning your prototype into a workable solution that still includes a profit margin and makes it worth it.  

The next build for me will include a transfer switch so I can have what amounts to an online UPS (being plugged into house AC- charging the batteries and using the inverter at the same time)    I am doing that now with this build as the Samlex battery charger can charge with a load (dip switch selectable 2 or 3 stages) and can run as a power supply.  

In the end, it's a learning experience for me, and I am learning to make the entire process more efficient and at a lower cost without compromising build quality.

Link Posted: 11/5/2013 3:09:52 PM EST
[#22]
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Quoted:
For example, buying large reels of wire and cable would drop my costs down.   I found a local source of aluminum that is both better and cheaper than the Home Depot or Lowes varieties.
View Quote


In my experience wire is usually sold at a flat rate, per foot. I don't know if buying larger quanities of wire will help much. I would price local electrical supplies outlet for the best price. I'm almost certain they will be much cheaper than the big box stores.

As for aluminum wire it doesn't sound like a good choice being aluminum is not as conductive as copper, unless you go with a larger conductor to makeup the voltage drop and larger aluminum conductors are typically more difficult to work with.

Just my two cents
Link Posted: 11/5/2013 3:57:53 PM EST
[#23]

Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:




I found some panel mounted 2.1 amp per port USB charge ports that will fast charge Iphones and Ipads, and newer large Android devices.   If you have ever been on a tv or movie set, there are tons of Iphones and Ipads and they are always in need of charging.
View Quote


OP, this is as nice as anything I've seen built.  Excellent craftsmanship and well thought out.



Would you mind posting a link to those panel mounted USB chargers?  I could use a few of those...
 
Link Posted: 11/5/2013 6:41:51 PM EST
[#24]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:


As for aluminum wire it doesn't sound like a good choice being aluminum is not as conductive as copper, unless you go with a larger conductor to makeup the voltage drop and larger aluminum conductors are typically more difficult to work with.
View Quote View All Quotes
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Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Quoted:
For example, buying large reels of wire and cable would drop my costs down.   I found a local source of aluminum that is both better and cheaper than the Home Depot or Lowes varieties.


As for aluminum wire it doesn't sound like a good choice being aluminum is not as conductive as copper, unless you go with a larger conductor to makeup the voltage drop and larger aluminum conductors are typically more difficult to work with.



The aluminum reference was for L frames for mounting internal components and has nothing to do with electrical conductivity in this project.  

Stranded copper wire with copper ring terminals are the only things used as far as wiring goes.
Link Posted: 11/5/2013 6:44:45 PM EST
[#25]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:



Would you mind posting a link to those panel mounted USB chargers?  I could use a few of those...


 
View Quote View All Quotes
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Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Quoted:

I found some panel mounted 2.1 amp per port USB charge ports that will fast charge Iphones and Ipads, and newer large Android devices.   If you have ever been on a tv or movie set, there are tons of Iphones and Ipads and they are always in need of charging.



Would you mind posting a link to those panel mounted USB chargers?  I could use a few of those...


 


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0082CXEI8/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i03?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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