Here is an example of what can be done if you live off grid, or want to, but either don't have any access to sun, or aren't yet ready to install solar panels. This system powers a little AC house in the big woods of Degrasse. These folks started with a Generac propane generator, batteries and a central control system. Solar was added later as budget allows. Solar PV is vital in any off grid home. Generators breakdown. The sun never does. While solar panels will last for many years you can expect to rebuild or replace your generator every few years. The solar not only produces lower cost energy than the generator, it protects the generator by reducing run time. The brains of the operation is an Outback power panel with a 3600 watt inverter. A small battery bank configured for 48V powers the inverter and the home. The batteries are charged by a 6000 watt Generac generator. This propane fired generator is a recent (2010) offering from Generac and is designed specifically for the off grid site. It's about as quiet as a generator can be running only about two hours each day to charge the batteries at this home. The gererator starts automatically when the system controls sense the batteries need to be charged. The batteries than supply the home with power through the inverter for the other 22 hours each day. The key to running an offgrid system is to limit your power consumption as much as possible. Folks have various strategies for accomplishing this. Installing the most efficient electrical appliances and lighting is cricitical. Eliminating phantom loads (electrical usage that performs no useful task) is also critical. A gas refrigerator is often used instead of an electric unit to reduce electricity consumption. In general, off grid living means not using as much as possible. It can be expensive to run your own power company. The smaller you can make it the lower your upfront cost. Having said that its easier now to do set up an off grid system than ever before. High efficiency lighting and appliances help. Inverters can power most any 110V or 220V device you may want to have. If you are running a generator 24 hrs per day to power your off grid home consider installing a battery system. The batteries will help the generator run more efficiently for fewer hours a day. That will help your generator to last longer and provide you with some peace and quiet.
Barns like this one were built to last and so is its latest Northern Lights Energy addition: a 12.48kW solar electric system. This Macomb, NY solar electric system is a large one with 52-240W solar panels installed on this 100 year old barn.The solar electric system is designed to cover 100% of the homeowners electrical needs. There are two Solar Edge inverters that monitor the output of each panel. Data is available through an online site so that the production of the solar electric system can be monitored in real time by Northern Lights Energy. Installation of this solar electric system included an upgrade to the site's older electrical system making the home safer and greener.
This 3.68 kW solar electric system is in Norfolk, NY. Northern Lights Energy built this solar electric system to utilize tilt up racks to orient the solar panels to the south. The house roof is facing east and west. A flush mount would reduce the solar electric system energy output. Angling the solar panels to the sun both increases production and helps to encourage snow shedding off the solar panels. One advantage of roofs with steeper pitches is their tendency to shed more snow, so you can get more energy from your solar electric system year-round. Though available sunlight is limited during early winter as days are short and tend to be cloudy, some power still can be produced. So by increasing the angle of the solar panels the solar electric system is able to harvest a little bit more of what sunlight is available.
This Norwood, NY based homeowner had an old barn that was well oriented for a solar electric system. Northern Lights Energy's solar PV installation was designed to produce all this homeowner's annual electrical needs. This is a 3.68kW solar electric system that has 16 - 230 Watt solar panels. The post and beam section of the barn was built to last and could easily handle the extra weight of this solar electric system. In fact, solar electric systems add very little weight to a structure. At most they add about 4 pounds per square foot. This is considerably less than a heavy snowfall or the weight of anyone who might be standing on the roof. It is of course important to be confident that a roof can handle the extra load. Most structures, both new and old, are built with sufficient strength to handle the weight of a solar electric system. If in doubt, an engineering analysis of the roof can be conducted to ensure structural integrity. Additionally the installation of the solar panels protects the underlying roofing material. Whether it is metal or asphalt shingle, the existing roof will experience less heat and wind after the panels are installed.
This 5.28 kW grid tie system under construction in the photo, is on the roof of the owner of Northern Lights Energy. Its built with 22 Suniva 240W panels and a 4000W SMA Sunnyboy inverter. Suniva panels are made in the USA. There are a number of US manufacturers and foreign based companies manufacturing panels in the US today. This solar electric system will provide all of our electrical needs and a bit more. Our goal is to make as much of our energy use as solar based as possible. As part of that effort we switched to an electric lawnmower last summer. We also installed an electrically driven heat pump water heater to replace an on demand propane water heater. So now we can make our hot water using solar energy during the day, and from wind power we buy off the grid at night. Our only propane use, as of this writing, is for cooking and some heating (we primarily heat with wood). Cooking can be done most efficiently with a microwave oven powered by solar. Heating a home with solar electricity will take a bit more thought. Heating a home with a solar electric system could be done in conjunction with heat pump technology, either air source or ground source. Heat pumps take heat out of the surrounding air, water, or ground, and transfer it to heat a building or domestic hot water. Heat pumps are essentially refrigerators run in reverse. In our climate, it would likely take a very large solar electric system to heat an average home with a heat pump. The trick to heating with solar is to build a super-efficient home with levels of insulation not generally installed in most homes today. Size matters also. Big homes generally use more energy of all kinds no matter how many people live in them. A modest size home will have a much better chance to get all its energy from solar. Our home has insulation levels higher than typical homes, and is generally much more efficient, but we don't have a heat pump based heating system to see yet just how much solar we would need to power it. Yet. The accompanying photos show how snow melts off of a system without assistance. Customers often ask if they should clean snow off their systems. If the system is close to the ground and it is safe to do so, by all means clean them off. A broom or snow rake can both work well. If the system is high up on a roof and you need a ladder to clean them off, don't bother. There really is not much power coming from the sun during extended snow periods. The loss is minimal so any extra power you may get will be quickly offset by the damage you do to yourself if you fall off the ladder. The rate at which the snow melts will depend on the air temperature, the amount of sunlight, and the pitch of the roof. Sometimes it can be a lesson in patience. But who couldn't use one of those? There was about three inches of snow on the panels when the sun came up. It took about 2 days of sun and partly sunny weather with temperatures around freezing to melt the snow. This was December when days are short. The system produces power unless there is a lot of snow on the panels. The snow shades the panels like a cloudy day. Unless it is very deep it does not completely shut the system down.
This Northern Lights Energy installed solar electric system is on the newly constructed workshop of a Canton, NY based contractor. He and his wife had been interested in installing solar electricity for some time. Moving to a new home in the area provided the opportunity they had been waiting for. When his workshop is fully operational he should be able to get a substantial portion of his power from this array. At 8.085kW with 33- 245 Watt solar panels this solar electric system is a bit larger than NYSERDA will fund for residential systems. At the time of this system's installation NYSERDA was willing to fund system's up to 7 kw. But between when the solar electric system was originally designed and the regulatory approval was received solar panel prices had dropped so much that we were able to install a larger solar electric system at a lower cost. This is one of the advantages of working with Northern Lights Energy. Our interest is in getting you the most system for the lowest price. If we find savings when installing your solar electric system, we will pass them on to you.
These Canton, NY homeowners wanted a solar electric system but did not have a good existing roof to put it on so Northern Lights Energy built them one. Their new 4.8kW solar elecetric system was designed to replace about two thirds of the power they buy from National Grid. This solar electric system has 20 - 240 Watt solar panels. With some efficiency measures, they might just be able to produce all their own electricity.
Completed in December just in time for Christmas this family has their first green solar Christmas. Northern Lights Energy installed this on a residence in one of the main residential areas, the homeowner tells us they are getting a lot of interest from passersby. The cost of a solar electric system is dropping rapidly bringing it in reach of more and more homeowners. The paybacks on solar electric systems now, with all the available incentives can be under 10 years. This one is built with 11 - 240Watt Phono Solar panels. Solar electric systems are built from individual panels into arrays. On this type of solar electric system several solar panels are connected into one or more series strings that feed power to the inverter. Every solar electric system has disconnects that allow for the solar electric system to be shut down independently from the power system of the home. A well designed solar electric system should never cause problems with the home’s electrical system. In the unlikely event of a problem the solar electric system can shut itself down automatically or be shut down with one of the disconnects.
The unattached garage was the best place for this solar electric system. Nestled in amongst the surrounding homes, the system is designed to provide 100% of these folk's annual electrical usage. Fifteen 265W Solarworld solar panels provide power to the home through a SolarEdge inverter. Data logging comes with the system allowing NLE and the homeowners to view the production of the system via the internet.
Farmers are no strangers to solar power. This system is on farm equipment repair business. Northern Lights Energy solar electric systems are just one more way farmers can take advantage of the power of the sun. This 14.4 kW solar electric system in Lisbon, NY has 60-240 Watt SolarWorld panels made in the United States. It powers both this farm repair business and the home of the owners. There are three Solar Edge inverters with each one controlling 20 of the solar panels. Optimizers installed below the panels control each solar panel individually to maximize the solar electric system's overall output. Because solar panels have no moving parts, they last for many years. But just in case there is a problem, this solar electric system, and every solar electric system Northern Lights Energy installs, is covered by a 5 year warranty. Manufacturer warranties on solar panels are 25 years.