Living with Solar in a nutshell
by Diana Gosper
The Living with Solar course (LWS) will eventually be up on our website and YouTube channel- at the moment there are two info videos up there, with two more to follow next month.
The LWS course is "for enthusiasts and people who have (or intend to have) an off grid stand alone home renewable energy system.
Understanding the relationship between amps, volts and watts allows students to quantify their power usage, power availability, and to make informed decisions concerning appropriate lights and appliances."
Ok so you know 'black on black and red on red' but that is about it? Keen on coming to one of our Living with Solar workshops but don't know what you will learn? This is some of what you might learn, but it is not limited to just this.
Firstly, we print out your quote and also your system components (invoice) and then Bruce is able to answer any questions for you that are specific to your system.
The course is held over two days, the second day is for more specific questions you might have, day one is more general info. There are morning and afternoon breaks as well as a lunch break (kitchen facilities are provided). You might want to bring pen and a notepad to write down notes.
Learn about the minimum necessary components of a system; panels, inverter/charger, MPPT regulator, batteries and wiring.
Yes sometimes it is a bit like being back at school 'midday sun produces more solar power than afternoon or morning sun due to the earth's atmosphere and the distance the sun's rays have to travel to get through the atmosphere'.
But once you settle into it, it's not so much a science exam as a Q&A with a very knowledgeable old friend.
Once introductions are made, you will delve right into it, and in our relaxed and informal environment- where no question is a silly question- you will have a chance to learn;
An overview of batteries (lithium-ion, wet cell, salt water, lead acid), explaining nominal capacity and useable capacity and the difference between them, how to use the smartphone apps and/or a BMV (Battery Monitor Victron) to monitor battery depth of discharge and current state of charge. An explanation of battery storage vs usage and why it is advisable to run your heavy load items during the day (when the sun is on the panels).
Learn about shading of panels and different types of panel (polycrystalline, monocrystalline, amorphous), and about panel tilt, best orientation and tracking. Touch on new builds and things to be mindful of to ensure maximum solar uptake.
Learn about sizing an inverter and staggering your loads, and what to keep in mind if you think you might want to expand your system in the future, including sizing a correct generator.
Learn what a volt meter is, and how to use one, while touching on 12/24/48V power systems and the difference between them (and why you might want or need one over the other).
An explanation of the function of the controller (MPPT or Maximum Power Point Tracking) which goes between the panels and the batteries to basically open/close the charge as needed).
Learn what your inverter does; put simply it converts DC to AC and changes low voltage up to high voltage when needed.
Learn the formula to work out the Watts something is using to run (watts equals volts x amps) and about the language you need to know for determining usage. For example, a 2W fan on for 6 hours, (2W x 6hrs) = 12Whrs, introducing the concept of watt-hours.
Learn how to read solar radiation figures (peak sun hours) from the BOM website, which can then inform you of how many solar panels you need for a system.
An explanation of DC (direct current) vs AC (alternating current) (basically DC flows in one direction and AC constantly changes direction)
Methods for measuring the DC voltage drop under a given set of circumstances and understanding wiring sizes and acceptable cabling (single, double, twin sheathed, in series or parallel?).
Some basic and common terminology and derivatives; PV = photovoltaic, Ampacity = amp carrying capacity, LED = light emitting diode.
Briefly touch on hydro and wind power (which RPC no longer supply) and solar powered pumps.
You will learn how to quickly shut down your system and how to check your circuit breakers and fuses.
Tips on fridges and washing machines and other typical household appliances you might want to run, computers (laptops take WAAAAY less than a desktop computer!) and how to check ratings and spec sheets.
Is it worth the $295? Absolutely. In any case, it is included for free in your off grid system purchase from RPC, because we want your system to last as long as possible and for you to get the most out of it for many years to come.