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Hey boys... Finally getting back to updating here. Been quite a year and this has been quite a project. By "this" I am referencing the project we started several months ago... that is moving the compound to 100% off grid. We have finally got it done. This has been expensive, but not as much as you might think. If I knew what the hell I was doing it would have been less... but I fumble through about everything, so that probably cost me 20% more... maybe, just an estimate. Our total cost right now is right at $24,000. Pay back for us should be about 7.5 years, when compared to our power bills.
We had some special requirements such as being able to run our well pump, the size of our home (2300 square feet), the distance from the panels to the house (650 feel) and the damn heat of the NC summers. Fitting perhaps that we went live with this at the peak of summer... to paraphrase my boy Frank, "If we can make it now we can make it anytime..."
We chose to go with a company called Signature Solar, out of Texas. They are relatively new, but the engineer I worked with to design the system was open to our specific circumstances. They also have a military discount. Their products seem solid, their service has been great and when not perfect, their recovery has been great. Their instructions, etc... meh, not so good. I should qualify that in that I am a total layman at any of this and even though I bug the crap out of them they still don't say (at least to my face) "Damn he is stupid"... LOL

So here is what we wound up with...


Here we have 30 400 watt solar panels... for 12000 watt capacity per day. From here in the field to the house was a 650 foot run of 8ga wire. we run these panels in series and in 2 strings, one 16 panels and one 14 panels. You can see I built my first racks on my own. The second time around I bought EG4 panel mounts also from signature solar. I am indifferent to which one was better, one day I feel like the hand built, one day I feel like the manufactures one... meh...

We of course had to trench to the house, about 1 foot (sometimes less) deep. Flat parts done with a rented trencher... the steep hill done by hand thanks to my bought and paid for 13 year old... LOL.... no pics of this one to protect the innocent... This trench included bridging over our creek... sometimes dry sometimes Class V rapids...

Those 8ga wires lead to 2 6500w inverters. At the time you had to have 2 inverters to run split phase. I understand they have created inverters now that can do this in a single inverter. We went with EG4 6500 EX. They are not the best, but they are doing the job. They have the capability to run off grid as we are doing, run as house back up in case of power failure, or to run off solar when generating enough energy and grid when there is not enough. Our goal, as you know, is to be off grid

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The solar goes into a shut off before the inverter and then into the inverter. From there the two inverters connect through some heavy wire, 4ga, to a buss bar. The positive is fused. From the buss bar (one for positive and one for negative) they go to the busbars on the battery rack. Several companies now are doing lithium batteries in a "server rack" style set up and this seemed to be the easiest to understand to me. Each of our 6 batteries is connected to the appropriate busbar and also connected to communicate to one another. This helps them discharge and charge somewhat evenly. You can connect these to the inverters to communicate to the inverter but it is not necessary unless you you are grid connected. So we are not doing that. In short we are using these just as straight inverters, charge controllers and battery bank.
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Thanks to my friend Matt... AKA @BushHead we were able to then connect the inverters to our existing AC panel. It has taken a week of adjustment, but we are at over 48 hours, despite the 90+ degree days, grid free.

I think I learned some stuff in this process and could do it cheaper. If you decide to go this route, reach out and we can chat about it.

John
 
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While I don't really understand all of it, this has been a life long dream. Don't know why other than to maybe flip the proverbial one finger salute to "the man"... whoever that may be at the moment. A lot of it I think is just cool. Thankfully we have the resources to do this, a good friend @BushHead to help us get it done. We are not perfect yet.
There is some "firmware" updating to be done... that is Ann's arena. I can fix just about anything with a wrench or a hammer (especially a hammer) but that does not play well with computer stuff... The steps she takes ought to increase the rate of battery recharge and also be more efficient. We'll see.
 
A little pic of the steep hill and the digging and filling work done by hand. Could I have done it without this kid, yes. Am I happy that he loves good hard work? Yes. See his little victory celebration as he finished up? This was back in March I think. Soul cleansing labor.
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On another topic, some of you have known and seen my youngest, Joe grow from a itty bitty into the 14 year old young man he is at the moment. Here are some pics from his latest project. A tipi up at out campsite. He cut all the logs by hand, assembled them and built the firepit. His mama helped with sewing the canvas for it. This weekend was his first go around in it for our annual Compound Cold Weather Campout.
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