Solar panels (C) Daniel FriedmanRemote Electrical Power Sources: Photovoltaic Solar & Wind Generators

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This article discusses the use of photovoltaic solar panels as a source of electrical power for a remote "off the grid" site. Accompanying text is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

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Article on Options for Sources of Electricity at a Remote Site

Solar powered outhouse ventilation (C) Daniel FriedmanThe question-and-answer article below paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

Topic: remote electrical power supply on a cattle ranch


I have a cattle ranch along the Amazon River in Brazil. It gets two meters of rainfall a year. Often the sun shines even during rainstorms, and the mid-day temperature is usually around 100 degF.

The only thing we lack is electricity, which I need for a small refrigerator and a room air conditioner. Could you tell me what equipment I need and what it will cost? - F.M.S. Shu, Los Altos CA


You imply that sunlight is a more reliable resource in your area than wind (otherwise see WIND ENERGY SYSTEMS), so a photovoltaic solar electrical generator system may be your best bet. You can either buy a complete pre-engineered solar generator system or gather components and build your own solar generator.

Back in the 1980's the 1985 Spec Guide listed 17 manufacturers of photovoltaic panels (PV Panels), and 14 makers of PV electrical generator systems. Today there are many distributors of solar electrical power systems including packaged units.

Our photo (left) shows a very effective remote solar generator for electrical power using three photovoltaic panels powering a ventilation system in use in 2010.

Typical solar electrical panel photovoltaic system prices back in '85 ranged from $196. U.S. for a 7-watt panel to $559. for a 43-watt photovoltaic panel.

Photovoltaic electrical generator system prices had an even greater spread. The Guide listed several in the $3500-$4500. U.S. range. A typical complete photovoltaic generator system would include the photovoltaic panels, mounting racks, controls, batteries for storage, and possibly an inverter for AC power.

The size of photovoltaic system you need depends on how much sunlight is available, and how much power your appliances consume. [See "Sizing Photovoltaic Systems," Solar Age 9/84, or PHOTOVOLTAIC POWER SYSTEMS online.

Conventional refrigerators use a lot of electrical power, so it makes sense to use low-voltage high-efficiency models designed for use with remote electrical power systems. [You might take a look at DC-powered RV and mobile home units.]

Arctic-Kold Refrigeration (Bloomfield CT) sold complete refrigerators as well as conversion kits. Polar Products (Torrance CA) sold refrigerators/freezers. Zeopower Co. (Natick MA) made a refrigerator that used a solar panel as the power source and zeolite as the heat transfer medium. It requires no external electrical power source.

Sun Frost (Arcata CA) in 1984 introduced a 4-cubic-foot refrigerator that uses roughly one-tenth the electrical power of a comparable conventional model. It can be powered by one photovoltaic panel - presumably a large one - and cost (in 1985) $1250 - $1400. All of these are small refrigerator units.

Another option for refrigeration at a remote site where electrical power is not provided or is limited, is a propane-gas powered refrigerator. These units have been used in motor homes for many years.

Dinh Co. (Alachua FL) makes a one-ton photovoltaic (PV) powered air conditioner with dehumidifier that should meet your needs. In 1985 that unit cost $6350.

By 2010, a quick online websearch for "packaged solar photovoltaic generators" lists dozens of systems from range of manufacturers including PPIPower Systems, Honda, and other producers.

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

This article appears in original form (the PDF links just below) and an updated/expanded web article below.

Original Article

The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is followed by an expanded/updated online version of this article.

Reader question: connect two power sources to one electrical panel?

(Oct 20, 2014) Anonymous said:

It is possible and common to have 2 power sources connected to one panel In grid -tied solar systems. The solar inverter automatically disconnects if the main power feed gets disconnected and for that reason grid-tie solar inverters will not work as a backup in a power failure.

This question was originally posted at ELECTRICAL INSPECTION, DIAGNOSIS, REPAIR


At BACKUP ELECTRICAL GENERATORS we discuss isolation switches necessary if you are connecting more than one power source to an electrical panel. If the solar inverter power feed automatic switch is automatically disconnecting I (who am not expert on the system you have installed) suspect that the manufacturer chose that design for safety reasons or to protect the solar equipment from damage. So I would not modify that design without first asking the manufacturer for advice.


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