Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

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Chris In Milwaukee
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Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Wed Apr 01, 2020 4:15 pm

Good afternoon everyone. I’ve started researching off-grid (or nearly so) applications for a home project I hope to start in the next couple of years. Looking to build an ultra efficient home for my wife and I once the kids are out of the house. After researching solutions for solar options, I’ve become enamored with the concept of the Skybox and its stacking capabilities. Some of the ideas that give me pause are the typical high-current devices like A/C compressors and water pumps. But the topic on my brain right now is the water pump.

In my current home, I have a Franklin Electric SubDrive 150 constant-pressure water pump system. From what I’ve been reading about these systems, the electronic controller ramps up single phase 230V power and sends a converted 3-phase power signal to the submerged pump, reducing power-on surges that are said to cause problems with solid-state inverters like those in the Skybox. With an appropriate output stack, would skybox be suitable for this sort of pump system, or would I still be better off with a different type of inverter for these types of devices like Radian? This particular well controller idles at 65W and maxes out at 4600W according to their documentation with a 1.5hp pump. Presuming two Skyboxes running the house, it seems that there would be enough reserve to operate the controller. At least in theory.

I’m a sucker for matched equipment, so if the whole house could be run on skybox infrastructure, that would be ideal. But I am still quite green to the concept of (near) off-grid operation and solar in general, so happy to hear what the experts have to say on the subject.

Best regards,
Chris

sodamo
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36 Trina 280 & 16 Phono 250 in 48 volt array (fixed) 14080w
Radians GG8048/GS4048 w GSLCs
4 FM 80 charge controllers
Hub 10.3
FNDC w/3 shunts
Mate 3s
OpticsRE - MMKL - Ninole Hi
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Charging Only
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Hub
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Honda EU7000i

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Location: Ninole, Hi

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by sodamo » Thu Apr 02, 2020 12:56 pm

No help on your project, but I am curious as to “concept of (near) off-grid operation”?

I have a neighbor who is grid tied. That make him near off-grid, me near grid-tied, or both?
David
Please visit http://vacation.ninolehawaii.com

raysun
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My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
SimpliPhi 48-3.8 (6 @ 48v)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
Suniva 330 watt panels (12 - 6 strings of 2 in series)
Hyundai 355 watt panels (6 - 3 strings of 2 in series)
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by raysun » Thu Apr 02, 2020 3:51 pm

There's lots to learn, and if Outback is in your future, this is a good place to learn it.

Your specific question about a (deep well?) pump is a place to start but might be putting the cart before the horse, just a bit. I use a 1.5HP 120V Grundfos jet pump (pressure rated @ 200' head) for domestic water, and have no problem running it from my old 3kW OB FX series inverter.

I don't know much about the 230V 3 phase stuff, except it seems needlessly complex for my KISS approach.

I'm entirely off-grid, and in fact I'm near grid, but see no particular reason to go through the hassle of hooking up. When my neighbors periodically ask:"Is your power out?" My answer is always: "Nope."

The SkyBox is a slick setup for bridging grid with PV, with or without battery storage, it appears. It's pretty new here, so you can track the "birthing pains" as folks adopt this new tech.

Not sure how you define (near) off-grid. Being a child of the sixties, I'm imbued with the Ken Keseyan philosophy "You're either on the bus, or your off the bus." Being off-grid it's own discipline, with it's own requirements. Being grid-tied has a whole other set of practices (which I, thankfully eschew, but many here live with just fine, thank you very much.)

I'd expect you are looking to be grid-tied, with PV to minimize grid usage, and possibly with battery storage to minimize disruptions due to grid failure. There's lots of ways to skin that cat, and there's folks here that successfully do it every way under the sun.

Welcome, and enjoy the ride!

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:57 pm

I appreciate your insight. I’ve always lived on the grid, so don’t really know any better to be honest. The thing that intrigued me about the skybox from outback’s webinars and other collateral is that it will work grid tied or not, and even has a “crazy city boy can try living off grid” mode, that stays connected to the grid but doesn’t touch it unless needed (commanded). Seems like a good way to ease into lifestyle changes to become autonomous. And it can be grid tied, battery driven, and a number of other combinations that make it seem ideally suited for whatever life throws out there. So that’s my current definition of “nearly off grid”—attempting to be off grid unless I absolutely can’t be.

As I look into the things I use now that are heavy hitters, refrigeration, heating, and water supply seem to be the ones I haven’t really been able to plan for yet. I live in Wisconsin flatlands, so no elevation changes large enough to do stored water for pressure, so I’m relying on a pump. The 3-phase stuff is probably a red herring. I think the system may be fairly similar to what you have with a 1.5hp submerged pump and an electronic controller that does all the fancy stuff behind the scenes. On the front end it’s still 230v house current. The question arose out of the things I’d read about people not having enough juice to turn over a conventional water pump due to the surge required to start the motor. I suppose the same could be said for A/C units and other similar devices. The constant pressure pump controller seemed like a smart device. I really like the way it performs compared to the old fashioned pump I had previously. I don’t want to overthink it, but then again it’s an expensive way to learn the hard way, it seems.

I appreciate the simplicity of your approach. Your observation is correct in that PV and batteries would play a primary role. Ideally entirely so. Wisconsin sees some short days in the winter, so that is a concern as well. Capacity planning and all that and trying to keep the local utility on the pole and out of the house. I guess selling excess back to the utility would be okay, but not my primary goal if at all.

As you mentioned, I’ve been reading about some of the adventures that a few have described with skybox. New tech certainly has its growing pains sometimes, doesn’t it? Software updates seem to be coming along fairly quickly with feature updates and bug fixes. So I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one over the next couple of years as we get closer to the build. Alt-E has a crazy library of design references that I’ll be working through. Lots to learn.

I enjoy reading your responses to other topics in this forum. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom!

Best regards,
Chris

raysun
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Suniva 330 watt panels (12 - 6 strings of 2 in series)
Hyundai 355 watt panels (6 - 3 strings of 2 in series)
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by raysun » Thu Apr 02, 2020 7:24 pm

YW.

Know this: Provisioning strictly off grid will be the most expensive electricity you will ever consume. No matter how expensive grid power is, it will be far cheaper than generating and storing your own.

I did not hook up to our local grid, with the most expensive juice in the nation, to avoid costs, I incurred costs. I did it because the local utility folks are idiots, I wanted to play engineer as a retirement hobby, and my long suffering wife asked, if we were to live in the tulies, that she need not be bothered with paying monthly bills ever again. Mission accomplished. At double the cost. All paid up front. I'm used to expensive hobbies. This one wins first prize.

If you are not as contrarian as me, you can do this and actually, might, maybe, have it pay you back in 15 years or so. Look into rates where you will be living, and pray they have gone to a time of day, or demand rate structure. If so, you can play energy arbitrage like a day trader dealing in hog futures.

Do not invest in storage larger than one day's energy consumption.

Get an inverter that is reasonable for normal demands and live within an energy budget. It's easy, actually for that budget to be quite large, but the larger, the bigger that battery.

Plan on more panels. More than what? More than you're planning on now, or after you've figured out your energy requirements, or after you've figured out everything and installed it all. To smooth things over on the home front, let the spousal unit know the panels that get installed initially are actually 50% of plan, but the others are not needed for 18 months or so.

"I put up too many panels and I'm taking some of them down." Said no one, ever.

The 2nd set can be installed as the roof of a beautiful garden gazebo. Its actually quite a stunning effect done right.

Happy planning. Get yourself Kill-a-Watt meter, and nerd around the house measuring appliance energy consumption.

The more off-grid you go, the more Power Factor becomes a silent killer. Learn what that means. After working with it for more than 30 years I still can't explain it, so when you figure it out, tell me.

Aloha!

Oh, and most important to leave on a down beat. You will not likely to die getting hit by a meteorite, but you will destroy your first set of batteries. On that, if I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.

Cheers!

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Thu Apr 02, 2020 7:36 pm

You, sir, are a funny guy! Thanks for the guidance and experience. Looking forward to the adventure!

sodamo
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Posts: 843
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My RE system: Totally off grid - Hamakua side, Big Island, Hi

36 Trina 280 & 16 Phono 250 in 48 volt array (fixed) 14080w
Radians GG8048/GS4048 w GSLCs
4 FM 80 charge controllers
Hub 10.3
FNDC w/3 shunts
Mate 3s
OpticsRE - MMKL - Ninole Hi
12 SimpliPhi 3.8
14Kw Kohler 14RESA Propane

Charging Only
2FX3048T
Hub
FNDC. - shared shunt feeds from Radian FNDC
Mate 3s
10Kw MEP 803a Military gen

Honda EU7000i

Davis VantagePro2 Wx Station
On line at: https://www.wunderground.com/dashboard/pws/KHININOL2
Location: Ninole, Hi

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by sodamo » Thu Apr 02, 2020 9:17 pm

My apologies, BUT, off grid is off grid. There is no “secret” switch that connects to the grid.choosing not to throw that switch doesn’t make your system off grid. This is a case where words matter, they define your system. If your Solar PV fails, your backup is also not the grid, but another off grid source, windmill, hydro, generator... Is this important? It is if you want accurate info when asking for help. Should an off grid user have a problem and ask for help and I offer advise, such advise may or may not be valid when he further adds he has a grid connection. As Raysun stated, it is a different disciple, definitely a different mindset. According to my installer most people don’t knowingly go off grid to save money (unless they either don’t know the true costs or they are living a very restrictive energy consuming life. I agree.

Take your last year’s energy bill (the kwh portion) and price out a system that supports that. Probably better be sitting.
David
Please visit http://vacation.ninolehawaii.com

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:08 am

Sure, I see where you’re coming from. I appreciate there are semantics that guide the decision and that those define everything downstream. Another “don’t know what I don’t know” scenario. I’ll be sure to continue researching the technology so I am able to ask more pointed questions.

I did recently pull my last two years data from the utility company and it certainly is enlightening as you suggested it would be. And it was pretty shocking to size a system around current usage. Lifestyle changes would, indeed, be in order.

I do appreciate your experience and guidance!
~Chris

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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by jbakker » Fri Apr 03, 2020 7:53 am

In regards to AC systems which tend to be a large load on solar systems, companies are starting to come out with systems designed for off-grid use.
Consisting of 3 to 4 solar panels, DC powered compressor and battery storage to last up to 12 hours or more of runtime at night.
They can side split units or A coil to install into your furnace ductwork.

Now if your thinking of building a new home it's a great idea to take advantage of natural heating for a south-facing home and other ideas for natural cooling as well.

I am connected to the grid with my system as I do not have the room for more panels. Well, I have some ideas but I'm not sure if the better half will agree to this. My Current system is large enough at the moment to meet the house needs, but the AC compressor is not on panels it's tied into the grid still. Why did I build a system when I live in town and am still connected to the grid? I like the fact I am my own power company, I never have power outages and we don't notice when the power is out till we look outside and say o there are no street lights LOL.
I am bit of a prepper but not to point of building a bunker (but that would be cool) wife keeps me in check.


The other smart people are correct you will ruin your first battery bank, I did and have learned my lesson.
Good luck with your research and we look forward to hearing how it all works out.
Any more questions please ask. We like to help out.

raysun
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My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
SimpliPhi 48-3.8 (6 @ 48v)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
Suniva 330 watt panels (12 - 6 strings of 2 in series)
Hyundai 355 watt panels (6 - 3 strings of 2 in series)
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by raysun » Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:46 am

"I do appreciate your experience and guidance!"

We're all stuck inside with nothing to do, and you came along asking the time. We're all gonna tell you how to build a watch, how to wear it, when to look at it, and why you really want an alarm clock on a gold chain hanging around your neck. LOL!

Eventually, we'll settle down.

Mike Curran
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My RE system: Outback - Garage roof:
- 8 (2x4) Evergreen 180's into one FM80 (2007/2020 - replaced MX60)
- 6 (2×3) ALEO S79-300's into one FM80 (2017)
- 2 grid-tied GVFX3524's classic stacked for 120/240VAC (2007)
- 12 Surrette/Rolls 2V x 1766Ah (2007)
- Hub10.3, Mate3s, FNDC, RTS, OpticsRE. Tigo Energy ES maximizers on each PV module.

Westinghouse Solar - Barn roof: (2012)
- 30 (2x15) 235W panels with Enphase M215 microinverters, grid-tied

Outback Skybox - Barn roof: (2019)
- 14 Talesun 275W in series (DC array input to SB inverter/charger)
- 3 SimpliPhi 3.8 batteries, 48V, 225Ah total
- AC coupled input (manual switch during grid outage only) from 14 Talesun 275W,
Enphase M215 microinverters, normally direct grid tied

All self-designed and self-installed
Location: Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Mike Curran » Fri Apr 03, 2020 9:01 am

Be aware that multiple stacked Skyboxes will each require its own battery. They cannot be connected to the same battery.
Skyboxstackbattery.JPG
http://www.tigoenergy.com/site.php?95b2dca2-ca6c
https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/Hctc107221

pss
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by pss » Fri Apr 03, 2020 9:19 am

My 2 cents during quarantine time.
Only install PV and batteries for grid backup, to reduce utility bills, to produce clean energy, as a source of electricity during wind blown utility cutoffs or as a hobby project.
Use a skybox if mounting outdoors, use a Radian if indoor installation.
Know your loads and how much you want to offset them from utility use.
Know if you will be selling to the grid.
Create a budget.
Add 35% to your budget for surprises.
Hire a solar engineer to look over your property, make physical measurements of wire lengths.
The engineer will incorporate the Outback Power equipment you have chosen to install: charge controllers, inverter, Mate3s, Hub 10 and internet connections.
The engineer will create a plan of drawings to meet government and electrical codes. These plans will then be used for actual system construction by licensed qualified installers or yourself.
Source your equipment for best prices and availability.
Know before you install how the equipment works and should be mounted and connected.
Watch your system being built so you understand how it works after helpers all gone.
Understand how solar panels work in different temperatures, how to connect then in series to create a string of panels and to connect strings together to build an array. Know how to combine arrays.
Understand battery technology and capacity as it relates to charging from PV and supplying your loads.
It seems daunting, but as you can see from this forum, you are not alone in your journey, others have made it already and will share their knowledge. Mistakes will be made, but know how to spot them and correct them before your system is live.
Now, get studying!

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Fri Apr 03, 2020 9:37 am

Thanks everyone! I know everyone has their own experiences and opinions on the topic, wristwatches or solar panels. :grin: I thoroughly appreciate the diversity.

Researching this topic on YouTube has generally yielded a couple of content types: the manufacturers of the equipment who are trying their level best to sell the equipment and those who have installed fire hazards in a shed in the backwoods. And it's one-way communication, so you have to take it for what it's worth. So reading through this forum has been enlightening on many topics, and so have I valued the opinions of those who have done it. It provides a lot of insight into the tools folks are using and the trials that they have experienced.

There is a local builder who specializes in these kinds of homes and installations which we'll certainly be reaching out to. My goal is to be armed with the knowledge I need to have an intelligent conversation with them. So far, my brain is filling fast.

~Chris

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Fri Apr 03, 2020 9:39 am

Mike Curran wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 9:01 am
Be aware that multiple stacked Skyboxes will each require its own battery. They cannot be connected to the same battery. Skyboxstackbattery.JPG
Yes sir, I did notice that. Do you view that as a shortcoming? Indeed it does mean more batteries, and potentially the loss of a bank of them should a Skybox go out.

Mike Curran
Forum Emperor
Posts: 1817
Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 6:28 pm
My RE system: Outback - Garage roof:
- 8 (2x4) Evergreen 180's into one FM80 (2007/2020 - replaced MX60)
- 6 (2×3) ALEO S79-300's into one FM80 (2017)
- 2 grid-tied GVFX3524's classic stacked for 120/240VAC (2007)
- 12 Surrette/Rolls 2V x 1766Ah (2007)
- Hub10.3, Mate3s, FNDC, RTS, OpticsRE. Tigo Energy ES maximizers on each PV module.

Westinghouse Solar - Barn roof: (2012)
- 30 (2x15) 235W panels with Enphase M215 microinverters, grid-tied

Outback Skybox - Barn roof: (2019)
- 14 Talesun 275W in series (DC array input to SB inverter/charger)
- 3 SimpliPhi 3.8 batteries, 48V, 225Ah total
- AC coupled input (manual switch during grid outage only) from 14 Talesun 275W,
Enphase M215 microinverters, normally direct grid tied

All self-designed and self-installed
Location: Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Mike Curran » Fri Apr 03, 2020 1:45 pm

Not a shortcoming, I was thinking of the added expense, but I guess if you need the power from 2 Skyboxes then you'll need the extra batteries to go with them.
http://www.tigoenergy.com/site.php?95b2dca2-ca6c
https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/Hctc107221

Chris In Milwaukee
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Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2020 7:16 pm
My RE system: Researching

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Fri Apr 03, 2020 3:03 pm

Mike Curran wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 1:45 pm
Not a shortcoming, I was thinking of the added expense, but I guess if you need the power from 2 Skyboxes then you'll need the extra batteries to go with them.
Definitely adds a couple of bucks to the collection.

sodamo
Forum Czar
Posts: 843
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:55 am
My RE system: Totally off grid - Hamakua side, Big Island, Hi

36 Trina 280 & 16 Phono 250 in 48 volt array (fixed) 14080w
Radians GG8048/GS4048 w GSLCs
4 FM 80 charge controllers
Hub 10.3
FNDC w/3 shunts
Mate 3s
OpticsRE - MMKL - Ninole Hi
12 SimpliPhi 3.8
14Kw Kohler 14RESA Propane

Charging Only
2FX3048T
Hub
FNDC. - shared shunt feeds from Radian FNDC
Mate 3s
10Kw MEP 803a Military gen

Honda EU7000i

Davis VantagePro2 Wx Station
On line at: https://www.wunderground.com/dashboard/pws/KHININOL2
Location: Ninole, Hi

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by sodamo » Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:07 pm

So who are these folks with extra time????? Being retired, my schedule is still full, just less trips to town.

Interesting about the battery bank per Skybox. How would that would? With my Quad Fxs they shared a bank with being able to set inverter priority.most of the time we coasted along on a single FX /x240. Radian share in similar fashion. How would Skybox work, especialy
l would each bank approximate same usage somehow?

Guessing if I had 2 Skyboxes I’d split my SimpliPhis into 2 each banks?
David
Please visit http://vacation.ninolehawaii.com

raysun
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Posts: 3041
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
SimpliPhi 48-3.8 (6 @ 48v)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
Suniva 330 watt panels (12 - 6 strings of 2 in series)
Hyundai 355 watt panels (6 - 3 strings of 2 in series)
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by raysun » Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:29 pm

sodamo wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:07 pm
So who are these folks with extra time????? Being retired, my schedule is still full, just less trips to town.

Interesting about the battery bank per Skybox. How would that would? With my Quad Fxs they shared a bank with being able to set inverter priority.most of the time we coasted along on a single FX /x240. Radian share in similar fashion. How would Skybox work, especialy
l would each bank approximate same usage somehow?

Guessing if I had 2 Skyboxes I’d split my SimpliPhis into 2 each banks?
You'd have to mind the battery charge/discharge limits. I honestly don't think you'd be able to fully supply the Hamakua grid that way.

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:14 am

sodamo wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:07 pm
So who are these folks with extra time????? Being retired, my schedule is still full, just less trips to town.

Interesting about the battery bank per Skybox. How would that would? With my Quad Fxs they shared a bank with being able to set inverter priority.most of the time we coasted along on a single FX /x240. Radian share in similar fashion. How would Skybox work, especialy
l would each bank approximate same usage somehow?

Guessing if I had 2 Skyboxes I’d split my SimpliPhis into 2 each banks?
Best I can tell from the documentation, they communicate with each other to regulate the current delivery between them in some intelligent fashion. Kinda interesting. I think the approach is pretty neat in that if you need to add capacity, open your wallet, buy another Skybox and battery set. I reckon you could do that with any of them, though. Just in their specific way.

raysun
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My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
SimpliPhi 48-3.8 (6 @ 48v)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
Suniva 330 watt panels (12 - 6 strings of 2 in series)
Hyundai 355 watt panels (6 - 3 strings of 2 in series)
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by raysun » Sat Apr 04, 2020 9:30 am

The "adding battery later" thing would be a bit worrisome if the assumption was that both batteries were of the same capacity. After about 6 mo. that would not be the case.

Might he worth digging into that concept more before writing it into the plan.

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:04 am

After spending the long weekend with my nose buried in various publications and vendor spec sheets, I’ve just learned about microinverters. Those little guys seem to be ridiculously intelligent with their “hive mind”. Their independence seems to be the best available option for performance and reliability. I may have settled on that side of the equation unless somebody has an alternate opinion. That does take me off the Skybox train, however, and more into the Radian camp. The application notes on AC coupling from both Outback and Enphase are gold.

This has been a fun journey so far. But I haven’t yet written any checks... :shock:

raysun
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My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
SimpliPhi 48-3.8 (6 @ 48v)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
Suniva 330 watt panels (12 - 6 strings of 2 in series)
Hyundai 355 watt panels (6 - 3 strings of 2 in series)
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by raysun » Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:43 am

Be sure to search all the posts here that should have a category called "Fun with AC coupling". Or should it be "Fear and losthing... "?

Chris In Milwaukee
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Re: Pondering Skybox system for off-grid application

Post by Chris In Milwaukee » Mon Apr 06, 2020 7:01 am

raysun wrote:
Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:43 am
Be sure to search all the posts here that should have a category called "Fun with AC coupling". Or should it be "Fear and losthing... "?
Ah, more quarantine adventure :)

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