I think everyone knows
how solar panels generate power by converting the sun's rays into
electricity. There are several really good panels on the market.
After looking closely at specifications, I narrowed my choices down to
Sanyo, Sharp, BP, and Sun Power. The final selection was BP for a combination of reasons.
I think it has the best price/performance ratio. In another house, I might
have chosen another brand. The
BP SX3200 panels are 200 Watts peak power. Panels will
continue to improve in wattage in the future, but this is among the
highest performing panels at this time. We like the plain dark
blue appearance. In some other brands, connection traces are more
In case you don't know what this is, the inverter converts Direct
Current from the solar panels into an Alternating Current that is used
in a house. This is a "grid-tied" inverter which means it manages
the synchronization with utility company's electrical service. This type of
inverter pushes excess energy back onto the electric grid
which actually causes our meter to run backyard,
thus selling ("banking") energy to PG&E during peak billing times.
This photo shows one of the units installed on the wall.
We decided to use two of these
SB4000US inverters (4 kilowatts each) for best layout and load handling rather than one
large inverter that would have pushed the limits of its capability. Every system is unique. The selection of inverter
model depends on which solar panels you use, how they are connected, and
environmental conditions of ambient low and high temperatures where they
will be operating. Also, an option is to buy an "Off-Grid" system
that is not connected to the electrical utility, and stores energy into
batteries for use when there is no sun power.
This photo is
misleading because inverters are big and heavy. These weigh
about 90 pounds each, ~17" wide, and must be securely mounted to wall studs.
You don't want this puppy to drop on your toes!
Click here to see a
review of this device.
This small box
gathers data from both inverters on power generation. It has a built-in web host
to access data with a web browser. If
allowed, data can be available from the internet. It can
report data to SMA's web server where a customer has private or publicly
viewable access to long-term usage trends and different types of graphs.
This box is not required for proper operation, yet provides useful data
and monitoring ability. The inverters already have some limited monitoring and
display capabilities built into them and are shown on their small LCD
display, yet an inverter stores lots of data that can be reported out to
a device such as this. Click here to see a
review of this device.
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