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We have been doing quite a bit of consulting work lately mostly inspection, thermal testing and system operation / efficiency verification projects. Today I finished up with a few small OffGrid systems at a couple of vineyards and thought I would make a page and blog post about our special projects and share what we have been finding.
the systems I looked at and fixed this morning are very small off grid systems that power a device requiring 1.10-1.15 amps at 12 volt to operate they all have different systems built by different people over the past 5-6 years by the looks of them most had dual 12v AGM batteries with morningstar SS-20-12l charge controllers and solar panels mounted to poles or laid on the roof of the pump houses the panels ranging from 160w up to about 250 w some even had mismatched sets of panels none had any fusing or method of controlling the flow of electricity.
We verified all panels and charge controllers were working and properly sized then replaced any system charge controller that was being fed with over 30 volts to a mppt type charge controller and added fusing as well as load controls and cleaned up wiring and the panels. we also verified all systems batteries were in serviceable shape. not a lot of work and each system was a little different based on who originally installed them.
Some of the grid tied systems had a variety of problems some just from poor workmanship others had loose connections and hot spots in the panels both of these issues are easily located with a thermal camera. one of the other problems I noticed were two systems that should have never been installed as they both had major shading problems during the day. then there were the ones that were either missing proper labeling or it was completely non existent and lastly the most common thing I noticed was just plain and simply dirty panels one guy told me that his system was broken and when I asked for pictures he sent me many pictures showing very little output from the panels and then looking at the pictures of the panels well I could tell they were panels by the shape but they were brown they had so much dirt on them I asked him to try hosing the panels off maybe using a soft boat brush to scrub them after initial hosing down he said he would do it that evening and was so tickled the next day when his system started charging again. Sometimes it is the simplest things.