Wiring an Off-Grid Powerhouse

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by BTPost, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Spent the day wiring up an Off-grid Powerhouse for a "close" neighbor. He has two 6 Kw Diesel Gensets, that generate at 240 VAC, and feeds the 240 Vac Breaker Panel. Then we mounted a 240/120 Vac Transformer, and a 120 Vac Generated Breaker Panel that feeds his Trace 2624 Inverter. That feeds the 120 Vac Inverted Panel, which then feeds the local 120 Vac loads, like the Cabin, Bunkhouse, and StoreHouse/shop. Picture attached, taken with my iPad2.....
    IMG_0012. IMG_0013. IMG_0010.
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  2. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Mornin' Bruce. Working in a tee shirt ? Must be awfully cold up there right now even now. The man has no solar ? Really must be bad running gennies all the time, or is it just a back up system ?
  3. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    The picture is of the owner, I am lots wider than that..... He has a 120 Watt Solar Panel, that I traded to him a few years ago. We didn't get that moved over from the previous location, last night. It is just to keep the Battery Bank from freezing in the winters. No fancy MPPT Charge Controller, yet, but maybe someday. His loads are mostly just lights and tools, at this point, but he is now setup for anything. Gensets are a Northern Lights, and an Onan DJB. He gets about 24 hours, out of a 4 hour charge cycle, except when he is freezing fish, then he just runs the Genset for 6 hours straight. Works for him. He tried wind, but it was a total failure, because of his location. No local hydro at his site, either.
  4. thebastidge

    thebastidge Monkey+

    Doesn't temperature affect battery life pretty strongly? Looks like his generator shack isn't insulated or anything. Is it pretty noisy? Nice looking setup though.

    Convenient to have the gensets at bench level like that.
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    In Lead/Acid Batteries, temperature is only relevant in two areas.

    1. The lower the Electrolyte Temp, the less current you can draw from the battery, due to the higher internal resistance. If you draw current from the battery, it causes the electrolyte to warm up thus allowing more current to be drawn.

    2. A fully charged Battery will NEVER freeze, even down at -60F. A discharged Battery WILL freeze at about 20F and that can cause the plates to warp, and in some cases even crack the case, allowing the electrolyte to drain out once it warms up and unfreezes.

    So, Since this outfit is manly a summertime only outfit, the idea of a Solar Charger is to keep the Battery Bank fully charged so that it will NOT Freeze, and when winterized, there is NO LOAD on the Battery Bank, so that the Solar System only needs to overcome the internal discharge rate of the Battery Bank.
  6. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Here where we live in N.E. AZ. (yes where the fires are ) it gets down to about -22 which it did this year. My batteries are not insulated nor is the building and really had no problems at all. What wide old Bruce said about the batteries is true, plus , when it is clear and cold out, my solar actually works better as there is much less heat in the wiring which also causes resistance in the solar.
  7. fanderal

    fanderal Monkey+

    My experience with OFF Grid living in Oklahoma

    I've been off grid for the last 3 years. Until about 5 mos ago, all we had was a Generac 7500 EXL gas generator.

    Living with just a generator works like this.
    Flashlights and head lamp (like from Wally world) for reading in bed, or moving around after dark.
    Get up in the morning, get out of bed, use headlamp to get out to the generator without breaking neck, START generator, stumble back into house, and turn on a light, run the pump for a shower, use an ice chest for keeping food cool. Shut down generator as I'm leaving for the office, the Mrs. waits until daylight to do anything in the house...ugh (but We did it this way for over 2 years.)

    Get home at night, to watch a movie, you guessed it FIRST go start the Generator... Oh and don't forget that stop at the gas station to fill up your 5 gallon can about 6 - 8 times a month. (I hate paying road use tax to generate electricity.)

    Total run time on the generator was a little over 100 hrs a month, so add in an oil change every month.

    On a Kw/hr basis my electricity is VERY expensive, but then we only ran the generator when we NEEDED it, not 24/7 so real out of pocket wasn't that bad.

    NOW however I have a 2000ah batter bank feeding a Xantrex Prosine 2.0 Charger/Inverter. I got my batteries from the tech that maintains the UPS at work. It holds 48 60ah VRLA batteries, I used up a few learning about batteries, and gave a couple away. I only gave $50 for the whole set, cause he sells them as scrap when they are only 3 years old. The Prosine 2.0 cost about $1800 with wires, 300 amp fuse w/ block, and a C-60 charge controller (that I don't need till I get PVs up)

    But now when I wake up I just turn on the light like everyone else, and I only have to run the generator about 90 minutes a day, which means 60% less fuel, and oil changes every 8 - 9 weeks.

    I can't wait to get my solar panels in.

  8. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    You will need quite a bit of solar, but all in all , it will beat running the gennie all the time. Gas at close to $4.00 per gal, x 100 hours per month equals about 400.00 per month elec. I have only run my gennie about 1 time in the last month and that was just because it needs to do that for an hour a month to keep it from going bad. Having lived on solar for about 16 years now, I can tell you that, although the inital cost of the solar is high, once you get over it, life can be good. No bills every month, no gas hauling every day or week and very very quiet.

    Plus, should the grid go down, I wouldn't even know it , until I drove 26 miles into town.
    Sapper John, BTPost and hank2222 like this.
  9. Tommygun0101

    Tommygun0101 Monkey+

    Question.... how long will batteries last? I mean how many times can they be recharged before they wont hold a charge anymore? I've been thinking about adding solar panels to my home, not for off grid living, but I don't know where to find affordable panels. Any info/ideas would be appreciated.

  10. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    Not an easy answer to that one. It varies, depending on the number of cycles, AND how deeply you discharge each cycle, AND the type/quality of battery. If you only take 20% out, you get a lot more cycles than if you do 80% discharge between recharging.

    Most GOOD batteries will have a chart showing the number of cycles at various DOD ( depth of discharge ) points. You won't find that info on cheaper batteries, not really meant for solar/etc type use.

    Solar for you ON grid home can be installed two ways....grid tie only ( but you are w/o power when the grid is down ), or grid tie with a battery backup, so you have some power ( though generally NOT full grid capability ) when the grid is down.

    Panels are only one cost.....the rest of the components/labor add as much as half again or more.

    The question(s) you need to answer:

    1. What is your goal ?.....replace 20%, or 30%, or whatever, of your power use ? Or just have backup in case of grid down ?
    Or what...

    2. How much are you willing to spend ? ( And remember, thru 2016, there is a federal tax credit of 30% )
  11. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Cycle Numbers for a Battery Bank is very dependent on battery chemistry, and how many Deep Cycles, that the bank is put thru. (Deep Cycle = more than 50% Discharge) If you choose to run your batteries down that far, then you will not be getting the typical Bank Life of folks that are more judicious with their Charge/Discharge Cycles. I live Off-Grid and have 30 years experience with Battery/Inverter Systems that power my Cabin. My usual Bank life has been in the 8 - 10 Year range. I am now on my fourth Battery Bank, which is 1200 AmpHours @ 24Vdc and is now 3 years old. I cycle my bank to 35% discharge, twice a day, for 8 months a year. My Energy source is twin 20Kw Diesel Gensets, that run for a total of ten hours a day. (7Am to Noon, and 5 Pm to 10Pm) This keeps the Freezers Cold, the Batteries Charged, and the Telco, MicroISP, and Internet SAT Connections going 24/7/365. The Cabin Bank is made up of L16s in Series/Parallel driving a Trace SW4024 inverter. The Shop Bank is a bank of Absolyte-IIs (AGM) Batteries driving a Trace U2624SB Inverter. The Shop powers the MicroISP Hardware and SAT based IP (Internet) Connections. That bank is now close to 8 years old, but still is running at 95% Storage Capacity when last tested. (Spring 2011) Solar isn't practical in the Alaskan Winters, and I get powered from the 2.5 Megawatt Powerhouse during the summers. Pictures can be found on my Website. BTP Homepage ....... YMMV.....
  12. Tommygun0101

    Tommygun0101 Monkey+

    Answer #1) To supplement high energy costs.

    Answer #2) Under 20K if possible.

    Thanks for the info.
  13. Tommygun0101

    Tommygun0101 Monkey+

    Thanks for all the good info. My goal is to eventually, within the next 3 years, move to west central Colorado. I would like to set up off grid living using a waterwheel.
  14. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Engineering a Waterwheel, requires a fair amount of water, usually with a slow Flow Rate. You are depending on the weight of the water, falling across the Diameter of the Wheel, for your energy. If you have that, Great, but if you have a LARGE Head and small Flow Rate, then a Pellton Wheel type rig is much more efficient, for energy production. Most of the Systems around where I live are using the later style MicroHydro Systems.
  15. Tommygun0101

    Tommygun0101 Monkey+

    I'm still quite the noob in this field. I did read of a company in Penn. that is still to this day making water wheels. It's gonna require a lot of research on my part. But thanks for the info, I'm sure it'll come in handy.
  16. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    The best deal for a quality solar panel, would be the Shucko, which are made in germany . They have a 25 year warrentee and I don't think you can beat that. 24 volt only though at this time. Look them up and look at the 585 watt panel. Dollar per watt , looks to be pretty fair price. Stay away from the Chinese stuff all together, or you will be haveing constant problems.
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