Welcome to Alberta's Experts in Renewable Energy

Putting it all-together

Now that we have briefly looked at the major components and design criteria, what is required to "put it all together?"

  1. The first step would be to calculate all the required and desired loads in order to start to size the system. Consider future expansion as well. Solar modules can generally be easily added, as can inverters if the system is designed for it. Batteries should be sized appropriately right from the start since battery operating characteristics change as they are used and therefore having a new and a used battery bank operating together may cause problems.
  2. Once the loads are calculated, the main parameters for the system can be chosen.
    1. Solar Array size
    2. Inverter Capacity
    3. Battery Capacity
    4. Will a generator be used, and if so, how often will it be relied upon?
    5. Ground mount or building mounted array
    6. Location of the batteries and the inverter(s). They should be together, at ground level (because of the weight of the batteries and moving them). Ideally, they will be at room temperature.
  3. Product selection. While there are several manufacturers of each type of equipment, it is important to focus on the quality and reliability. Saving a few dollars on the initial purchase can cost a lot later. Another marketing strategy that often comes up here is that you will see a system that is the same make and will have the same major components, (for example, an Outback double stack, 7.2 KW) but it will be missing a lot of the other important items.
    1. Battery capacity monitor
    2. Battery Disconnect
    3. Programming specific to the installation
    4. Testing prior to shipping
    5. Electrical Code requirements. There are a lot of electrical codes that apply to the installation of these systems. System markings are often neglected.
    6. Assembly certification (any time that components are assembled or put into an enclosure, certification is required). In order to choose the best products, it is important to have a dealer that lives with, and tests various products, since that will give the dealer the expertise that is required to put together the best product for each particular customer.
  4. Selecting your Dealer & installer is crucial to a well-designed and long lasting quality system. A good dealer should have the following
  5. Live "Off Grid", preferably without a generator. This gives the dealer the experience required to properly design and maintain systems. A lot of what is learned this way cannot be learned in a more formal school type setting. You actually need to get a feel for these systems.
    1. Be a qualified Electrician. There are a lot of people that are in the industry that are not electricians
      1. Renewable energy systems fall under the electrical code, (even "Off Grid"), therefore, in order to install, wire or work on them legally, a person needs to be a Master electrician or working under a Master electrician. (a homeowner may also work on his own system)
      2. An electrician will know the codes for installing wires and cables properly.
    2. The dealer should have a good reputation and experience in designing and installing "Off Grid" Solar power systems. Simple "Grid Interactive" systems do not give the experience required to know how the "Off Grid" systems really operate.
  6. Most times, with "Off Grid" systems, there is a relationship formed between the dealer and the customer as questions arise over time about the system or service is required.

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