Current flowing backwards through FM80?

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Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Tue Sep 11, 2018 11:09 pm

I have an existing system with 2KW array and FM80 controller firmware 2.0.0.
MATE3 & FNDC monitor the system, FM80 on Shunt 1, VFXR3048E inverter on Shunt 2.
This system has been working very well.
Yesterday I added an additional new 3KW array feeding a new second FM80 controller firmware 3.3.0, monitoring it with Shunt 3.

Setting of the FM80's are identical except for the VBatCalibration settings, which are set so their battery voltage readings match the FNDC. The older FM80 is vBattCal is +0.4, the newer one is -0.5.

All looks great with numbers what I expect in bulk and absorb stages with both controllers feeding power into the battery bank, but when the system is floating I am periodically seeing the older FM80 go to 0A, 0W output according to itself. The FNDC however is reporting a NEGATIVE current on Shunt 1 - as if current is flowing BACKWARDS through the FM80, and at quite large amounts, like 7 plus amps sometimes.

If I view the 'Battery' chart in Optics and show individual shunts, once we get into float we are seeing significant 'From Battery' bars for Shunt 1 (Ground Array) for each hour.

Unfortunately I am only about to view the system remotely today, so all these numbers are taken off Optics.

I am concerned about two things:
(a) damage to the older FM80 if indeed current is flowing backwards through it, and
(b) loss of energy if reverse current flow is indeed happening, and
(c) is reverse current flow through the FM80 even possible?

My Optics site name is 'Shabbat Shalom'
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby Mike Curran on Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:53 am

I also have 2 charge controllers, an MX60 and an FM80. Why don't you post a screenshot of your charge controller amphours graph, like this:
Screenshot_20180912-114813.jpg
If there is significant negative current flow through your older FM80 it should show up as a negative bar below the x axis on this graph. At least it may present a better picture of what's happening.
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby Kurt Lundquist on Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:36 pm

Do you have a wiring diagram or pictures? Does the PV array negative land in the charge controller PV negative terminal or is it out on the negative bus?

-Kurt
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:43 pm

Dear Mike,
Sadly that chart your requesting isn't much help, because it is charting data obtained from the charge controllers themselves, and their current readings never drop below zero. I'll post my chart below.
The negative numbers are coming from the FNDC Shunt attached to the controller. Attached are screenshots of the MATE3 screens for Shunt 1 (the older controller showing negative current flow) and Shunt 3 (the newer controller not showing the problem).
I'll also attach shots of the Optics chart of the FNDC data for the day. It's hard to see because the colors are so similar, but the data to look for is the darkest brown. It corresponds to energy flow FROM battery TO the charge controller on Shunt 1. I'll also attach the same shot with the relevant data highlighted, but that one is even harder to interpret as the color of the selected bar changes to virtually match the color of the inverter consumption bars. (Note to Outback - please let us customize those colors so we can make them clearer!)
Attachments
FNDC Chart Combined.jpg
FNDC Chart with flow FROM battery TO controller highlighted. The darkest brown. Only happens during float from 10am to 4pm
Shunts Combined.jpg
Mate3 Charts for the two controller shunts. Top one is the old controller showing negative current flow
Controllers Chart Full.jpg
Charge Controllers Chart - not helpful as the controllers do not report negative current flow
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:43 pm

Dear Kurt,
Please find below pic of the system, a wiring diagram for the DC side, and a detail pic of the FNDC shunt mounting.
The array negatives are wired directly to the controller PV negative connectors, not the DC bus.
There is only one point grounded - the battery negative post.
Any more info I can provide please let me know. I will be out most of this morning, but will be back online this afternoon/evening.
Shalom
Bill
(Edit - updated the circuit diagram to clarify positive side wiring of the battery breaker 'mousetrap'. Fuses inside are 125A for the inverter & 80A each for the charge controllers)
Attachments
Circuit Diagram.jpg
Circuit Diagram
Whole System.jpg
Whole System. The new controller is at the top.
Shunt Mounting Details.jpg
Shunt Mounting Detail
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby blackswan555 on Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:50 am

May be worth swapping the controllers round on the shunts ( looks reasonably easy ?) See if the problem "follows" the controller or is it pre ?

Tim
My comments are based on my experience and research, They are not endorsed or checked by Outback.I am an independent British electrician living in Spain, So please take this into account when reading /acting on my post`s.
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby Kurt Lundquist on Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:37 am

Hi Bill,

Can you confirm that the PV negative wire from the PV array is landed on the PV- terminal in the older controller? I know it looks that way in the wiring diagram but it isn't that uncommon to find PV- landed at a different spot in the negative bus.

When the older FM80 is charging does the OUT amps match what you see for Shunt 1?

-Kurt
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:31 pm

Hi Kurt,

I wired this system myself, and can absolutely confirm the PV array negative is connected directly to the controller PV negative terminal, NOT the battery negative bus. This is the case for both controllers. I can't get out my x-ray goggles out & give you a picture of the back of the mounting boards, but I can show you the controller connectors :-)

Here are some current readings taken right now. Both controllers are charging obviously. I took two sets of reading about 5 minutes apart. I also measured the voltage across the FNDC shunts (taken from the sensor screw terminals, not the DC cable mounting bolts). It is pushing my digital multimeter to it's limits to read voltages that small, (it really needs another decimal place) but I include them anyway.

((( Edit - The Table of values I did have here the forum makes a total mess of - I have attached a screenshot of it instead )))

As the shunts are 1:10000 I believe, the amps reported by the FNDC seems consistent with the mV across the shunts (within the error of my multimeter).

There IS a discrepancy between the controller outputs measured by the controllers and the current measured by the FNDC shunts.
The FNDC is reading high for the new controller and low for the old one.
Attachments
Controller Wiring.jpg
Controller Wiring - to confirm PV -ve is attached to controller PV -ve terminals
Table of Values.jpg
Table of values - as forum makes a mess of the table
Last edited by suthers on Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:33 pm

Dear Tim,
Yes, it would be easy. May do it tonight (we are off grid so don't want to interrupt the charging at the moment).
Thanks
Bill
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby Mike Curran on Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:56 pm

Bill - I haven't looked at my own current readings today to see how the FNDC/shunt measurement compares to the FM80 reading, but I wouldn't expect them to be the same - the shunt reading has to be the most accurate, and remember, the FM80 reading has some rounding in it. My reaction to your table comparing these readings is: I wouldn't be too worried about it. Again, FWIW. - Mike
Last edited by Mike Curran on Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:29 pm

Dear Mike,
Oh opps - that is embarrassing! Cut & Paste failure. I have edited the post and corrected that image so it shows the two controllers and not two views of the same one. (sheepish grin...)
Thanks
And yes, it's like the old saying 'A man with one watch knows the time, a man with two watches is never quite sure'. When you measure a parameter one way you know what it is. When you measure it two ways you have to decide which one to believe :-)
I agree that the FNDC should be the more accurate. My problem at the moment is I'm doubting the FNDC when it says I have 7 amps or so flowing back from the battery into the older FM80 when the system is floating!
Bill
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:23 pm

CORRECTION
I have been stating that the reverse current flow is only observed during float. This is not true. It is also occurring during absorb phase if the old controllers output drops to 0 amps, which does happen periodically in absorb. It seems the two controllers don't 'load share', and if one is meeting all the needs of the system the other will drop its output to zero. From observing the pair so far, it's always the newer one which dominates, and the older one backs off first.
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:12 pm

Here's a sample snapshot.
System is in float.
New controller on Shunt C outputing 15.1A
Old controller on Shunt A - it's screen says 0A.
FNDC says -5.7A for Shunt A.
Voltage across Shunt A is measured at -0.6mV. So Shunt A does appear to be actually experiencing a reverse current flow.
Attachments
Sample Mate3.jpg
MATE3 screen showing FNDC Values
Sample - Old Controller on Shunt A.jpg
Old Controller Screen - on Shunt A
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Fri Sep 14, 2018 3:04 am

Following Tim's suggestion I swapped the shunts the controllers are connected to. As per the shunt wiring pick posted earlier it was very easy - just swap the controller -ve leads between the shunts.
So now the Old controller is on Shunt C and the New controller on Shunt A.

The problem behavior followed the controller, not the shunt.

What I mean is, after powering everything back up and waiting till we returned to float, Shunt C was now showing the -ve current flow (and measured -ve voltage across the shunt was consistent with this).

Shunt A, now with the New controller on it, was exactly as expected.

As we had intermittent sun this afternoon I was able to watch the behavior of the old controller more closely. It follows this pattern:

Sun goes in, battery voltage falls
Sun comes out, both controllers kick fully in
Battery voltage rises
As battery voltage approaches float or absorb setpoint controllers start to back off
Old controller backs off faster and reaches 0A first

At this point, one of two things happens:
a) FNDC Current Shunt on the old controller drops to 0A, and stays there until another sun in/out cycle
b) FNDC Current Shunt on the old controller falls significantly negative (eg -5A) and stays there until another sun in/out cycle

So it looks to me like sometimes the old controller works correctly, not permitting -ve current flow, and other times it malfunctions and allows it. I haven't figured out a pattern yet as to which way it will choose any given time. Over the short time I was able to observe it it seemed about 50:50.
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby Kurt Lundquist on Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:48 am

Hi Bill,

I'm stumped here. Thanks for your diligent troubleshooting and patience with our requests for more info.

I find it interesting that the older controller is not going to sleep when it has 0A output. I suggest you try increasing Snooze mode amps to 1A and see how it goes.

What are you using the AUX port for?

If you are still having troubles you could change the new controller calibration to -.4 so it sees a slightly higher battery voltage. If the new controller backs off first the older one might continue to tick away as it used to do in the past. If the batteries are getting the Absorb/Float current they need then it does not really matter which one is doing the work.

Thanks,

-Kurt
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Fri Sep 14, 2018 3:07 pm

Dear Kurt,

I came up with that idea myself last night, so have reduced the float & absorb setpoints for the new controller by 0.2V this morning to see if I can get it to back off first. Personally I'd rather keep the calibration matching the FNDC if I can so the voltage display is 'real' and not offset. But if my approach doesn't work, I'll try the calibration tweak approach.

The Aux is used for low battery disconnect of a collection of DC loads that run directly off the battery. If that Aux goes low it releases a relay which dumps the DC loads.

Interesting you mention increasing Snoose mode amps. Remember you helping me on this thread viewtopic.php?f=29&t=13297 ? That was before the new controller was added, and I was having trouble with the old controller getting 'stuck' at 30W at the end of the day. In response to that I increased the snooze mode amps from 0.6 to 0.8.

Could both these issues have the same root cause? I'm reluctant to just keep upping the snooze mode amps if it's not addressing the real issue.

Should I investigate the AUS contact for Outback re getting the firmware updated? Or is the controller is actually developing a hardware fault?

Thanks again so much for your continued assistance :-)
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:19 am

Dear Kurt,
Well - it's been a big weekend! Not sure if I should tell you just the outcomes or take you on the journey of the last few days as they unfolded. Why not do both :-)
So...

Executive Summary:
Changing controller setpoints worked perfectly and I can now select which controller backs off first at will. Sadly this wasn't a perfect fix as the New controller still has issues with reverse current flow in Absorb phase, but it is much better than the old one. Going forward the FM80 firmware V3.3.0 still needs work to operate correctly in absorb.

The Full Story:
Changing the absorb & float setpoints of the New controller to 0.2V under the Old controller worked perfectly, with the new controller now backing off first as we entered absorb phase. Imagine my dismay though when the New controller reached 0A output on it's display, and it's current promptly went to -2.1A, growing to -5.2A as absorb progressed. Measurement of the voltage across its shunt confirmed that yes, it was also permitting negative current flow, though not as much as the old controller under the same conditions.
Having had the snooze mode discussion fresh in my mind, I now started to look at this as possibly an issue with the controller getting stuck in the wrong mode. So I tried executing a RSTRT from the Misc menu. This immediately eliminated the -ve current flow and the controller correctly entered either 'Ex-Absorb' or 'Charged'. I tried this on the old controller with the same results. ANYTIME a -ve current flow situation arises, executing a RSTRT will fix it and get either old or new controller into the right mode with no negative current flow.
So I suspect both of my problems (getting stuck at the end of the day and -ve current flow with two controllers) are symptoms of the same root problem - the controller getting stuck and not moving to a new mode when required.
As you mentioned that the Version 3 firmware was supposed improve stability in this regard I decided to set the New controller to back off first, set both to the max Snooze mode amps of 1A, and leave it totally alone for a day and see how it went. Although I didn't touch them physically I did watch them very closely :-) All went well in bulk charge mode. When we reached absorb all was well till the New Controller's output dropped to 0A. It then went into a negative current state as expected. When heavy loads switched on it kicked back in again to meet the demand, but returned to -ve current state as soon as output = 0A. When the absorb phase completed (controlled by the FNDC when charge parameters met) both controllers did a reset and correctly entered float mode. From this point on the New controller didn't put a foot wrong. Whenever its output dropped to 0A, it's current would briefly go -ve, but the controller would respond, change mode to 'Charged', and the -ve current flow would stop. I've attached the chart of it's shunt below. You can see there were periods of time during absorb before 10am when -ve current flows existed, but once float was reached there were no further issues. (Note the baseline of this chart is not 0, but -0.3)
Hence I'm concluding the following:
(1) If an FM80 doesn't correctly detect it has reached a condition where it needs to change mode from Absorb or Float to 'Ex-Absorb' or 'Charged' respectively (due to another charging source meeting the battery's needs), it will permit current to flow 'backwards' through itself.
(2) This will not show up on the FM80's screen, but is detectable via an FNDC if the FM80 is on its own shunt.
(3) FM80 firmware 2.0.0 is very susceptible to this problem in all operating modes. When it occurs, 'backward' current flow occurs, and will continue unless manual intervention is taken by executing a RSTRT.
(4) FM80 firmware 3.3.0 has virtually eliminated this problem when in Float mode, and will reliably transition to 'Charged' when required.
(5) FM80 firmware 3.3.0 IS susceptible to this problem in absorb mode, and will NOT reliably transition to 'Ex-Absorb' when required. When this transition fails to occur when needed, 'backward' current flow occurs, and will continue unless manual intervention is taken by executing a RSTRT.

There is one mystery still to be resolved - where is the energy going when current starts flowing 'back' into the controller? Is the buck converter operating in reverse, booting the battery voltage back up to the array voltage, and the energy being dissipated as heat in the panels of the PV array? Or is the energy being dissipated as heat within the controller itself? As far as I can tell so far, the controller's are not running hotter than usual, nor are the fans running more than usual, when in a -ve current state. Tomorrow I'll experiment with measuring the voltages across the string fuses on the arrays - if it's measurable to my meter, I may be able to use them as 'shunts' to detect if current is flowing in reverse down the PV string.

The next question will be whether you guys can produce a new firmware that will correct the absorb mode behavior. Presuming you agree with my conclusions of course :-)

Let me know your thoughts.

And thanks for all the assistance!

Shalom
Bill
Attachments
New Controller Shunt Chart.jpg
Note the baseline of this chart is not 0, but -0.3
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:51 pm

Measuring the voltage across the array string fuses worked a treat, and I can positively confirm that when -ve current is flowing into the controller it's pushing -ve current back down the PV panels of the array!
So when the FM80's do this little trick, they are actually wasting energy from the external charging source (whether that be another FM80 or something else) by allowing current to flow in reverse and dissipate the energy as heat in the PV panels. No fun for the panels....
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby IanMcCluskey on Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:59 am

Hi Bill, Kurt is on vacation this week so Apps Engineering is going to investigate this issue to see if we can replicate it. Thank you for the thorough records!
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:09 pm

Have Apps Engineering had success replicating the issue in your labs?
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby IanMcCluskey on Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:18 am

Hi Bill, glad you checked in, I believe I understand why your system behaves this way. First, reading back through your replies, I could not tell if you ever updated the old controller's firmware?

Here's my proposed solution:
1) update the old controller's firmware
2) factory reset both units
3) calibrate each unit from scratch, including giving the batteries at least an hour of system downtime to stabilize
4) restart standard operation

This should ensure the charge controllers enter the appropriate modes at the appropriate times, thereby preventing significant reverse current.

If you'd like support to update the firmware, we can connect you with Outback's Australia team or support you over the phone.

Cheers!
Ian
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby EMCF on Thu Oct 25, 2018 1:00 pm

IanMcCluskey wrote:

Here's my proposed solution:
1) update the old controller's firmware
2) factory reset both units
3) calibrate each unit from scratch, including giving the batteries at least an hour of system downtime to stabilize
4) restart standard operation



Update the old controller firmware? Sounds too easy. Users can't update their FM 60 or 80 without sending the whole charge controller unit to Outback.
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby IanMcCluskey on Thu Oct 25, 2018 3:55 pm

Very true, and fortunately, we have a facility in Australia with technicians trained to upgrade the firmware on these units!

Bill, you could try factory resetting both units and calibrating them as described without the firmware update, but those versions have a lot of development work between them.

If you need contact info for the Australia team, please send me a message or email imccluskey@outbackpower.com
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Re: Current flowing backwards through FM80?

Postby suthers on Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:18 pm

Dear Ian.
Thanks for the reply :-)
No, I haven't updated the firmware on the older FM80, but not for want of trying.
Neither direct contact with Outback Australia, nor contact through the distributor I purchased through produced any fruit with respect to getting the firmware updated.
I'll message you as requested.
Shalom
Bill
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