September 15, 2009
Thanks to the Enlighten feature that
allows you to play back the solar panel energy statistics graphically
over time I was able to clearly see that the solar panel on my solar
attic vent was causing a shading issue for over an hour in the late
The solution was obvious, I just had to climb up and lower the panel so
that the shading issue was reduced. Now the panel on the vent will be
oriented toward the sun in the late afternoon rather than mid day, but
that is when the heat is highest in the attic,
September 15, 2009
A Central Maine Power crew came out to replace the single meter with a
double unit that allows for 2 readings, energy delivered by them and
energy exported from my solar array to the grid. Russell from CMP shows how the new
meter will install (left) and points to the meter (right) that shows the
solar power being generated. Only one meter spins at a time indicating
which way the current is flowing at the time. As we watched one meter
would stop and the other would start as loads changed in the house.
This was before full sun was shining on the solar array, so the panels
were barely meeting our energy needs at the time. In full sun the
bottom meter spins quite quickly as we export energy to the grid. After
the sun goes down we import it back.
The meter is installed as part of the Net Metering Contract that I
signed with CMP, the company that delivers our electricity. There are
several reasons for this contract. First, the double meter gives CMP
statistics on how much power I am putting into the grid. They need this
data so they can report it to state and federal agencies as part of the
renewable energy portfolio for the state.
Secondly, this contract stipulates that I get full retail credit
for every kWh that I export. It is interesting to note that CMP's
computers do not have the capacity for crediting small residential
producers like me, so the billing has to be hand processed each month.
Keep in mind that due to deregulation, CMP does not generate power they
simply transmit and distribute it and handle billing for the energy
If we generate more than we use in any given month (likely to happen in
the summer months) then that credit is "banked" against future months.
Note: the dual meter was later replaced with a single Smart Meter
when the utility company upgraded to the new technology. However
solar net metering customers bills are still hand processed because they
have not upgraded their billing software to allow for bi-directional
energy flows. A separate page is added to my bill showing energy
|December 15, 2009
learning opportunity came with the first 8 inch snow storm. I had to
clear the snow off the panels, so I went to the hardware store and
bought a snow rake for about $45.00. This tool has a plastic "shovel"
at the end of an extendable pole that assembles in 3 6 foot long
sections as needed. The panels are so far up that I added a broom
handle and still could not quite reach the top. I learned to be
meticulous, because any snow left on the panels will reduce the
performance as became very evident on the Enlighten web statistics.
May 2010 - energy monitors
Earlier in the spring I installed a
TED5000 energy monitor for about $200 so I could see our utility
power use and compare it to our solar production. The TED system
installs in the main breaker box and sends data to a small web server
box via the power lines. A network cable connects the unit my LAN
network so that I can see a beautiful web dashboard that gives a real time
view of our electric power usage and the power we generate from solar.
|TED Current Transformers
clamped around utility feed
|TED Current Transformers clamped around
feed connect to MTUs
|TED MTU units for utility and solar power
send power via
AC wiring to Gateway
This is a terrific tool for keeping an eye on electrical consumption.
There are numerous graph functions to explore historical data by the
second, minute, hour, day and month.
For instance one way to measure the total of all the phantom loads is to
look at the lowest points in the early hours of the morning when we're
asleep. While the fridge cycles on and off on a 20 minute cycle, it's
during the off periods that I can see the minimum power reading. By
hovering my mouse over the graph a pop-up window show the exact time and
power for that moment.
Main dashboard showing low energy net usage.
You can select solar or utility page views
24 hour graph
blue=utility, yellow=solar power, green=net power
Hourly data for 48 hours showing a partly sunny
day and a full sun day.
Graph showing first 13 days of April,
note 2 days with net export of power.
August 2010 - Adding
Thanks to the modularity of the Enphase system, I was able to add 2
more panels to my array today. Total installation time was
less than an hour. I climbed up and removed the panel clips on
the left edge of the 2 panels that would be adjacent to the new ones
first. Then I slid new bolts into the mounting rail to account
for the inverters and mid panel mounting bolts. I turned off
the array, bolted down the inverters and plugged them in, then with
my neighbor's help hoisted up the panels, plugged them in and bolted
them down, and powered the array back up.
The next step was to call Enphase so they could tell the Envoy data
communications module to scan for the new modules. 10 minutes
later I accessed the Site Builder tool in my Enphase web portal
account and placed the new panels in the array and assigned the
module serial numbers to them - simple drag and drop stuff!
Shown at left are the 2 new modules before the statistics have caught
up with them.
One thing I noticed about the newer Enphase M190 inverters is that
the female AC connector is now on a cable rather than mounted in the
box as they were in the ones I first installed. This
definitely adds flexibility in the installation! The added
length helps to account for uneven rail spacing and larger solar
September 2010 - Solar
shading effect of panels on the roof|
The warm sunny weather recently caused me to consider whether there
is a benefit to having solar panels on the roof that reduce the surface
temperature on the shaded shingles. So I set up my
Datalogger to find out. As you can see from the plot below the roof
stays up to 10 degrees F colder than the exposed roof surface.
Cool! Literally! So that is why I have used my small room
air conditioner a bit less this year. I guess the panels are not
just generating power they are saving it too!
June 2011 - Added
2 more panels
Added 2 more BPSX175 panels. I got a good price on these as
they had been damaged when they blew off an installation and the
frames were bent. I straightened them out and siliconed the
front seams to prevent water and ice from seeping in around the
July 2011 - added 1 panel
Added a new 180 Watt BP4180 panel. BP no longer makes the
polycrystalline BPSX175 panel and now make a monocrystalline panel
with a white background that looks quite different. This
exemplifies the advantage of the Enphase micro inverters - you can
mix different panels in the system with no concerns.
April 20 2011 - got smart meters installed
A woman from Central Maine Power installed 2 new Smart Meters today.
We're the last house in the neighborhood to get them for some
reason. Later this year CMP will be rolling our the web
interface so subscribers can monitor their usage. I'm looking
forward to that!
June 2012 - added 3 230 Watt panels
I added 3 Solar World (US made) panels with Enphase M190 inverters.
These panels are physically larger than the BP panels - so I had to
extend the rails by 12" using
rail splice kits. I am pleased that everything in my
installation was US made.
As the Enphase Enlighten interface shows at left, the inverter is
maxing out at about 197 Watts in full sun using the 230 Watt panel,
this means that I'm getting much more power overall from these
panels throughout the day.
2013 - added 2 245 W panels on south wall|
I added 2 Solar World panels using the newer Enphase M215 inverters. While the inverter is nominally rated for at least 215 Watts, actual
output power as shown on left maxes out at around 224/5 W quite
early in the day as soon as the panels get full sun. I
tilted these panels at around 25° to keep the wind load low and
optimize snow clearing in the winter. I had to make my own
brackets to mount these to the wall of my building since there is no
standard racking equipment for angled mounting like this.
Later I learned that there was a poplar tree that was shading the
right panel in the morning, and cut
14, 2013 - I engineered my own solar tracking system for the 2 new
panels (see above). A sensor mounted to one panel tracks the
sun and sends control signals to a box inside which drives 2 linear
actuators that can tilt the panels in or out from the wall.
Due to limitations of the actuator lengths, the panels only actively
track the sun position from the fall solstice to the spring
solstice, providing optimal performance during the shortest
days of the year.|
June 8, 2014. I noticed that my Enlighten web interface was
showing that one of my panels was dropping out and producing only 1
or 2 watts. Since there was nothing visibly wrong with the panel, I
contacted Enphase tech support to see if it was an issue with the
M190 micronverter. They attempted a fix by trying to download
new firmware to that inverter and when that didn't work, they issued
a replacement under their 15 year warranty. It was relatively
simple for my neighbor and I to go up on ladders, remove the panel
and replace the inverter underneath, just a few bolts and plugs.
22, 2014. I had been bothered by the loose dangling wires
hanging off of the inverter and solar panels, and found a
Nine Fasteners Inc. that makes these great little stainless
steel clips designed specifically to secure wires to solar panels.
This really neatens up my installation!|
22, 2015. I found a nifty power meter that displays Volts, Watts,
Amps and cumulative kWh from a surplus store and installed it next
to the solar sub-panel. Photos were taken in the late
afternoon so it is not showing peak output which can be well over
2016. A friend sold me a 245W Schuco panel for $100 and I installed
it on the south facing wall of my house with an Enphase M250
More details on my blog. It has the advantage of serving as a
shade for my bedroom windows in the summer.||
Power for the last 3 days|
June 2017, another Enphase microinverter failed and they sent me a
replacement. This one was relatively easy to access.
More deatils on my blog.|
September 2018 another M190 microinverter failed. This one is
connected to a 180W BP solar panel. Enphase customer support
is impeccable and had a replacement to me in 4 weeks.
It seems these older model inverters are taking longer for them to
replace. I was a very early adopter, mine was the 1239th
system commissioned back in 2009. Now there are millions of
systems, some with thousands of inverters. |
now this is getting tedious. Yet another Enphase M190
microinverter failed this week (November 18, 2018). This is
the 4th one in my original array that I installed 9 years ago.
I'm glad they have a 15 year warranty and that they are honoring it.
I'm paying the price for being an early adopter. I believe
they are now up to their 4th generation re-design and increasing
reliability. Hopefully the replacements will last longer.
At this time of year it is challenging to get up on the roof to
replace these devices when it's cold and there is snow on the
ground. My friend and I have to remove the solar panel to get
at the inerter to replace it. |