PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

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PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby amcd2000 » Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:46 am

Hi All

I was wondering if anyone was aware of an experienced Australian company/consultant/expert that can provide a competent unbiased review (good and bad points) of selected PV panels and Grid connected Inverters.

I am keen to get some feedback on SOLAR ENERTECH (Solar E) panels and CMS inverters


Any comments would be most helpful ... Many Thanks …. Alan
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Sat Nov 14, 2009 3:47 pm

Alan my grid solar setup at home is a CMS.

The SolarE panels arent the best quality (look cheap) compared to other panels i own.
I have Shenglong Energy, CEEG, and Conergy panels also.

The CMS2000 inverter is pretty decent. Its rated for 2KW and runs very cool.
Compared to the Sunnyboy sb1100 the CMS2000 inverter is great value, and i think its slightly more efficient.

The inverter gives you info like:
Energy: KW/Hrs
AC Power: W
DC Voltage,
DC current
AC current

Ive popped open my inverter to have a closer look. Here:
IMGP2185.JPG

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IMGP2187.JPG

IMGP2190.JPG

IMGP2192.JPG

IMGP2193.JPG

IMGP2194.JPG

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IMGP2198.JPG

IMGP2199.JPG
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Sat Nov 14, 2009 4:12 pm

Heres a small comparison i was doing with my test setup, not my grid tied system.

In this test i was testing the affect of panel mismatch on a PV system output. The CMS solar Enertech panels run 5-10 degrees hotter, but that is because the other panels are 175-190watts, while the CMS SolarE's are 170 watts and slightly less effecient. So they are the weak link in the system, acting like resistors.

Anyways, these panels are guaranteed for 25 years, so is every other panel.
So your best bet is to go for the best 'Price : Power output' ratio.

Anyways i will post the results of mismatch in the near future in another thread.

IMGP2200.JPG
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby amcd2000 » Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:53 am

Wow thank you Tony for going to so much trouble!! It is good to hear your happy with the CMS inverter .. Do you know who makes them??

It sounds like the SolarE panels may not have a high level of quality control and possibly the materials and workmanship used are a tad poor .. e.g. such as the metal framing.. Can you see any obvious problems that would stop you from buying more SolarE? For example it looks like they could leak water into the cells, or the glass used is very thin and may be damaged in hail etc ..

Alan
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby Paul_f1 » Fri Nov 27, 2009 1:48 pm

Tony

It seems you are testing some of the panels I've been looking at for a grid connect system. I've been given a good price on systems that have CEEG panels, SunTech and a Conergy. The CEEG panels - what do you think of them ?- at the price I've been given for the CEEG package (including an SMA inverter) its hard to go past that. I'll keep an eye on your test - I've been wondering what would happen myself with mixing panels. Anyway any advise would be appreciated.

While I have herad "don't buy Chinese" this answer is a bit glib - the reality is all panels will be made in China eventualy, 'cause it cost less to make stuff there and suerly not all Chinese panels are rubbish.
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:15 am

These days all panels are chinese.

Conergy used to be made in Japan, now moved to china.
BP Solar was Australian, now Chinese.
Suntech is Chinese.

There is heaps of Chinese garbage panels on the market. You need to make sure you get quality Chinese panels by purchasing panels that are listed on the approved panel list by the BSCE. These panels are quality and performance tested.

CEEG panels i found are great quality and value. Bang for buck is awesome :). I will never buy BP panels again. There is no point, they aren't Australian, and still rip off, and quality isnt even that good.

I also know people that can supply CEEG panels. I can get the 170W CEEG panels for 600AUD each :). Bargain.

So far preliminary testing has shown mixing different, but similar, panels has less of an effect than i first thought. Ill post the data in the due course.
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby amcd2000 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:59 am

I certainly agree with Paul’s comments about “don't buy Chinese Panels”. It would be much better if those making these generalised comments actually pointed out if the panels were on the Clean Energy Council approved list, and “why” they considered the panels to be inferior.
Alan
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby amcd2000 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:43 am

Hi,

I have checked out the specs on SolarE and CEEG panels and found they look fairly similar.. So I was wondering why you would choose CEEG over SolarE panels.. e.g. Is it just the general construction and workmanship?

One CEEG spec did concern me a bit and that was: Performance deviation of Voc, Isc, Vmp and Imp is +/-10%.

Where do you buy CEEG panels?

Cheers, Alan
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:41 pm

The overall quality was better.

The power tolerance is the thing you need to worry about, as long as its within a tight window +/-3%, its ok.
I was also concerned about the +-10% on the specs, but after testing, they had the same mpp voltages and currents. And they were basically the same as the other panels. So i dont know why hey label it as -+10%. See if your voltage was down 10% and your current down 10%, then you power should also be down 10%, buts its not. Its within +-3%. If our voltage is up 5% and our current down 5%, the panel would self regulate to the current the other panels are producing, and this would have a minimal effect on its power output because the peak of the power curve is generally flat.

If you need CEEG panels, you can get the from here: http://www.jtsolar.com.au
I know the guys there, worked with them, and can get better prices than what is listed. I got my panels for just over $600.
Here is some info on the CEEG panels: http://www.auzion.com/CEEG-Solar-Panels.html
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby amcd2000 » Thu Dec 31, 2009 5:01 pm

RE the CEEG panel +/-10 tolerance.. I asked the question of a supplier and the response appears below ...


""The over performance of the panel is based on the power, Vmp and Imp.There are slight variations in Isc and Voc between different batches, thats why the manufacturer gives a -+10% rating.The maximum, and rarely seen, deviation is claimed to be 10%, but generally they are very closely matched and the power tolerance is always with -+3% otherwise the panel fails power testing and will not be sold.""

To be honest I'm still a bit confused ..........

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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby amcd2000 » Fri Jan 15, 2010 4:40 pm

Hi All,

I recieved the following advice on the CEEG panels +/-10% specification ... It is starting to make more sense .. It would seem not all manufactures list the spec as per UL1730 Clause 48.2.. Part of 48.2 does seem to give manufactures the option of not mentioning the Spec in their documentation..


Feedback:--

Hope the information below helps with your query. Basically what it's saying is that both the current & voltage won't be -10% at the same time - if one falls then the other will rise to compensate and keep the power within 3% of its rating.

======
The statement "Performance deviation of Voc, Isc, Vmp and Imp is +/-10%" is required by UL 1730 standards. Refer to Clause 48.2 on page 78.

You can also find on our spec "Performance deviation of Pmpp:+-3%", so in real production, the deviation can't be lower to -10%. Or the Vmp and Imp can't all be minus at the same time, or it will not meet the nominal power.
Follow your example,
Volts x Amps =Watts ...

10 volts x 10 amps = 100 Watts

if reduce the amps by a possible deviation of -10%, then volts the will increas accordingly, to make sure the Pmpp is 100W.

Anyway, the power tolerance is always -/+3%.

==========
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:24 pm

Hey thanks for clearing things up mate.

Thats exactly what i assumed. If Vmp drops then Imp must increase to maintain the panel its 3% power window.
As mentioned in your quote above, if a panel is outside of its 3% power range, then it fails testing and would be classified as 165watt or 160watt panel.

CEEG is one of the largest panel manufacturers in the world, so i assume there has to be quality control somewhere?
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby BUIDOI » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:42 am

TonyB wrote:The CMS2000 inverter is pretty decent.


Hi. Tony - Just discovered this BB

I have two CMS inverters, and have been relatively happy with them.
I did find that the really hot days, left me concerned at the temperature of the inverters, and have since added fans that I can turn on for those Hot Days -- Better to be safe than sorry.

You and I are the only ones that I know have delved and peaked. They do look well built.

Have you done anything with MONITORING the system output. ie.. Have you cracked the RS232 comms protocol.
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:06 am

BUIDOI,

I have sussed it out with a scope, and got nothing but 2 analogue waveforms. Around 1Vp-p.Those analogue signals could just be noise, they looked like distorted Sinewaves.

I have a feeling that the RS-232 comm could be disabled for that particular firmware revision. I even tried feeding it random data into the RX port just incase it sends info out only when polled. Still nothing.

:(
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby JinbaIttai » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:33 pm

Hi!

The reason nothing shows up on the scope even when sending random data, is that the inverter is very fussy about how it wants you to ask for that data.

I found some windows software that works with this inverter (Pro Control) and spent some hours analysing its serial communications to figure out how it works. I have CMS-2000 firmware Ver A1.00

Pro Control does not come with a copyright notice or any licensing information that I could see, but you can find it easily enough by searching for "orion inverter pro control"

This software is not great but is probably fine for most purposes.

If anyone's interested in writing their own software, I'm happy to share what I've discovered, though it's kinda off-topic for this review thread.

I'm writing some Perl that will poll the inverter and store the data in MySQL and/or RRD, and there's someone on another forum (whirlpool) that is writing some .Net that will do similar.


On the review front.. I've been very happy with my 1.5kW setup (9 Enertech panels and a CMS-2000) - I average between 9 and 10 kWh a day, and my inverter tells me it has run for a total of 1361 hours - or around 13.5 hours a day over the last 101 days.

- Jinba
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:37 am

Jinba,

This is exciting. Thankyou very much. :o

Yes, i am interested in writing software for this. Please share what you have discovered.
I know so many people that have this inverter, and would be extremely happy if something like this becomes available.

I could code/design something, even make plug in hardware to wirelessly trasmit the data to a PC.
My plans are to make a datalogger, with an SD card, or something similar, and store the outputs in excel (.csv) files. :)

Also, could you please post the links to the whirlpool thread.

Cheers,
Tony B.
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:27 am

Just found the whirlpool thread.
I'm analyzing UberSteves data packet file now.
Cant wait to test this 2morow. :)
Ill post my thoughts.
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby JinbaIttai » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:31 am

Hi Tony

This is what I've discovered so far. I believe I still haven't got the initial handshake just right, but I won't be able to test that further until the inverter comes back to life tomorrow morning :)

The last few mornings as I've been rushing around getting ready for work I've simply used the Pro Control software to get it going, then hooked it up to the other laptop where my Perl script then happily polls for the data all day long :D

Also, at the end each data packet is a checksum and I haven't figured out the math behind that yet, and this is necessary to calculate part of the initial handshake as you will see below - UNLESS you can get the Pro Control software to calculate it for you. It's probably just a simple CRC but I honestly haven't given much time to it yet.

Serial port settings are boring "standard" 9600 8N1

The initial handshake goes something like this. Note that all values are hexadecimal representations of the actual bytes sent.

The Software sends "AA AA 01 00 00 00 00 00 00 01 55" (which requests the serial number)

The inverter replies with (in my case): "AA AA 00 00 01 00 00 80 0A 30 39 30 39 42 4F 30 34 35 30 04 0B"
the "30 39 30 39 42 4F 30 34 35 30" is the serial number in ASCII (in my case 0909BO0450)

The Software replies back with what appears to be a confirmation of the serial number:
"AA AA 01 00 00 00 00 01 0B 30 39 30 39 42 4F 30 34 35 30 01 03 8E"

The inverter responds with something, I'm not sure what - I will confirm tomorrow 8-) but I'm not sure it matters much.

After that, the Software polls for data every 30 seconds or so, with the following string:
"AA AA 01 00 00 01 01 02 00 01 59"

And the inverter then sends all data in one long packet that looks something like this:

AA AA 00 01 01 00 01 82 28 01 C5 0A FB 00 22 09 DD 13 8B 03 3F FF FF 00 00 23 51 00 00 05 35 00 01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 08 61

After polling this for a few cycles and seeing which values changed - and comparing them with the readings on the inverter itself and on Pro Control I managed to figure out which bytes represented each values.

The first 9 bytes are part of the header (AA AA 00 01 01 00 01 82 28) - the next few are the interesting ones 8-)

Bytes 9 and 10 (here 01 C5) represent the inverter temperature in 0.1 degrees C (453 = 45.3degC)
11 and 12 (0A FB) = 2811 (281.1V) PV Voltage (Vdc)
13 and 14 (00 22) = 34 (3.4A) Current to Grid (Iac)
15 and 16 (09 DD) = 2525 (252.5 Volts) Grid Voltage (Vac)
17 and 18 (13 8B) = 5003 = 50.03 Hz Grid Freq (Fac)
19 and 20 (03 3F) = 831 W = Power to Grid (Pac)
21 and 22 (FF FF) = 65535 appears to be Grid impedance. mOhm (not available on my inverter)
23 and 24 (00 00) = 0 (n/a)
25 and 26 (23 51) = 9040 (904.0 kWh) - total system output since installation date
27 and 28 (00 00) = 0 (n/a)
29 and 30 (05 35) = 1333 hours the inverter has run since installation date
31 and 32 (00 01) = 1 - inverter operating mode, 1 = normal, 0 = wait.

I will let you know as I figure things out further.

I see you have already found the whirlpool thread, but for the benefit of others it is here with the really interesting stuff starting at page 9

- Jinba
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby TonyB » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:39 am

Dude, i have to show you my setup, and then you will see why i want this so badly.
Gimme a minute.. :)
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Re: PV Solar Systems / Review advice appreciated

Postby JinbaIttai » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:09 am

I have been trying to figure this out pretty much since the day I got the inverter (3 months ago) - hours of googling led me to several threads on different forums like this one - all of people trying to figure out how to get the serial port to do anything and with no success.

It wasn't until I found someone's post on whirlpool on Saturday that said "it looks just like an Orion, AND there is software available for the Orion" that it fell into place very quickly with the help of some handy serial logging tools.

That's why I've posted this here and a couple of those other forums because I know the frustration of trying to make it work when the required information to get started just isn't available.

It's a nice forum you've got here, I think I might stick around :D
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