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Old 09-04-2021, 12:58   #1
JRM
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Lithium / Solar with Victron for fun (but no profit.)

The boat is a Valiant 40, and she's undergoing a total refit. Refit another boat and cruised the Sea of Cortez (pre-COVID), and realized I pretty much did everything wrong the first time on the Valiant, so now it's refit v2.0. Plan is to return to the Sea and maybe parts beyond in a few years when the kid has launched. Until then it'll be a "island cruiser" and roam between Morro Bay and San Diego (and probably Ensenada.)

I'm using the Victron stuff again, since it worked so well in the Sea. This time, however, I'm going to go with a Victron Inverter / Charger. The stuff is all here piled at the house, along with two Chinese Lithium batteries that have reviewed really well on multiple solar DIY type sites.

I really like the fancy controllers that Victron has, but they are pretty expensive. Luckily, Victron makes the OS and software available for free (as in beer.) I've always been a tinkerer and a fan of the Raspberry Pi. So I've built up a Venus controller with a 7" touch screen on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ I had laying around. I must say, Victron has made this super easy. Downloaded the image, made a few configuration file changes, plugged the card into the Pi and it all worked.

I made a plywood test bed and started mounting bits. So far I have the battery monitor and one of the MPPT controllers up and running. I have some old 100W panels I took off the trawler (replaced with 300W) so I used one in the testbed. I had to order the cable for the Multiplus, so that'll have to wait until next week. But right now the battery monitor and MPPT controller are talking through VE.Direct USB adapters to the Raspberry Pi. I've got it connected to my home WiFi and I can manage it remotely through a web browser.

My plan is to build everything in stages here at the house before dropping it all in the boat. The boat is currently on the hard, probably for the next two months. I'm juggling work and multiple other projects, so progress will likely be slow. I'll try and grab one of the fancy layout programs and sketch up a diagram.

If anyone else has, or is thinking about, going with the Raspberry Pi option for Victron I would love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences.

Sorry about the mess, but here's a picture of what is running so far...
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Old 09-04-2021, 13:07   #2
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Re: Lithium / Solar with Victron for fun (but no profit.)

Pretty neat, but I'm trying to understand what you're specifically trying to accomplish by routing through the pi that you cannot already do through the bluetooth connections?
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Old 09-04-2021, 13:53   #3
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Re: Lithium / Solar with Victron for fun (but no profit.)

Idk man. You can buy a Cerbu + display for under $500. Its going to be hardened for marine use and has way more IO than your PI.



Plus side is custom display layouts and you can integrate with other stuff like Custom BMS or AIS processing.



For anyone else confused about all the GX stuff read here:
https://www.victronenergy.com/live/venus-os:start
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Old 15-04-2021, 09:23   #4
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Re: Lithium / Solar with Victron for fun (but no profit.)

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Originally Posted by ThereAndBack View Post
Pretty neat, but I'm trying to understand what you're specifically trying to accomplish by routing through the pi that you cannot already do through the bluetooth connections?
Avoid using Bluetooth and my phone as much...

I used BT only on the last boat, and it worked really well. I was able to download my logs and aggregate them, although it was kind of a pain because I had to constantly rename the file. The VenusOS does all the logging automatically, with much less hassle. So for the stuff I am actually doing now, it does everything but with less required time interacting with the system.

A big part of this is future planning. The VenusOS image I am using has NodeRed and SignalK software already included. That will open up all kinds of custom display options with software like Grafana. Having played around with the system a bit now, I think I will actually go "headless" and put the touchscreen to use in a more holistic data display project.
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Old 15-04-2021, 09:45   #5
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Re: Lithium / Solar with Victron for fun (but no profit.)

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Idk man. You can buy a Cerbu + display for under $500. Its going to be hardened for marine use and has way more IO than your PI.
After having played around with it for a bit, and leaving it running for a spell while away from home, I'm going to pull out the display and go "headless." I looked at the Cerbu and I don't really have any use for the other IO ports. I already had the VE.Direct cables, and I needed to buy the VE.Bus to program the inverter anyway. The tank stuff is handled already with another solution, and the relay stuff can be implemented in the Pi through GPIO (although I really don't ever plan on using that solution either.) I have a whole box full of Arduino stuff that talks CANBUS and N2K, which I'm looking to migrate over to the ESP32.

While the cost savings was a secondary consideration, it is nice to have a couple hundred extra bucks to throw at other projects.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jack4566 View Post
Plus side is custom display layouts and you can integrate with other stuff like Custom BMS or AIS processing.
This is the main reason I went this route. The image comes with NodeRed and SignalK software pre-installed. That allows me to offload those duties from the existing system and simplify my setup. That will eventually free up a second Rapsberry Pi 3B+ for a spare because, as you noted, the Pi isn't terribly moisture resistant.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jack4566 View Post
For anyone else confused about all the GX stuff read here:
https://www.victronenergy.com/live/venus-os:start
As a general update, I have setup up the Multiplus and integrated it into the system. A lot of the GX stuff is more geared to residential solar, but there are some handy monitoring metrics for my planned electric galley conversion. I've been testing a combo microwave/convection oven/air fryer in my home kitchen, and found that it draws a bit more power than advertised (and my Kill-a-Watt meter needs calibration.) Good data to have as it will make a difference in my power budget.
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Old 04-05-2021, 11:20   #6
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Re: Lithium / Solar with Victron for fun (but no profit.)

The spaghetti on the table is out of control, but the project is moving forward. I've dropped in a second Raspberry Pi which is acting as a sort of "server" for logging all the data. It's currently running a NMEA2000 interface as well, and logging the limited data I've got on the little N2K network on the bench.

I broke out the B&G GPS unit and the Zeus MFD and connected everything up via N2K. It took a little while to sort out a cabling problem but now the Pi server is able to decode and display the position data from the N2K network. I need a little bit more practice with Grafana in order to pretty it up, but the system is working.

I haven't had a ton of time to devote to the bench. I worked a marathon set of shifts and I've been spending my off days getting the trawler ready to sell. Yesterday was spent putting the head plumbing back in order, converting the head back to salt water flush and re-running the sink drain. It definitely makes me appreciate the electronics "playtime" more. Today is going to be installing the new countertop laminate, and adjusting the bracket and mount for the new alternator. If I finish early I might get some more time to tidy up the Grafana dashboard and make it presentable to the world.
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Old 04-05-2021, 11:48   #7
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Re: Lithium / Solar with Victron for fun (but no profit.)

The Pi Victron stuff is great, I was able to display the wattage from all three of my Victron controllers on my Pi screen. I think there may have been a way to tie it into my BMS as well via SignalK but I never bothered.
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