Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 09-01-2010, 14:47   #1
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 363
Solar Fail

A big part of our cruising plans was to power our boat primarily from a large solar panel array. This appeared relatively easy, using proven technology that would be straightforward to install and reliable. That is the impression I got from all the cruising magazines, boat shows and solar sales folks.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I purchased 4 Kyocera 130 watt panels along with the recommended wires and a Blue Sky Energy 50 MPPT solar charger. I had an arch installed on the back of our Stevens 47 to hold this solar array. The panels are wired in series, 2 panels together for 24 volts in and two such arrays. So we have 2 sets of 24V input wires going to the charge controller which is setup for 24V in and 12V out.

I paid a "pro" to install everything. We most output I have ever seen from this system with the sun high in the sky and nothing shadowing the panels is 12 amps according to the Blue Sky remote display.

The voltage from both arrays of panels ranges from 38 to 43 volts when tested at the wires before the controller. The wires from the panels to the controller run about 18 feet are at 2 guage. I originally purchased 8 guage as that is what eMarine said to buy but I then replaced this with the larger wire as the Blue Sky tech support folks said it was mandatory. The wires from the charge controller to the battery bank (7 AGM Lifeline group 31s - brand new) are 1 guage battery cable. All the connections were done with a large professional crimper and heat shrink. The connections have all been manually inspected at least 3 times.

We have been through the install and the system over and over, end to end. I shipped the charge controller back to Blue sky and they tested it and returned it saying nothing was wrong with it. They did say they replaced all the electronics to be sure. When I reinstalled it, same issue.

I have over $8K into a solar energy system that is a joke. I have purchased a Honda 2000eu gas portable generator and we are going cruising. The solar system is little more than dead weight hanging off the back of the boat and a giant hole in our cruising kitty. If we can get into Stuart I am going to try and remove all that I can and return it to eMarine for as much of a refund as I can get.

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.


Terry
__________________

__________________
Tspringer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 15:10   #2
Registered User
 
sv_makai's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Currently, cruise is over and back in Solomons MD, USA
Boat: Voyage/Maxim 380 - Makai
Posts: 543
Images: 10
Send a message via Skype™ to sv_makai
Makai carries4 kyrocea 120 watt panels with the (rv power products) bluesky sb50 (50amp) controller. Designed and installed by myself. We see 32-34 amps @12V on a system spec that should be 28.4amps. At the time I only knew a few greenies that used the systems as it was pretty new.

While pulling my system together and getting it setup I found Bluesky very helpful

Issue 1 was to insure that the switches on the controller were configured correctly. Their tech got me sorted there. Had them wrong.

Issue 2 was the proper wiring of the panels. I had initially wired to the wrong terminals on the panels and like you stated was getting very low output. It caused me some grief. After reviewing the the panel schematics I determined that i had used the wrong terminals. Once corrected the power came in better than expected.

The system is solid and we have used it without problems for 5 almost 6 years. To this date makai isn't plugged and we have spent extended periods without the need of a charger.

The point being is you have tried and true equipment. I would recommend reviewing the wiring and the setup to insure everything correct.

If you have setup questions head over to the discussion board at windsun.com. These people are hardcore solar folks and very helpful.
__________________

__________________
Captain Bil formerly of sv Makai -- KI4TMM
The hunt for the next boat begins.
http://www.sv-makai.com
sv_makai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 15:22   #3
Senior Cruiser

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: between the devil and the deep blue sea
Boat: a sailing boat
Posts: 17,314
You are either wired wrong or a component is faulty. If not, then:

1) perhaps the batteries are charged up, they will not take more than they want,
2) panels at less then perfect angle ? overcast ? shaded panel ? etc? (because you tell us how many Volts you get, not how many Amps),
3) why is the set up so complicated, why impossible to go 12 Volt panels to 12 Volt regulator?

So, check the set up, sue the 'specialist' and off you go. If we are talking the same units then you will get 32+ Amps, EASILY.

I helped a sailing friend to re-install his panels, he was very unhappy about 2 Amps from a 60W panel. We ONLY changed the angle ....and it was suddenly 3.3 Amps (!!!)

...

I have one 75W panel that is 7 years old now. It was dunked in salt water once.

I still get 4.6 Amp - AT THE BATTERY.

So, I dare to differ in opinion and will state that SOLAR POWER RULES.

b
__________________
barnakiel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 15:29   #4
Senior Cruiser
 
Therapy's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: W Florida
Boat: The Jon boat still, plus a 2007 SeaCat.
Posts: 6,894
Images: 4
Terry,

When you find someone who "knows" what is wrong with it you will be happy.
__________________
Therapy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 15:34   #5
Registered User
 
Greg S's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 328
Terry

I installed just two 85 watt Kyoceras, a Blue Sky 2512iX controller and routinely see 10-12 amps. You should be able to power half of Stuart with your set up. I think it would be worth your while to get a second opinion.
__________________
Greg S is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 15:47   #6
Registered User
 
s/v Moondancer's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Fiji but heading for Alaska
Boat: Tayana 55
Posts: 1,224
I have the same system with Blue Sky 50 controller and 3, 130 watt Kyceras. It is all monitored by a Xantrex Link 2000. My system has about 17 volts before the controller and 13 out

It was fitted by a pro in a boatyard in Maine. It has worked flawlessly for 15 months putting out about 150 amp hours per day with a max output of about 24 amps in the Caribbean. A few days ago I had 10 amps by 08:00

Not sure why Terry's doesn't work but the system is valid and well worth the money...As a physiologist my physics is very poor but...

Volts X amps = watts

watts/volts = amps

Your system... 520/43 = 12 amps

My system... 390/17 = 23 amps.

But them physiologists work in micro amps!
__________________
Phil

"Remember, experience only means that you screw-up less often."
s/v Moondancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 15:48   #7
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 363
I have gotten second opinions, have tested and re-tested, have sent the controller back to Blue Sky, have double and triple checked the wiring and all connections. Nobody has any idea why it does not work. The bottom line at this point is simply that it does not. I have over 40 hours just diagnosing all this and trying to find the issues plus I have paid $$$ to professionals.... all for nada. I do not own the equipment to further test.

The panels show voltage that is correct, but when you attach the panels to the controller the panel voltage instantly drops to match battery voltage and not boost and very low charging is the result. Everything to me points to a bad controller but we already sent it back and they say the one we have is good. Blue Sky insists we have a wiring fault but its all been checked and rechecked and a good bit of it totally rewired though no faults were found.... still it does not work right.

Its January and we are freezing in Jacksonville. Enough is enough, I call it fail and am leaving south. This stuff IS very complicated, it does not work simply out of the box and a gas generator is FAR simpler and more efficient. My regret is that in my research I never got the impression that this stuff was so iffy.... well, it is. Cruiser beware.

My next step, down the line and if I can find someone who DOES have an electrical engineering degree and many years of professional marine electrical experience is to pay to have the entire system redone. The problem is that after having paid to have this done once already and paid more to have it fixed... my $$$$ is as long gone as my patience.

Terry
__________________
Tspringer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 15:56   #8
Registered User
 
s/v Moondancer's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Fiji but heading for Alaska
Boat: Tayana 55
Posts: 1,224
Terry,
As you go south you will sail past Coconut Grove and my old sailing mate Billy Beavers a retired navy electronics man/telephone engineer. He works for beer but buy the beer after he has looked at the system.

Best of Luck Phil
__________________
Phil

"Remember, experience only means that you screw-up less often."
s/v Moondancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 16:35   #9
Senior Cruiser
 
Therapy's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: W Florida
Boat: The Jon boat still, plus a 2007 SeaCat.
Posts: 6,894
Images: 4
Terry,

Moondancer has a good start for you.

I know this forum and I know someone will come aboard and know how to get you up and running.
__________________
Therapy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 17:14   #10
Registered User
 
billangiep's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Hudson, Florida
Boat: Angela M. Bayfield 32c
Posts: 63
Terry,
They may be working as advertised?
You didn't mention battery state (voltage).
If your battery's are at full charge you would see very little output from the Blue Sky. 12 amps going into seven fully charged AGM's is basically a maint. charge.
Bill,
__________________
billangiep is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 18:16   #11
Registered User
 
CalebD's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: SE NY
Boat: Tartan 27' - 'Odalisque'
Posts: 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by billangiep View Post
Terry,
They may be working as advertised?
You didn't mention battery state (voltage).
If your battery's are at full charge you would see very little output from the Blue Sky. 12 amps going into seven fully charged AGM's is basically a maint. charge.
Bill,
He did mention that the batteries were: (7 AGM Lifeline group 31s - brand new). It is sounding as if the batteries really do not need much charging at all.
I wonder if Terry has tried discharging the batteries a bunch to see if his system will ramp up a charge. That is a pretty big aH battery bank so discharging could take some serious loads (ie., run an inverter to power some high draw appliance).
__________________
CalebD is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 18:53   #12
Senior Cruiser

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: between the devil and the deep blue sea
Boat: a sailing boat
Posts: 17,314
Quote:
Originally Posted by CalebD View Post
He did mention that the batteries were: (7 AGM Lifeline group 31s - brand new). It is sounding as if the batteries really do not need much charging at all.
I wonder if Terry has tried discharging the batteries a bunch to see if his system will ramp up a charge. That is a pretty big aH battery bank so discharging could take some serious loads (ie., run an inverter to power some high draw appliance).
And as per my earlier here:
"...1) perhaps the batteries are charged up, they will not take more than they want,.."

This is clearly one of possible reasons.

The way to test as per the quoted posts - get the batteries low by draining them, then re-connect the solar house.

Remember what you see when the alternator kicks in? It is 50 Amps, but only 15 later and then it tapers. Same with solar.

b.
__________________
barnakiel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 19:48   #13
Moderator
 
Paul Elliott's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,864
Images: 4
What current are you measuring, the battery current or the panel current. If it is the panel current then it sounds like the system is working exactly as it should. You have four 130W panels wired in series-parallel. At full output you should get about 520W / 35V = 14.9A from the panel array, and probably somewhat less in the winter.

With a battery bank at 12V (for example), and a 95% MPPT conversion efficiency you should get about 40A into the batteries. These numbers are within the specified range of the MPPT controller. Make sure you are measuring the battery charge current, not the panel output current.

If you are indeed seeing only 12A going into the batteries, you should check the current in each of the solar panel strings. A clamp-on DC ammeter is invaluable when troubleshooting these systems. Measure the voltage drop between the various elements to confirm that you don't have any bad connections. And as mentioned, the controller will significantly back down its output when the batteries are nearing full charge.

I've got three 100W panels on VALIS, wired in parallel (12V) and connected to a Blue Sky MPPT controller. The system delivers what is is supposed to.
__________________
Paul Elliott, S/V VALIS - Pacific Seacraft 44 #16 - Friday Harbor, WA
www.sailvalis.com
Paul Elliott is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 20:16   #14
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 363
The battery bank is fully charged, I am on shore power and the shore power charger built into the Magnum inverter/charger keeps them topped off.

But, during all of the testing that has been done we have discharged the batteries and put significant loads on them in order to see if that effects the output of the controller. It has not. The Solar Boost 50 charge controller is charging at LESS than the solar panel output according to the remote display even when the battery bank is not at full charge. The charge controller has been sent back to Blue Sky and they say its good. All electrical connections have been triple checked, most of the wiring has been totally redone once and some of it twice. It just won't charge right.

The 12 amps max output I have ever seen was with the battery bank partially discharged, full sun on the panels and that was the charge controller output to the batteries, not the panel output.

I will dig into it all even more when I get further south, for now its dead weight as I have no more time nor money to throw at the mess.



Terry
__________________
Tspringer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-01-2010, 21:12   #15
Registered User

Join Date: May 2008
Location: daytona beach florida
Boat: csy 37
Posts: 2,844
Images: 1
the problem is the mppt controller. get a regular 12 volt solar controller. rework your wiring to put 12 volts into the controller. attach your battery wires and all will be well.

sorry you wasted your money on that blue sky controller, and especially on that ridiculous 1 and 2 guage wire.
__________________

__________________
onestepcsy37 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Knotical Souvenir - FAIL ad_astra Off Topic Forum 10 26-11-2009 12:25
Cruisers Who Fail... Christian Van H General Sailing Forum 185 24-11-2009 17:05
solar 21 just about to be first solar/electric powered boat to cross atlantic schoonerdog Multihull Sailboats 2 07-02-2007 10:04



Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 05:47.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.