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The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby GHung » Fri 02 Dec 2016, 09:54:29

baha wrote:I ordered my Tesla Powerwall 2.0 yesterday. I will be installing PV at the same time. 15 kW-hr of storage and 5 kW of PV production will make me grid independent. Duke power can then shove all their power plants up their coal ash.

I feel better:)


Congrats, Baha. I'm sticking with tried-and-true (and cheap) lead-acid batteries. My main concern is the Powerwall's high voltages, and I still don't trust newer battery tech that much, especially the ridiculous numbers of cells required.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Fri 02 Dec 2016, 16:49:56

Thanks Ghung,
It's funny that the technology came around at exactly the time I have my house ready and the money to do it. Lead Acid would work fine but since I am a solar installer and my company has been approved as a Tesla installer, I will enjoy being a guinea pig. If it's lasts as advertised it will pay for itself easily and I intend to cycle it daily and only use the grid as a generator when needed. It's more for my own personal satisfaction than saving the $50/month my bill usually is.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Fri 02 Dec 2016, 17:05:56

I should say I went thru the Tesla training. The powerwall 1.0 has over 18,000 lithium cells about the size of a AA. Each one is housed in a steel box and is charged and discharged individually. There is a water cooling jacket for each cell and an individual cell can fail without affecting the others. The battery bank voltage is actually 48 Vdc and a DC to DC converter is used to produce the 400VDC required by the inverter.

Pretty cool stuff
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 07:05:02

You may think it doesn't make sense financially to do this. When complete I will provide a analysis if anyone is interested. But my reasons have only a little to do with money. In fact one problem with the economy is every decision is based on money, fiat money at that.

The value this provides me is as follows:
Independence from the grid and all the irresponsibilities and failures that go with it.
Predictable and self-controllable energy expense as I approach retirement (or collapse)
An investment that gives me guaranteed return and is not subject to market stupidity.
A demonstration for Duke power that they have two choices, upgrade their grid to support distributed generation or fade into the background of obsolete technology.
I love the fact that I will no longer be producing CO2 but better than that is walking outside on a sunny day and watching my powerplant make clean and silent (free) power.

You may say it's not free but I look at it this way. I have lots of expensive toys and tools that sit around doing nothing until I put gas/elec in them and go. This is a toy that the longed I keep it the more it pays me back. And it powers all my other elec toys.

I waited until the Powerwall was ready because I will not "give" kw-hrs to Duke power. If they will pay me, fine. Otherwise I will set up a fountain in the front yard that burns any excess power I produce.

Finally my home is a showcase for solar power. I have solar hot water collectors on the roof, a solar air heater on the south wall, a solar 30 amp battery charger in my shop, and soon a ground mounted solar array out back. I also have 4 - 4x10 hot water collectors I am going to use to drive an underfloor radiant heating system. BTW - I have already renovated my house to passive house standards.

Anyone who doubts solar works is welcome to come see.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 08:26:22

baha wrote:I should say I went thru the Tesla training. The powerwall 1.0 has over 18,000 lithium cells about the size of a AA. Each one is housed in a steel box and is charged and discharged individually. There is a water cooling jacket for each cell and an individual cell can fail without affecting the others. The battery bank voltage is actually 48 Vdc and a DC to DC converter is used to produce the 400VDC required by the inverter.

Pretty cool stuff

Water cooling jacket? Filled with antifreeze I hope. What are the temperature limits?
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 08:48:43

50/50 glycol/water cooling fluid. Specs say -4 to 122 F. Suitable for outdoor installation but I would think you better keep it inside in VT :) I plan to install it inside to avoid the heat in NC.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Shaved Monkey » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 09:01:13

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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Tanada » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 10:41:27

baha wrote:50/50 glycol/water cooling fluid. Specs say -4 to 122 F. Suitable for outdoor installation but I would think you better keep it inside in VT :) I plan to install it inside to avoid the heat in NC.


For ICE motors you can vary the ratios of Glycol and Water to 70/30 g/w and get better cold performance limits. Does your owner manual allow those kind of adjustments for the powerwall?
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 11:33:36

It will be interesting to see how much heat it gives off while being charged.
Mounted on an inside basement wall it might be a major contributor to the winter heat load and require outside venting to keep from increasing AC loads in summer.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 12:30:59

@Tanada - Now way! I doubt the cooling system is field serviceable, the batteries are not. Tesla is very particular about it's design. An ICE engine has loads of overcapacity where the Tesla is minimal design for efficiency. More glycol means more viscosity and lower heat carrying capacity. That throws the pump sizing and radiator (4" square) out of whack.

@VT - I will also be interested to see how the thing behaves. I don't think it will produce much heat. The size of the cooling system says that. And heat represents lost power so they will work to reduce it. They recommend it to be installed where it will mostly see indoor temps. Then the cooling system doesn't run as much. I think their more concerned with heat than cold, overheating is a bad thing for Lithium:)
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 13:26:52

baha wrote:@Tanada - Now way! I doubt the cooling system is field serviceable, the batteries are not. Tesla is very particular about it's design. An ICE engine has loads of overcapacity where the Tesla is minimal design for efficiency. More glycol means more viscosity and lower heat carrying capacity. That throws the pump sizing and radiator (4" square) out of whack.

@VT - I will also be interested to see how the thing behaves. I don't think it will produce much heat. The size of the cooling system says that. And heat represents lost power so they will work to reduce it. They recommend it to be installed where it will mostly see indoor temps. Then the cooling system doesn't run as much. I think their more concerned with heat than cold,
overheating is a bad thing for Lithium:)

Well if all it needs is a 4"X4" radiator it would not be a concern. Be sure to post some pictures when it is installed and keep us informed of your results.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby GHung » Sun 04 Dec 2016, 13:41:02

baha said; I waited until the Powerwall was ready because I will not "give" kw-hrs to Duke power. If they will pay me, fine. Otherwise I will set up a fountain in the front yard that burns any excess power I produce.


I have two dump loads for surplus PV output; a 450 gallon hot water tank and a 5000 BTU AC unit in the master suite for cooling/dehumidification. Dumps are controlled by my charge controllers. I generally like to use surplus PV in real-time doing household chores, laundry, dishwasher,, stuff like that. Having an off-grid system with separate charge controllers and inverters gives me a lot of versatility and redundancy that most folks wouldn't want to fool with. Then, again, the only single point of failure is the battery set. I can lose two inverters and three charge controllers and still have a functioning system for critical loads.

Then again, again, I haven't had a single critical failure in 18 years. When people ask me about solar system reliability, I ask them to name things they rely upon every day, which have been in service 24/7/365 for well over a decade, that haven't failed at some point or needed regular maintenance. It's usually a very short list.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Mon 05 Dec 2016, 05:29:26

Pretty cool Ghung
I have been admiring your system for years. I expect with a 450 gallon tank you are already heating with solar. All I have is a 80 gallon for domestic HW and a 120 for the heating system. With all the thermal collectors I have I am usually swimming in hot water (in the jacuzzi:) And I like water effects.

Clearly solar power is more reliable than the grid. And tinkering with your own grid is even better than VW's. I have learned from my shop battery charger that the batteries are the limiting factor, you can only charge them at a certain rate no matter your solar output.

I won't have the redundancy you have and it will be hands off. But I will be on the cutting edge.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Mon 05 Dec 2016, 12:55:52

I find myself wondering if the Tesla Powerwall 2 is even usable sans it's Internet connection. Musk has a way of shipping products and then revising the vehicle (or in this case the device) software one or more times via his mandatory network connection.

I would not mind paying for network access, especially if it were my only monthly utility charge. But having the box in the garage experience a fault and not be able to phone home about it is kinda scary.

But part of the dream I have is a completely conventional appearing home, with a solar roof that hides it's true nature, and a Passive House certification. No utility connections (except network if available) and little need of owner tweaking.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Fri 16 Jun 2017, 04:50:16

10 years ago I made it my personal goal to go off grid. I was living in an RV and realized solar could met my needs even then. I am an engineer and I am not intimidated by any electromechanical systems so I designed my own system and wondered if it would work :)

I am a smart engineer...I know just because I can draw it on paper doesn't mean I can build and operate it. So I started doing research. Just like any endeavor, there's more to it than you think. But it was interesting and I was bored and unemployed so I decided the best way to learn something is to do it. This among other climate related issues convinced me to get a job installing solar. I was also looking for an interesting field of study with a future...

10 years later I am firmly established in the solar industry. I have become the 'old man' of solar just because the industry is so young :) And I am about to reach my personal goal.

I've been saying solar isn't that hard to do. I've done and built many things in my life and I can assure you solar ain't that hard. Easy for me to say, huh?

If you can set fence posts and wire up a hot water heater you have the skills. I bought a ground mount kit that is already engineered and wind rated and my wife and I installed it just like any other home improvement. I rented a skid-steer w/auger and a trencher and played in the mud for a few days and voila.
Racking.jpg
Racking.jpg (36.52 KiB) Viewed 1241 times


I had to cut the poles to length and pour concrete etc. But the assembly is easy. The hardest part is making it all come out plumb and level. But that is a carpenter skill not a solar one. Then you just attach the panels...
Finished array.jpg
Finished array.jpg (41.44 KiB) Viewed 1241 times


All nice and straight :)

The final step is to wire it all up. No big deal. All the connections except 4 are touch-safe, idiot proof connectors that make a satisfying click when seated.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MC4_connector

My system uses maximizers on each panel (not shown). Each panel operates independent of the others. If only one panel has sun, it will make power. The maximizers do not turn on until the inverter tells them to. So all the DC wiring from the array to the inverter is cold and safe until the wiring is complete and the inverter is turned on. Idiot proof :)
Wiring.jpg
Wiring.jpg (29.4 KiB) Viewed 1241 times


30 years ago I was just getting started in communications. When I started it was running wires, installing electronics, and making detailed software configurations. You had to have a degree to make it work...Today J6P can buy the parts at Walmart and wirelessly sit down in front of his computer and access a world of data.

I expect solar to follow the same path. In 10 years you will buy solar at Lowes and take it home in the back of your electric pickup :)

BTW - I would love to hear stories about someones personal natural gas turbine generator :)
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Sun 18 Jun 2017, 06:39:02

Here is the inverter installation. I like everything tight and close to limit wire lengths and ease management.

Inverter.jpg
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This small box can power my house. To the left is the critical loads panel which, in my case, carries the entire house. Above that is the power meter that monitors PV output, battery in and out, and grid in and out. It also houses the Eguage that monitors all the load circuits. All this data is available to me on the web from anywhere.

To the right and below is the auto transformer. This balances 120vac loads evenly across the 240vac split phase output of the inverter. This is only used when the grid is down. Normally the grid transformer on the pole outside provides this function.

The big empty space above that is where the Tesla Powerwall 2.0 goes :)

Everything I need to power my house can be installed on one 4x8 sheet of plywood. Give it 10 years of system integration and development and all this stuff will come in one box. And it will have 4 connections...the house, the grid, the PV, and the internet.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Mon 19 Jun 2017, 08:43:19

Yesterday I installed and connected all the maximizers. click - click
maxi's.jpg
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There are two 12 panel strings. The wiring converges to the middle where it connects to the Jbox at the top and runs thru conduit 160' back to the house. Since the strings operate between 400 and 600 vdc, the entire 6700 watts can be carried over 4 - 10 gauge wires with less than 2% wire loss.

My wife went out of town to take care of her mother so I am stuck here until I can find someone to help me pull wires into the conduit. Although I may set up a jig and do it myself. I don't like to wait...
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 20 Jun 2017, 12:50:39

baha wrote:I waited until the Powerwall was ready because I will not "give" kw-hrs to Duke power. If they will pay me, fine. Otherwise I will set up a fountain in the front yard that burns any excess power I produce.

Finally my home is a showcase for solar power. I have solar hot water collectors on the roof, a solar air heater on the south wall, a solar 30 amp battery charger in my shop, and soon a ground mounted solar array out back. I also have 4 - 4x10 hot water collectors I am going to use to drive an underfloor radiant heating system. BTW - I have already renovated my house to passive house standards.

Very cool. Congrats on your success and example with this.

I hear you on not wanting to let your power utility have free power even while they shaft your community to the extent they can buy the laws to allow, while maximizing their profits.

One thought/suggestion. If you have lots of excess power sometimes which you can wall off or limit (i.e. a circuit to access only "reserve" batteries when the weather/forecast is good or something like that?) , perhaps you could let friendly neighbors charge an EV for free now and again? Favors build great neighbors. Having neighbors who actively support each other is a very nice thing. (This was common when I was a kid. In cities now, not so much).

My next door neighbor is leaving for a couple weeks. I suggested I park my car in his driveway frequently, to help make it look like someone is home to anyone who doesn't know my car (i.e. from outside the neighborhood). He appreciated it. (I stay up most of the night and am around a lot by day, so I'm not too concerned about it looking like I'm not home).

Several years ago when my water line broke, he insisted my plumber attach his water supply to my house via a washing machine hose so I could have water (It worked great. I had almost normal water pressure). Then he adamantly refused to let me pay him something for the water and said "Please just let me be a good neighbor".

As I get older, I find such friendly relationships increasingly nice to have.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Wed 21 Jun 2017, 05:50:40

Thanks OS,
I can either give power to the grid or not. I have decided to give it away for now. It will go straight to my neighbors houses without them even knowing. And that's OK for the reasons you mention. I will be getting a 30% federal rebate paid by you and my neighbors so I can give back my excess. And I will still be offsetting irresponsible power.

In the event of a power outage my neighbors will probably show up pointing at the array and asking questions :) One guy who drives by on his lawnmower all the time is a sheriff's deputy. He mows his daughters yard too. I gave him a big bag of Mother Nature's best green beans the other day. We're good :)

BTW - It has been raining on and off for three days and may continue for a while. I can't pull wires but the corn has grown a foot :)
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Wed 21 Jun 2017, 08:08:25

baha wrote:I can either give power to the grid or not. I have decided to give it away for now. It will go straight to my neighbors houses without them even knowing.


Our neighbors are too far away and we are dumping 70% of our 7.6kw on a daily basis from our hydro system.

Channels 1 and 2 of the dump load from our load controller are burning off unused power heating water. When we finish our last cabin we are planning on sending these two channels to a 2500W heating element that will be part of a hot tub we will make out of tropical hard wood left over scraps. We are planning on putting this right in the middle of a garden area with 10 hummingbird feeders.
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