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Solar panels have gotten to be so cheap they are an incredible investment. With solar panels, a battery bank (think 6 volt golf cart batteries), a solar controller and an inverter, you can leave the generator at home. If you install then on your house, you may be able to send your excess power to the electric company to lower -- or even eliminate -- your electric bill. 

Solar.JPG

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Indeed! Solar has come a long ways!

I intend to use a solar panel on the aircraft I am building. It will provide enough juice to power the little engine and a gps. The lack of an engine driven electrical system exempts me from the transponder requirement inside the Mode C veil. :brows:

The bulk of the cost for solar is in the batteries and inverter. A fellow with a camper can set up a decent system for no more cash than the cost of a generator nowadays, but a real home sized system gets expensive fast! 

 

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49 minutes ago, ArcticDave said:

Indeed! Solar has come a long ways!

I intend to use a solar panel on the aircraft I am building. It will provide enough juice to power the little engine and a gps. The lack of an engine driven electrical system exempts me from the transponder requirement inside the Mode C veil. :brows:

The bulk of the cost for solar is in the batteries and inverter. A fellow with a camper can set up a decent system for no more cash than the cost of a generator nowadays, but a real home sized system gets expensive fast! 

 

Lead/acid batteries are really heavy. If the price of lithium comes down....

 

Edited by Dakota Slim
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I agree! Lithium batteries are WAY too expensive!

China has a monopoly on those batteries as well as the other rare earth materials needed to expand solar. They also virtually control the world market for rare earth metals like these. It will be nearly impossible to compete with them trying to develop domestic reserves. We simply don't have the type of deposits that will allow us to compete nor do we have slave labor which makes things like that very profitable for them. 

So our president decided that Americans should pay their government 30% more for lithium batteries, solar panels etc. etc. that come from China. His reasoning was that it would "stimulate the American manufacturers" to produce solar panels. Except we don't have American manufacturers nor infrastructure, the deposits to mine, nor the labor to mine them. And there seems to be no interest by American companies in developing that abroad.

As a result German companies filled the void by cornering most of the other reserves in Indonesia and increasing their profits in the American market.

By the time you include all import tariffs, taxes, regulatory costs and such our government collects more than 50% of the amount you pay for a lithium battery (or a solar panel). Our president, with the stroke of a pen, tripled the amount the government collects for equipment like this with his executive order. And then took away tax breaks and incentives for solar systems.

So whenever you get to thinking about how expensive solar equipment is remember it was 30% cheaper before our government demanded tariffs be paid. It was a booming American business. Now that solar equipment is 30% more expensive and subsidies and tax breaks have been eliminated the market is contracting. And that drives prices up even more.

Here in New Mexico what was a booming business that employed thousands is laying off tradesmen. The price increase has taken residential solar out of reach for the masses and is something that only the wealthier class can afford.

Whenever politicians decide to take some more money from the American consumer for certain products it backfires. This is a perfect example of politics costing us directly and keeping technology out of the hands of the common man.

 

Edited by Bedrock Bob
Columbium tantalum neodymi. Electronicum streamous.
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On 1/23/2019 at 9:55 PM, Dakota Slim said:

Solar panels have gotten to be so cheap they are an incredible investment. With solar panels, a battery bank (think 6 volt golf cart batteries), a solar controller and an inverter, you can leave the generator at home. If you install then on your house, you may be able to send your excess power to the electric company to lower -- or even eliminate -- your electric bill. 

Solar.JPG

I take it this is a portion of the setup in your motor home..? Or is it a 5th wheel..?
What's the rest look like, or at least what is the rest?: # of batteries and/or storage amt, # of solar panels or capability, an example of how long you can run whatever
with usage # against storage #, how much has it offset monthly bill if you have one since I can't remember if you're totally off-grid or
partially / fully in a park, how much invested so far etc., etc..

Swamp

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34 minutes ago, Swampstomper Al said:

I take it this is a portion of the setup in your motor home..? Or is it a 5th wheel..?
What's the rest look like, or at least what is the rest?: # of batteries and/or storage amt, # of solar panels or capability, an example of how long you can run whatever
with usage # against storage #, how much has it offset monthly bill if you have one since I can't remember if you're totally off-grid or
partially / fully in a park, how much invested so far etc., etc..

Swamp

Hi Swamp. It's a motor home. I've been off the grid for 15 years. There's 500 watts of panels on the roof directly above what you see (2 x 250) and six 6 volt gold cart batteries in a bay directly below. The 750 watt inverter is wired into a house circuit that powers most of the outlets. That circuit is disconnected from the main service panel. I have one circuit -- other than the AC unit circuit -- that is still powered by the generator or shore power. That circuit powers the microwave and a couple other outlets. 

Edited by Dakota Slim
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16 minutes ago, Dakota Slim said:

Hi Swamp. It's a motor home. I've been off the grid for 15 years. There's 500 watts of panels on the roof directly above what you see (2 x 250) and six 6 volt gold cart batteries in a bay directly below. The 750 watt inverter is wired into a house circuit that powers most of the outlets. That circuit is disconnected from the main service panel. I have one circuit -- other than the AC unit circuit -- that is still powered by the generator or shore power. That circuit powers the microwave and a couple other outlets. 

What type of lighting do you have? I know a lot of folks use CFL with 115V and low voltage LED's for the solar circuit. How do you handle illumination?

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11 hours ago, Bedrock Bob said:

I agree! Lithium batteries are WAY too expensive!

China has a monopoly on those batteries as well as the other rare earth materials needed to expand solar. They also virtually control the world market for rare earth metals like these. It will be nearly impossible to compete with them trying to develop domestic reserves. We simply don't have the type of deposits that will allow us to compete nor do we have slave labor which makes things like that very profitable for them.

There are no rare earth metals in a lithium battery.

Lithium metal is the 25th most abundant element on earth.

The largest proven deposits are in Bolivia but there is a lot of evidence that the deposits in Afghanistan are the world's largest. The Bolivian deposits are being mined exclusively by Germany. You can probably guess how the Afghani deposits are controlled.

Peru has found some good deposits that are being mined by Canadian miner Plateau Energy Metals. The Chile deposits are huge and they are presently being mined by the Chilean Sociedad Quimica y Minera De Chile (SQM) and Albemarle the United States lithium miner. A Chinese miner has just in the last few months been allowed to purchase a minority stake in that SQM operation.

Australia currently mines the most lithium. That will probably change soon since the Australian deposits are hard rock as opposed to the huge evaporite deposits in South America. As you can imagine the hard rock deposits (Spodumene) are a lot more expensive to mine and process than dry lake bed lithium carbonate salt deposits so price sensitivity is a major component of Australian lithium mine development.

China does consume the largest commercial portion of the worlds lithium metal production. China accounts for 35% of total consumption, followed by Europe (24%), Japan (11%), South Korea (10%) and North America (9%).

The other side of the lithium battery equation is Cobalt metal. Glencore Plc and Vale SA mine the majority of Cobalt in the world. Glencore is a Swiss mining company and Vale is Brazilian and the worlds largest iron ore miner. United States' cobalt reserves are estimated to be approximately 23 thousand metric tons. The Congo deposits are by far the largest in the world. About twice as much as the second place Australia. The big Cobalt deposits being mined now are in the Congo, Canada and Morocco.

The reason the Chinese control so much of the lithium battery market is because they purchase 54% of the annual supply of finished lithium batteries. They are the biggest manufacturers, purchasers and middlemen in the lithium battery industry and that is where their control lies. With the Chinese' huge stash of US Treasuries I'm sure they could buy as many deposits as we will allow them to pay us our money for. So far that has been very little but that situation is changing fast. Several countries in the last six months have begun allowing incremental Chinese investment in their mining operations.

You can read more about the current state of Lithium mining in this recent Mining.com article.

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10 hours ago, clay said:

There are no rare earth metals in a lithium battery.

I didn't indicate that there were rare earths in a lithium battery nor that it was a rare element. I indicated China controlled the market on lithium batteries.

Rare earths are used for the solar panels and China controls that market as well.

Two things. One sentence.

Either way our government demands you pay them 30% more when you buy them from China and China controls the market. That is the point.

Thanks for the dissertation on lithium though Clay! It is always interesting even if you are responding to a misinterpretation.

Orale Maestro! Buen educado!

Edited by Bedrock Bob
To impart a sense of respect while attemting to convey a hint of sarcasm.
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More than 95% of solar panels use no rare earths. Only the newest thinfilm solar panels use any rare earth metals. Those are incredibly expensive and are not in common use. Wind generators use permanent magnets so no rare earths there either.

Solar panels are made from silicon. In 2015, China became the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power, narrowly surpassing Germany. China is also the largest consumer of solar panels. Much like with lithium batteries the biggest buyer in the market in essence controls the market. The U.S. consumption is barely a factor in the international solar panel market.

Politics aside I'm pretty sure the 30% tariff on solar panels is more than offset by the 30% federal tax rebate available to those who install solar panels on their property. After rebates American purchasers of solar panels still pay less than the international market price for solar panels despite any tariffs.

This has also created some bargains, there are three large OEM solar panel manufacturers in the United States - no tariff and a 30% rebate on taxes if you use their solar panels. Maybe a smart person would buy American if they were looking for solar panels. 30% less than the rest of the world pays just for buying American. Sounds like a bargain.

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17 minutes ago, clay said:

Politics aside....

This was a simple thread about solar panels until (I won't mention any names) showed up. I thought politicizing was banned on this forum.

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We use a Renogy 100w solar system in our 4x4 camper with a Whynter 45 quart refrigerator. To be safe we'll run the engine for 30 minutes every third day. We've stayed out for several weeks detecting and never had a problem. The Whynter is great, will keep food cold at 30-40 degrees no problem and runs on direct DC current or AC via an inverter. We run it DC.

I've learned that inverters can really drain your battery on their own. That's why we run the fridge (and lights) via DC. Lots of low draw LED options on the market.

I'll likely beef the panels up to 300w in the future.

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1 hour ago, Rod said:

We use a Renogy 100w solar system in our 4x4 camper with a Whynter 45 quart refrigerator. To be safe we'll run the engine for 30 minutes every third day. We've stayed out for several weeks detecting and never had a problem. The Whynter is great, will keep food cold at 30-40 degrees no problem and runs on direct DC current or AC via an inverter. We run it DC.

I've learned that inverters can really drain your battery on their own. That's why we run the fridge (and lights) via DC. Lots of low draw LED options on the market.

I'll likely beef the panels up to 300w in the future.

My solar controller is a Renogy. Works great. The bigger the inverter (watts), the more power it consumes. I only turn mine on when I am using it. I have a larger propane refrigerator/freezer which is great for living off the grid. Many of the newer RV's are all electric and made to be plugged-in somewhere. 

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1 hour ago, Dakota Slim said:

My solar controller is a Renogy. Works great. The bigger the inverter (watts), the more power it consumes. I only turn mine on when I am using it. I have a larger propane refrigerator/freezer which is great for living off the grid. Many of the newer RV's are all electric and made to be plugged-in somewhere. 

I've been impressed with Renogy products and service. Interesting that you've seen new rigs being on grid designed, I've observed the opposite, at least with the smaller 4x4 rigs. We love being able to stay out in the gold fields for long periods of time, away from technology and finding new patches. Life begins where the pavement ends.

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6 minutes ago, Rod said:

I've been impressed with Renogy products and service. Interesting that you've seen new rigs being on grid designed, I've observed the opposite, at least with the smaller 4x4 rigs. We love being able to stay out in the gold fields for long periods of time, away from technology and finding new patches. Life begins where the pavement ends.

I was referring to motor homes. I was pretty much in the goldfields for 12 years and wanted an RV with 100 gallons of fresh water, 50 gallon waste tanks, a big propane tank and all gas appliances. On the new high end coaches, all the appliances are electric. They have generators that start automatically when the house batteries drop below a certain point. In short, they are made to be plugged-in at an RV park. If not plugged-in, they require a huge amount of generator fuel. 
Renogy solar controllers were the 1st I saw that could convert 28 (or whatever) volts to 12 volts. That opened the door to using a wide variety of higher voltage solar panels AND that meant the wire needed between the panels and the controller could be a smaller gauge for even more savings.   

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18 minutes ago, Dakota Slim said:

I was referring to motor homes. I was pretty much in the goldfields for 12 years and wanted an RV with 100 gallons of fresh water, 50 gallon waste tanks, a big propane tank and all gas appliances. On the new high end coaches, all the appliances are electric. They have generators that start automatically when the house batteries drop below a certain point. In short, they are made to be plugged-in at an RV park. If not plugged-in, they require a huge amount of generator fuel. 
Renogy solar controllers were the 1st I saw that could convert 28 (or whatever) volts to 12 volts. That opened the door to using a wide variety of higher voltage solar panels AND that meant the wire needed between the panels and the controller could be a smaller gauge for even more savings.   

I bet you have some great stories to share from those twelve years. You're right, optimizing solar performance, even the little stuff, makes all the difference. When we first started getting into solar a few years ago we certainly had some interesting learning experiences, but dialed it in with a lot of research and reading.

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Excellent stuff guys. I lived in the mountains of UT off the grid for nearly a decade. Inching my way back into that lifestyle.

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  • 1 year later...
On 1/23/2019 at 6:55 PM, Dakota Slim said:

Solar panels have gotten to be so cheap they are an incredible investment. With solar panels, a battery bank (think 6 volt golf cart batteries), a solar controller and an inverter, you can leave the generator at home. If you install then on your house, you may be able to send your excess power to the electric company to lower -- or even eliminate -- your electric bill. 

Solar.JPG

On the left in this photo is the solar controller. The solar panels feed current into the controller. The current then goes to a battery bank below. Note that the route of the wires should be as short as possible and fuses should be added to each positive leg of the wiring. To the right of the controller is my inverter. It is powered by the batteries. To the right of the inverter is a 120 volt power strip. I run one 120 volt circuit in my RV with the 120 volt power from the inverter.  

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Have you considered adding a small wind turbine so you can charge the batteries at night?

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4 minutes ago, LukeJ said:

Have you considered adding a small wind turbine so you can charge the batteries at night?

Haven't had to. I have plenty of battery power and seldom drain them below 60% even during the shortest days of winter. That leads to long battery life. Now IF I was a night owl, things would be different. 

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On 1/28/2019 at 2:48 PM, Sonoran Dave said:

Bob, I believe that government rarely improves ANYTHING it sinks its grubby claws into. Trade policies included. 

 

Hey Dave watch,what you are calling GRUBBY! Ha! Ha! Grubstake

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The NRELtests solar modules, long term, and under extreme conditions.

Maybe 5 % of modules produced are worth a darn. The rest start to degrade ,posthaste, losing efficiency.

N-TYPE silicon wafers in modules that use them  hold up best in long-term testing. THEY make up the few that are worth the money spent. Panasonic and Sunpower are in that group. Neither is made in China.

Dig around the NREL website, elsewhere on the web , and you can find module rankings based on efficiency,  as well as degradation  rates over  time.

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