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Tribes make Solar Posted at 01/19/10 - 05:35 AM

New Mexico's Jemez Pueblo tribe is working a deal to use their land for solar energy production. They will be the first Native American tribe to use solar energy as a way to make revenue.  The 3,000 members of the tribe are working to harness the energy from their 30-acre site. They plan on setting up over 14,000 solar panels. A plan is now in the works to sell electricity to outsiders from their four-megawatt plant. The completed plant would be able to power about 600 homes.

Author: Greg

Recent studies suggest that technological progress has reduced payback times to 1.5 to 3.5 years for crystalline silicon PV systems.




Buying a Solar Inverter

It does not matter if your solar project is a DIY or off the shelf solar power system, you will need an inverter to convert your power from DC to AC current.  Inverters can be quite costly and so are a major consideration in your project.  If your solar system is to provide power in a remote location such as a small farm or "back woods house", then you need to buy one that suites your needs. Begin by looking at the type of appliances and what loads you will have.  Check the wattage, continuous and surge power requirements. You may find that a cheaper modified square wave inverter would do the job rather than the more expensive sine wave units. While it is possible to buy cheaper inverters, most people would agree that you get what you pay for, so here are a few hints when comparing units.

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Safety :Many people place this as a last consideration, however, you must consider the safety aspect of the unit you intend to purchase. You need to know if the inverter meet all relevant safety and RFI standards of the country you live in. When fitted it should be connected via a safety cuttout.  

Wattage : Check the wattage, note that bigger units may not suite your needs.  Look for inverters that provide information on continuous, intermittent (30 minute), and surge rating. Large inverters will be less efficient on very small loads than smaller inverters. Lightweight inverters with no transformer may not have the ability to handle surges.

Wave Type : The best inverter produces power as a true sine wave. Many cheaper inverters are likely to be what is called, "modified" square or sine wave inverters. While square wave units are cheaper, some appliances including fans, washing machines, stereos, digital clocks and timers, do not work as well and will run slower, hotter or noisier than on a sine wave unit.

Standby : Does the inverter have a standby/autostart mode? This can cut the draw significantly, without this feature, the unit can draw quite a lot of power from your batteries. How much power does the inverter use when it is waiting to detect a small load?

Input Handling : When your solar panel system is operating and charging batteries, output can vary from as low as perhaps 10 volts up to 15.5 volts.  A good inverter should operate with input voltages between 10 to 16 Volts.

Distortion : Does the inverter hold its frequency to within 0.01% and have less than 4% harmonic distortion. You should also check that the inverter can maintain its output AC voltage to within 3-5% off the desired voltage.

Efficiency : Ask how efficient the inverter is, does it give its specifications in 'peak efficiency' or does it show you how it performs with small 50-100 Watt loads up to its rated power.

Diagnostics : What on-board diagnostics does the unit have.  Can it identify, low and high battery, overload and over temperature.

Warranty : What kind of warrenty does the unit have and what are the service agreements. The USA and Australia are big places and the service center should be as local as possible.


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