Friday, May 14, 2010

The Story So Far... (part 1)

Welcome to my blog about my attempts to do away with utility power and make all my own electricity for "free".  Of course it's not free (it costs a fortune to generate) but you get a warm feeling inside when you make your own power :D

Let's start at the beginning...  I work at home.  At first this was just a convenient option to the office but back in late 2008 my company started a policy of home working to replace the offices they had.  So I found myself kicked out of my office and forced to work at home (better than being kicked out of the company mind you...)

I work in IT so all I need for my job is my laptop and the internet.  I wondered if it would be possible to generate the power for my laptop from solar power.  At the time, the electronics store Maplins was having a sale on some cheap 12W solar panels.  So I bought a couple for a laugh to play with...


As special offers came up now and then, I added a few more.  They started selling a kit of four with slightly more powerful 15W panels (the ones on the ground in the picture above).  Our garden would never be the same!

For you see, I'm a bit of a collector.  And collectors like to collect.  If you're lucky, you collect something with a finite number of things in the set.  If you're unlucky, you collect something that is never ending and it takes over your house and life.  Solar power is one of those things you can keep on collecting forever.  You can't have too much power.  It's addictive.

I'll skip over a lot of the detail in how I got to where I am today with my system but if you want a blow by blow history you can check out my threads at:

http://www.mrsharkey.com for older posts, now archived at 
http://www.nomadicista.org
http://www.navitron.org.uk for newer posts and lots more.  This forum is UK centric and covers many aspects of green living and technology for bodgers and professionals alike.

From those humble beginnings my system grew and grew until today it looks like this:

But that's not all... 













There's more on the garage....













The system as it stands now has the following statistics:

System standard: 24V DC nominal
Installed PV:        1,778Wp
Charge Control:   1x Morningstar MPPT-15 (15Amps)
                           1x Morningstar TriStar MPPT-60 (60Amps)
Batteries:            24V bank comprising 
                           4x Deka Solar Gel 6V 180Ah + 
                           2x 110Ah leisure batts.
Inverter:             3kW Antares (Cotek) SK3000 pure sine.

Indoors, on the wall are the charge controllers and meters.
And on the floor below, the batteries hide under a comfy chair.  The power is distributed on mains extensions that plug into the inverter.  Being off-grid, my system is not connected to the house mains and so I have to swap appliances from mains to solar manually.

Using batteries means I can use the collected solar power at night or when it's cloudy and also comes in handy for when there's a power cut.  Ironically, those who elect to install grid-connected solar power can't use it if there's a power cut as those systems are designed to only work when the mains is on!

We live sort of in the country and the mains isn't as reliable as when we lived in London, so it's been useful for keeping the fridge-freezer running in a power cut.

Stay tuned for more on my system as it develops and lots of other stuff about solar power!

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