Part 2 – Now the exciting part – The Build!
You can now start to build your solar setup and start generating renewable energy.
Once you have decided where to site you solar panels (south facing at an angle for optimum performance) then you have to decide where to put your battery box. If it in a shed or garage the aesthetics aren’t maybe top of the agenda but its worth considering where to put it nonetheless.
The Battery Cabinet
My plan was to build a Simple box with a lift off lid with compartments of the batteries and charge controller in a neat package that’s not too overly complicated to construct.
The size of cabinet is largely dictated by the size of the batteries, mine are tall and quite narrow so I have designed the box to accommodate these with extra space at one end for the SCC and Inverter. Using the chipboard from B&Q I had them make 2 long cuts to give me the panels I needed, Using the batteries as a guide I made the outer box with space at one end to have the charge controller slide in and out on a board because, once setup then you don’t really need to monitor whats going on. A LED display on the outside gave an easy readout of the current state of charge. Also drilled you will need plenty of ventilation holes where I could to prevent any overheating. All topped off with a simple lift off lid with a DANGER sign I had lying about.
The Solar Panels
This is what its all about, solar, free energy I am only using 2x 210w panels that cost me just under £100 for both I sited them outside my garage doors south facing, propped up at this point as my roof is east/west facing so not ideal for mounting on the roof. I connected both panels that I had using branch connectors so that I could add more panels if I needed to and ran the solar cables through to the garage.
I managed to sourced some Deep Cycle forklift batteries from eBay from a supplier not too far away from me 6x 330 AMP. My plan was to wire the six 2V batteries in series to make 12V
The Solar Charge Controller (SCC)
As previously mentioned I chose a 40amp SCC which will cope with up to 6 panels should I wish to add any more than the 2 I currently have. This charge controller has large cable clamps which is ideal to take the solar cable directly rather than having to crimp ring connectors to the cables before connecting them up.
The inverter I used is a streetwise 2000/4000w – plenty big enough to run some desk lighting, a couple of computers with screens and a vinyl plotter without too much bother. This is one of the largest costs in the setup so you have to balance what you can afford to what your power requirements are.
REMEMBER: always connect the batteries to the Solar Charge Controller before connecting the Solar Panels and always disconnect the Solar Panels before disconnecting the batteries otherwise you will blow the Solar Charge Controller – This is very important.
Day to Day use.
Once setup and running this setup doesn’t require much attention other than keeping an eye on your power usage, you’ll soon get to know what you can and can’t run before you draw too much power from the batteries and the inverter stops working. Personally I like managing the devices and how much they draw on the system, makes you appreciate just how energy you use.
Pros and Cons
Now lets be real for a moment, this setup isn’t going to challenge the national grid or run a welder but what it will give you is cheap usable power for everyday use off grid and an unlimited source or energy – even on a cloudy day.
Other things to consider.
A UPS (uninterrupted power supply) is a handy piece of kit too, is essentially an energy storage device which trips in should your power supply be interrupted to your Computer for example. I personally run an iMac and if the power does drop off then I have few minutes to save my work. The best alternative it to work off a laptop which has its own internal power supply so any drop off in 240v power doesn’t mean you lose and work.
In a nutshell…
We all need to be doing more to reduce our energy usage and reliance on fossil fuels, and if I could afford fit I would have the Solar panels to the roof of my house, Electric car and Tesla Powerwall but for now, this will get me going and get me on my way to a more sustainable life. Give it a go and make your way to a more sustainable life.
Any questions then please leave in the comments below.
Additonal Reference Material