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Old 09-01-2010, 20:58   #16
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For what it's worth, my Blue Sky "Solar Boost 2000E" MPPT controller has been working as advertised. I would trace the wiring, and measure the voltage and current at the various nodes. Follow the current! Draw a diagram and annotate it. Trace the current through the ground wires as well as through the feed wires (and measure the voltages too). If Blue Sky has tested their unit, I suspect that the problem is elsewhere. Make sure the wires go where they're supposed to.

This is basic stuff, and perhaps you've already done all this, but being methodical can make a big difference in successful troubleshooting.

And of course the MPPT controller could be broken.

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Old 09-01-2010, 22:08   #17
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I have a 2000e with 2 80watt bp panels works fine 2 years now. there are some adjustments you can make with dials on the back. none of these should effect what you report. the adjustment is a bit touchey and needs real time evaluation .

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Old 09-01-2010, 22:22   #18
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Solar System, proving its worth (and performance)


First off, I'm truly sorry that you've had such a frustrating time.....and if it were me, I'd be pretty p*****d off at this "pro"......

Next, I'd NOT hire someone to "fix" this, since it's likely a very simple fix, that you CAN do and you'll learn how uncomplicated this all is, and how much BS is lathered on people about all of this....

And, after this is all done (fixed) do the boating/cruising community a favor and spread the word about this "pro"....

Perhaps I can offer you a few thoughts that might help????

1) I'm up in Ocala (from South Florida) for a week or so, doing some work, so I can relate to freezing our butts off!!!!

2) I've been using solar panels for charging 12 volt batteries for 25+ years in remote locales (mountains, islands, etc.)...and on board boats on and off for about 15 years......(and have used MPPT controllers in some systems for the past 5 years.....including my own solar install on my own boat....)

See photos of my current 520 watt (4 Kyocera 130's, with 2 Blue Sky 2512ix controllers) set-up, and updated article here:
Solar Panels
It's all been working flawlessly 24/7 for 3+ years, ~10,000 miles offshore, including 2 Atlantic crossings with many gales/storms, and 3 days sailing thru a Tropical Storm.....

And, please don't take this the wrong way, but solar photovoltaic cells / panels are truly some of the simplest and least complicated electrical items on this entire planet.....

Terry, I'm not trying to be a jerk, but rather just pointing out that even though you've had an unfortunate experience, this is NOT caused by solar panels being complicated......(Actually I suspect that the exact cause of this anomolly is quite simple...)

3) We are all assuming that your current measurements are accurate, but I wonder if they are????
Do you have another current meter somewhere on board????
Or can you borrow one from a friend???

4) While the sun is shinning and you panels are in good sun.....
If you can place a significant load on you 12 volt system / batteries, say 30 amps or so, without any shore power commected, please see what charge current is going into you batteries....
Turn on as much as you need to get 30 + amps of load...refrigeration/freezer, lights, fans, radar, chartplotter, computer, watermaker, radios, etc. etc.....

While all of this stuff is on and you're drawing at least a 30 amp load from your batteries, now do your measurements.....
What do see as battery charge current???
It should be 30+ amps, and I suspect about 32 - 35 amps.....

5) I suspect your problem is one of the following:
a) That something is amiss with your battery charge current measuring....(Not knowing how you're measuring this presents problems for us here trying to troubleshoot....but the "pro" you had install all of this shoud've had the correct metering, and shoud've installed some sort of independent metering in your boat as well....)
b) Your battery state-of-charge is too high (as mentioned by others) and/or you have not placed significant loads on the system while measuring things....(UNPLUG from the dock.....since you'll NOT need shore power anymore...)
c) Something is not wired / connected properly....
d) Something is not switched / configured correctly....
e) Possible intermittent in the Blue Sky controller....

6) Terry, please do NOT give up.....
I agree with the others here, something fairly simple is to blame, and once you get it sorted out, you'll LOVE solar.....

(Please understand that unless you've got some seriously long wire runs, 1 AWG and 2 AWG wire is way overkill, but nice for future expansion....)

There's more I could write, and more assistance I can offer, but I suspect that you need a few hours break!!!

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Old 09-01-2010, 22:55   #19
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I too get frustrated with what should be the simplest of items. I would recommend just forgetting about it for a while and start enjoying your cruising life. Then when you are all relaxed and ready, look at it again with fresh unstressed eyes and mind. I've done this many times only to find the very obvious right under my nose, literally!!

I agree with John, Solar is absolutely the simplest way of getting free energy. I've seen very simple set ups for homes and yachts. I've also seen very complex wiring doing the same thing?!?!

Good luck and take the needed time off of this problem and just enjoy cruising!!

Also, I don't believe anything is a total waste. How I see it is that now that you have a proven petrol generator, you can now have this as your backup/redundant power up when everything is finely tuned with your solar array..
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Old 10-01-2010, 03:47   #20
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I agree with John, solar rocks, free power from the sun. (Well not totally free, had to purchase 3-65 Watt panels), It is so basic, but I have found the direction that the panels are facing can make a huge difference. Mine are fixed, and at times the output is not as high as I would like but for the most part very happy with them. Good luck finding the problem, once you get them fully operational you will be amazed and what they can do.
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Old 10-01-2010, 05:16   #21
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Terry, if you're comimg south through the Jupiter /Stuart area I would be happy to meet up with you and help you solve this issue. no charge. David
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Old 10-01-2010, 05:40   #22
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Originally Posted by Tspringer View Post
Cruiser beware: Solar energy is NOT what it is hyped to be. It is experimental at best. If you do not have a degree in electrical engineering or you do not build nuclear power plants in your spare time do yourself a favor: save you money. $8K would have bought a LOT of gasoline for the Honda.

There is nothng complicated about solar until you get into larger systems. Almost everything associated with it is "2 wires in, 2 wires out". Only slightly more complicated than wiring up an AC light bulb.

If you are only showing 12 amps from 4 135 watt panels, there are only a few possible reasons.

1. You are measuring the amperage wrong, or the meter is showing the wrong amperage. You should be seeing around 12 to 15 amps from the panels, and around 40-45 between the panels and the batteries.

2. Your panels are wired up wrong. In your setup you should have a single wire jumper between each pair, and then a single wire coming from each panel, one + and one -. The + and - of each pair should be tied together or to an array combiner or j-box of some sort. There should be two wires going from there to the charge controller. Also possible that they got the + and - backwards on 2 of the panels.

3. Your batteries are full and don't need any more.

4. You have two bad panels - this is highly unlikely - the failure rate on panels is about 1 in 10,000.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:19   #23
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As a test, why not just wire all 4 panels in parallel and bypass the controller?
Measure the solar panels output current when there's a big load on the partially discharged batteries.
Memento,homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
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Old 10-01-2010, 17:25   #24
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Still do not get it why (and if) the 12 v panels got rigged into 24 v 'banks'. Or am I reading it wrong? Why not keep the panels on 12 v (they are about 17 v before regulation anyway).

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Old 10-01-2010, 18:00   #25
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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Still do not get it why (and if) the 12 v panels got rigged into 24 v 'banks'.
This is normal with an MPPT controller - the input voltage is irrelevant.
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Old 10-01-2010, 19:05   #26
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One other thing you might try is making sure that all of your panels are actually generating power. The easiest way to do this is with a blanket test, or perhaps more precisely a towel test. On a bright sunny day, making sure you have no other shadows on the panels simply cover each panel, one at a time and look at the output. If the output doesn't go down the panel you just covered is not generating power. I was in the Bahamas last year on a friend's 7 year old boat when we noticed the battery wasn't maintaining it's usual state of charge. His boat has never been connected to the grid and has been running on solar power since it was launched. In anycase, the blanket test revealed that two of his four panels had failed. It was quite strange because while the panels would pass the open circuit voltage test, they failed the short circuit amperage test. They apparently developed a high resistance failure in one of the cell connections. It would pass voltage under no load conditions but it would not pass current under load. This type of failure could be generated if the panels were subjected to an unusual shock during shipping even on a new panel. In any case the test is simple and only takes a few minutes to determine if all the panels are working.
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Old 10-01-2010, 19:24   #27

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I think you can get the output you are expecting, with a little patience (yeah, I have limited amounts of that too) and some sinmple steps.

1. Call the guy who installed it. Tell him nicely, it isn't working, come fix it please. Assuming you are still in the same place. If he says no, only then do you say "look, I paid you, it doesn't do what you were paid to do, I asked you once nicely if I ask you again it will be in small claims court." (Assuming you're in the US or have something similar to that.)

2. If calling the guy is not an option, or he doesn't show, DIVIDE AND CONQUER. Disconnect the two arrays from the rest of the system. That should mean unplugging them from the MPPT controller. Disconnect each panel--that should be a screwe terminal in a junction box or somethign equally simple, unless you have "factory wired" 48V panels. Now plug in ONE panel , and see if you get the rated power from it. Do the same for the other three, it is possible that there is something wrong in one panel. If the output form each is not what you expected--it could be one bad panel, on bad diode in a panel, taking down the whole system.
If each panel works, then I'd suggest disconnecting the BS controller and hooking up each panel separately, directly to the batteries, and using a clamp-on ammeter or an ammeter with a shunt, to measure the output from each panel when loaded to a battery. (You can also do this with a plain $20 multimeter by measuring voltage drop in a piece of thinner guage battery cable, you'll have to multiply but you don't have to spend $75-100 on a higher amperage meter or shunt.)

This is going to resolve down to "something simple stupid!" or as they now say, a Homer Simpson Moment. "D'Oh!"

And by dividing the system into spearate pieces, and testing each piece one at a time, you CAN CONQUER IT.

Could be the BS controller--which is why I'd suggest testing everything else first. If everything else works (and I don't think it all will) then you call back the folks at BS and say "Everything works until your controller gets plugged in." Stranger things have happened, but I'd bet on something simpler, like one bad panel or one wire misconnected.

FWIW, MPPT controllers generally are great, giving you an extra 10-15% of power from the solar panels into the batteries. The OUTPUT DISPLAY from them usually has to be calibrated and programmed for your setup though--and it is also very easy to get that wrong. I think it took me two hours of slowly reading, skipping back and forth in the pages, and wiring up very slowly and carefully to get my first BS MPPT controller running properly--the first time. And then a bit longer to make sure I understood the display options. So there's also a chance the guy just misprogramed the controller, and the new one from the factory might have been left in a default program that also is just wrong for your boat. RTFM, maybe before you start pulling anything else apart. RTFM twice, and tick things off with a pencil to make sure they really are set the way they should be.

If you keep a high power system at low voltage (12v) then you need very fat cables to carry the amperage with a low loss. As you move the voltage up, you can use thinner cables which are MUCH cheaper, much easier to swage terminals onto, and much simpler to bend and route. And, the MPPT controllers usually pick up another 2-4% of efficiency when they run on 48 volts instead of 12 volts. So it is win-win to run the panels in series. Also, if one panel is shaded and the voltage from it drops--because you have them in series providing higher voltage, you still get some effective power from both.
You're right that a nominal 12v system typically will hit 17V, but you need 14.4 for full charging anyway. Splitting four panels into 2x24 volts is a compromise, allowing some redundancy if one panel/array fails, and still giving some of the other gains of higher voltage. With 34 volts coming off each array--there's plenty of tolerance for a little shading, too.
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Old 11-01-2010, 17:27   #28
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OK, THX, I see the point now.

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Old 11-01-2010, 23:14   #29
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On series-connected panels and shading, this is actually one of the disadvantages of a series connection. A shaded panel has a high-impedance (resistance), and will not allow the current from a working panel to flow through it. Even partial shading can completely shut down a panel, depending on which cells are shaded. The typical isolation diodes that most panels have in their junction boxes don't help in this case, you need bypass diodes which are much less common.

The bottom line is that a single shaded panel will block the current in a series-connected panel string. Series-connection is an excellent idea if you can ensure that the panels won't be shaded (in a home installation, for example). On my boat at least, I'm always fighting shadows in my dodger-top installation, which is one reason I have parallelled 12V panels. In each of my 100W 12V panels, there are two parallel 36-cell strings, while in a similar 100W 24V panel there is one string of 72 cells. A shadow that would cripple the 24V panel might only cut the 12V panel's output in half. Or, it could shut them both down, depending on the geometry.

To clarify, I am describing two types of parallelling: parallel connection of multiple panels, and the parallel connection of solar-cell strings in a panel. The principal is the same. We are seeing fewer of the low-voltage panels now, since the higher-voltage series connections are better-suited to home energy utility-backfeed applications, which is now the high-volume solar panel market.
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Old 20-01-2010, 14:21   #30
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To follow up.....

First, THANK YOU for all the kind words, thoughts and help. This board is really amazing!

I played around with the wiring and controller connections a bit more, testing various connections and such. Then other projects and getting ready to leave intervened and I left it alone.

We left the dock to head south on Monday around noon and have not been on shore power since. We have been using power pretty much as usual except of course no electric heat. This morning after us all watching a movie on the flat panel last night and using plenty of power all evening the battery monitor said the batteries were at 84% charged. The solar panels were producing output 7:30am and by 10am the controller display was showing 15 - 18 amps. The sun was high overhead, no clouds and no obstructions and with the batteries at 88% charged around 1pm the display was showing just over 20 amps and it fluxuated.

So it does seem that the panels and controller are working but I still do not think the output is what it should be. My guess at this point is that one set of panels is putting out the correct output and the other has some issue.

I have had some offers from folks here to help me figure this out when we can get south and I do intend to take folks up on this! But right now.... our solar issues are on the back burner as we have serious diesel engine problems preventing us from heading south. See the other thread if you wish to watch the frustration unfold!


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