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Old 17-10-2012, 08:07   #1
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Solar - Best Prices?

Looking to install new panels in the next two months. Looked at lots of web sites but would appreciate any feedback on the best values you folks have found as our budget is limited and would like to conserve our monies for other upgrades that will be needed. Note it is our goal that the new panels would provide all our electricity needs so that we are self-sufficient. Currently in the Florida Keys. Thank you. Bruce
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Old 17-10-2012, 09:35   #2
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Re: Solar - best prices?

We have bought panels for both boats and chargers from SolarBlvd...

Solar Cell, Solar Panel, Renewable Energy, Wind Energy, Charge Controller, Solar Trackers

... and have been happy with the prices and service. We broke a panel on a piling at Marco Island and they got a new one out to us the same day and we got it a couple days later.

A friend just bought panels on Florida's East coast here....

http://www.sunelec.com/blog/wp-conte...ANEL-SALE2.pdf

....and they seem to have really good prices. He drove from Port Charlotte over and picked them up. I don't know anything about them myself.

Not sure how much research you have done on this yet, but you want what are called 12 volt panels (they actually output in the 17-18 volt range) if you are going to use a PWM controller. These sites will have higher voltage panels for sale also. You will need, not a bad idea anyway, a MPPT controller if you go with higher voltage panels.

Which ever way you go it is best to not mix panels of different construct or voltage output (and even the 12 volt ones can be different).

We run 200 watts on our MacGregor...



....and the info is here. 3 different size panels but all are the same output voltage and same cell type. We are using an MPPT controller and more info is here.....

Macgregor 26S Outside Mods page 33

We are running...





...480 watts on the Endeavour with all of the panels the same and again we are running a MPPT controller. I personally prefer more panels myself. If one is damaged we loose less of the array. Right now the boat is in storage and we only have one panel up and it keeps the batteries topped off. This way we don't worry quite as much about possible storm damage. There is more info here....

Endeavour 37 Electrical Mods Index

Good luck and we sure love the quiet solar power,

Sum
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Old 17-10-2012, 20:34   #3
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Re: Solar - best prices?

Wow!!! - thank you so much! While I had visited lots of web sites, finally figured out I should post a question here and see if I could get some feedback. So really do appreciate you taking the time to give me the links and post some photos on what you did. Interestingly as a EE myself really liked the setup you did in prototyping/mockup in your home to test the output of the system before putting on your boat. Our biggest challenge now if figuring out what real estate is available to mount the panel. Because the boom rides just slightly above the bimini top, I'm thinking we probably need to mount the panels just aft the bimini - perhaps with a new structure mounted about the reverse transom, or, a something to the side of the boat that collects reflected sunlight.

Bruce
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Old 18-10-2012, 05:05   #4
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If you do a search on www.searchtempest.com you can find PV panels both new and used. It searches both craigslist and ebay.

When comparing PV panels, do not fall into the trap of using dollars per watt as your deciding factor. Every panel manufacturer builds their panels with different efficiencies and, even iff the watttage cost is low, the delivered power may not be what you need.

A better way to look at them - a way that compares apples to apples, if you like, is to look at cost per AMP. This is the measurement of the flow of current (useable power) from the panel. The wattage is the rating of the capability of the panels on the incoming side (the aggregate of the individual cells without regard to to bunches of connections they have to push power through).

Panels have a really long life span, so, used could save you quite a bit.
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Old 18-10-2012, 05:07   #5
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Another place to look is a place online called Oasis Montana. They post used PV systems for people on their site. Do a google search for them.
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Old 18-10-2012, 06:12   #6
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Re: Solar - best prices?

Bruce

When we purchased our solar the cheap panels in the US were from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. They are currently selling the Kyocera Solar KD140SX-UFBS for $309

We have a total of 795 watts of solar and a Blue Sky 60amp Controller that produces 44-48 Amps per hour in bright sun light. This keeps on up with our power needs very nice, well except right now in the rainny season of Central America :-(
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Old 18-10-2012, 07:56   #7
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Re: Solar - best prices?

Thanks Muscongus! I've been fooled in the past when buying stuff so I will make sure to heed your advice regarding comparing apples to applies and taking a look at Oasis Montana. I guess the other item that I would appreciate your feedback on is mounting hardware. As the places we can mount the panels on our boat is limited, am curious how other folks have mounted their panels. Any tips theres?
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Old 18-10-2012, 08:02   #8
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Re: Solar - best prices?

Thanks jeremiason! That's cool the Kyocera Solar KD140SX-UFBS are going for $309! Question: how many panels did it take to get 795 watts? And regarding the Blue Sky 60amp Controller that produces 44-48 Amps, do you have a schematic you be willing to share how you set this up? Also I'm very curious on your battery setup. How many batteries, and number of banks. While the obviously the number of batteries is related to the power output of the panels, I'm still curious how the paper calculations sync up with the real world when putting the whole system together. So any tips there would be great. Thank you. Bruce
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Old 18-10-2012, 08:09   #9
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Re: Solar - best prices?

Amazon sells DM 145w Polycrystalline Solar Panel (2 Pack) for $328 delivered. Last night they had 18 packages in stock. This morning they have only 7 left as I type. They sell out QUICKLY because of their low cost. They do restock but it takes a few weeks from what I noticed by visiting their site. I own 4 of the DM panels purchased from Amazon. Two are installed on my boat, the other two will get installed next spring. I am very satisfied with the DM panel.

Foggy
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Old 18-10-2012, 08:34   #10
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Re: Solar - best prices?

I am looking at size and weight as well.
At the moment the plan is to get 705W by installing 3x 235W panels type
Sanyo/Panasonic HIT N235SE10.
(size 1580 x 798 mm)
The best price I have found in Europe up to now is 359 EUR each (=466 US$). (+tax)
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Old 18-10-2012, 09:00   #11
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Re: Solar - best prices?

We also got our solar panels from Northern Arizona Wind and Sun
Solar electric power components and solar panels
We did quite a bit of research, and they had the best prices and selection.

We have four Kyocera 315W and paid around $400 each. I think the price has come down a bit since we got them. We have an Outback Flexmax 80 MPPT controller. We have a motor vessel, so we need the extra amps. We are hoping to be able to anchor out for long periods of time without having to run the generator to charge up the batteries. We have a house bank of 4 8D batteries (and two start batteries). So far, we are pleased with the amps the solar panels pump out. We've had them for about 4 months.
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Old 18-10-2012, 09:22   #12
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Re: Solar - best prices?

Bruce,

I don't know if this will help with your interest in finding the cheapest sources for solar, but you might want to talk with Bob Williams at SALT Service in Marathon. He's been in the business for a long time and can answer any question you have. He can certainly help you understand costs and trade-offs.

I just purchased a wind/solar system from him. It wasn't the absolute lowest cost system, but it was very competitive and I got everything needed to do the install down to the wire ties. Very staisfied customer.

Scott
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Old 18-10-2012, 09:59   #13
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Re: Solar - best prices?

Since the shipping cost for a few panels is pretty high, I would think the best deal you would get would be driving up to Sunelec.
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Old 18-10-2012, 10:47   #14
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To determine the amount of panels you need, you need to consider how you plan to use the system, how much load you plan to have, how fast you want your batteries to recharge, and how many cloudy days you anticipate while using the system.

This is also the info you'll need in sizing your battery bank (aside from how fast you want it to recharge.)

Also, if you are not using true deep cycle batteries, be aware that voltage drops off quickly as the banks capacity is used. You'll want to put a meter on the system so you can keep an eye on it. Cruise makes good ones.

If you want, send me an email and I can help you with some of the technical stuff. I am an electrical contractor by profession and we do PV systems, too. If you have excel, I'll put together a little spreadsheet to do the math for you as you look at options.
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Old 18-10-2012, 11:23   #15
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Re: Solar - best prices?

I use Civic Solar (CivicSolar | Solar Panels - Photovoltaic Cells - Solar Power - Inverter - Charge Controller - Battery) as my barometer. They have the Kyocera KD140SX-UFBS at $285.60, but you have to buy a minimum of 4. $309 as singles sounds like a pretty good price.

I'm going to disagree with Muscongus a little. If you use a PWM controller or a direct connection then Amps may be the way to go, as you will be operating the panels at battery voltage. If you are using an MPPT controller then Watts is the measure to use. Either way, if you are calculating power delivery look for the ratings at NOCT (normal operating cell temperature) or at least PTC (PV USA Test Conditions). PTC ratings use 1000 W/m2 sunlight while NOCT usually uses 800, so NOCT is generally more realistic for average power, PTC for maximum achievable.
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