Concrete Framing in Trench
Steel Pipe & Concrete Pour
Perimeter Straw Added for Insulation
First Footer Curing
2nd footing frame
Panel Support Complete

Using the online calculator from Iron Ridge, the plan for the support structure was laid out.  The trenching for the footing was done in 2 separate visits from the excavator. Then, 2 separate cement pours. 34 tons of concrete later, we're confident this new solar array will stay grounded during the occasional 70mph winds.

 

Paul built the concrete forms, cut the steel pipe and set them into position. The concrete guy and crew did an amazing job navigating the pour around all the obstacles. It was the right decision to hire out for this part. It was pretty intense. There was an elaborate flurry of hand signals from the pour location to the truck driver that we couldn't have duplicated. There was so much more involved in the pour process than we ever imagined. Thanks again Kenny and company!

 

Now mostly unseen, the heavy duty support system will be remembered as a huge undertaking. It will still be here thousands of years from now. Perhaps revered as some kind of ancient "Pipe Henge".

serious  cement  footers

Array Complete!
Horizontal Pipe & Vertical Support
Panels Waiting Patiently
Begin Panel Installation
Mid Way
Securing Clips

positioning  &  plumbing the steel pipe

 the  array

electronics  set  up

We saw our very first bald eagle soaring overhead the day we were pulling wire to the breaker panel.

 off-grid   considerations

To disconnect or not to disconnect from the grid, that is the question. Although, we're pretty much leaning toward 100% off-grid.

 

The PROs of disconnecting:

 

No Electric Bill!

 

Sustainability - Solar power is far more sustainable than coal for energy production. 

 

Reliability - Our remote and sparsely populated location puts us last in line for power outage repairs. Solar power should be more reliable.

 

Elimination of the controversial "Smart Meter" - We are skeptical about our 8 KWH per day charge. Calculations done a couple years back using a Kill-a-Watt showed we were using more like 5. So, being completely off grid, we'll get a new number from the new system as to what the average daily usage is. The comparison will be interesting.

 

The PROs of staying connected:

 

Back up power if the new system fails. It costs $20 per month to stay connected with no use.

 

 

 

 

 

More in depth information on solar set-ups can be found on MagnumEnergy.com

 combiner  box

battery  set-up

Both Rolls and Crown were battery brands considered. At first, Rolls was preferred because the warrantee was much better. But, we were excited to find that  American Battery was willing to extend the Crown warrantee to match the Rolls warrantee. Not only that, but their price for the Crown CR 430 was much better than those sold at dedicated solar websites. They are shipped to the store for free! If you're located south of the Denver area, get a quote from these guys.

 

The battery bank holds 16 batteries...2 strings of 8. The beauty of having 2 strings is that 1 string can be disconnected for maintenance without interrupting the entire system. Maintenance is relatively easy. About once a month the water level is checked and topped off if necessary. Also, corrosion removed from terminals if it exists. 

 

These batteries are housed in a wood battery box that is vented to the outside to remove gasses.

You can't have a footing plan without first considering the requirements of your system and the layout of the panels themselves.

 

The design started with a look at our average daily power usage. The electric bill stated it as about 8 kilowatt (kw) hours per day. From there, take the maximum draw of the biggest energy pig in the house. For us, that was the cook top. If we have all 4 burners on high, it would draw 7.2kw. So far, we have never had all burners on high at the same time, But, it does make a good benchmark for calculations.

 

Basically, if we DID have all burners on high for an hour at night, we wouldn't risk tapping out the battery bank. The next part of the equation was to factor in a wish for 2 days of backup power for consecutive cloudy days, WITHOUT changing energy consumption. Now, this all sounds pretty silly, as an ounce of common sense will tell most folks to be hyper aware of energy use during these times. Most, I think, would cut way back and/or only use the energy pig appliances while the sun is shining. But, here again these crazy sounding scenarios are only used for benchmarking.

 

So, all this put into the equation revealed that a 6.5kw system would be right for us. Let the shopping begin. And for once, the timing was right! We would be able to make the purchase before the tariff went into effect. The best price found for 240w panels (86 cents per watt) was at Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. On top of price, their staff was very knowledgeable and helpful. They gathered a nice package of materials needed to construct the array.

 

Being ready for a road trip, we decided to take the pick-up for a 9 hour drive to Flagstaff. This also meant that an extended weekend and side trip to the Grand Canyon was in order.

 

Compared to the footer portion of this project, the array went up quickly and relatively hassle-free. It's nice to have that experience once in a while.

 

 

We used Magnum products for the previous solar electric system and decided to stick with them for the new, improved system.

 

The wiring set up is preferable to Midnight Solar, as well as the fact the inverters mount to the back panel. Midnight Solar's set up mounts the inverters to the door covers. At 55 lbs each, that just didn't sit well (no pun intended).

 

Most components can be found at Amazon with links provided below the photo.

 

 

Magnum Energy MS4448PAE 48V Pure Sine Wave Inverter 4400 Watts

 

 

Magnum MPSH250-30D Magnum Panel Multi Enclosure 

 

 

Magnum-MPXD-30D-L      

 

 

Magnum-MPXD-30D-R

 

 

Magnum Router ME-RTR

 

 

Magnum Energy BP-D Double Back Plate for Magnum Panel MP/MPX

 

 

Magnum Battery Monitor Kit ME-BMK

 

 

MidNite Solar Classic 150 Charge Controller 150VDC Input MPPT

 

 

MidNite Solar Surge Protection Device MNSPD-300-AC

 

 

 

 

Unloading batteries
Batteries placed in box
Lid on - vent installed - ready to rock & roll
Crown Battery CR-430

suggested positioning & plumbing components

 

Proud to be Amazon Associates. Please see official disclosure at the bottom of this page. Thank you for your support.

these  are  the  solar  electric  components hard at work for us  right  now

 

 

 a  good  generator

 is  a  very  big  deal!

from  the  very  beginning  of  your off-grid  building  adventure,  this gem  will  come  in  handy time & time  again.  we  have  had  this  sportsman  since  day  1  and  it  works  great.

These are the exact components we used for our combiner box. And "Yes", we purchased them on Amazon.

active  solar

Why are my clocks running slow?! An exact 60 hz doesn’t always happen with off-grid solar power, and that’s what clocks need for accuracy. Our output is more like 58.5 hz. And that means our plug in the wall clocks run slow. This includes the clock on the coffee maker, the clock on the microwave and the one on the oven. But, the bedside clock is by far the most annoying because we rely on it to let us know when to rise and shine.

 

Yes, we could have the inverters sent back to the manufacturer to be recalibrated. But, the question is, is it worth the hassle? We all have our own opinion on that. While I wouldn’t want to deny Paul the fun of his weekly clock resetting routine, it would be nice to know that the bedroom clock is always  accurate.

 

So, we found this snazzy battery operated clock on Amazon to try as a replacement. It’s called the MARATHON CL030051BK Atomic Alarm Clock. One month later, we are happy to announce that we love it! And one less cord to contend with is always a plus.

Once the bottom of the trench is leveled and the support pipe cut, it's time to mark out the vertical positioning of your pipe with string. Refer to the design provided by Iron Ridge.

 

Getting all the vertical pipe plumb can be a test of patience. Lots of back and forth. A small adjustment here, a small adjustment there. About 100 tweaks later, you start getting pretty dang close.

 

Check out the photos above for general guidelines. Use 2 ft lengths of 1/2" rebar for staking. Paul ground a point on the rebar stakes to bust through the rock below. The turnbuckles are perfect for the small adjustments needed to get it right. 

 

Celebrating off-grid status for:

5 Weird Things About Our

Off-Grid Solar Electric System

A year plus later our home 

shows a personality of its own

 

1.   Plug-in clocks run slow.

2.  Lights flicker in the am when the coffee maker turns on.

3.  The batteries will charge even on cloudy days...slowly...but they do charge.

4.  Everything in the house shuts off for a couple seconds when the water                   pressure pump kicks on.

5.  The blow-dryer runs a little cooler.

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the cure

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