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Backyard Revolution / Zig Zag solar panel tower

 
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Hi,

Does anyone have an opinion or any experience with these?  Would they give any more power or are they just the latest scam?  

Even if they don't give much more power  than a conventional 330W solar pane in terms of Watt per $, if they would at least give an equal amount, then they do have the advantage that I am not dealing with panels that are heavier than I am.  Then a few panels could also be taken in summer to use to run fans to vent out green houses to prevent overheating.
 
Annie Hope
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UPDATE:  I found this webpage  of commercially made zig zag panels, so there must be something in it.

https://accolombia.com/blog/2015/09/18/torres-solares-en-3d-son-20-veces-mas-eficientes/
 
Annie Hope
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FURTHER UPDATE

By googling 3d panels rather than zig zag panels, I have found a few commercial samples of them:  https://twitter.com/search?q=%233DPV&src=hashtag_click

I also found this, which looks like the original research done on them that everyone else is quoting:  https://arxiv.org/vc/arxiv/papers/1112/1112.3266v1.pdf

Fairly heavy reading, but it might give some answers such as what is the best angle to put the panels at.  If anyone finds this interesting, and does wade through the paper and find some answers let me know    

 
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I have the plans build one and it's on my list of projects, but I haven't started yet.  Things like this usually get pushed to winter when I have less things to do, and less things I CAN do, outside.  Winters in Wisconsin can be long, so it's a great time to build bee hives, work on projects like this, do a little amateur gunsmithing, work on craft-type things, build furniture, all the things of that nature that can be worked on inside.  In summer, outside projects, the food forest, gardening, fencing, plant propagation, things like that take precedence.

I hope some other people with experience with this chime in.
 
pollinator
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Fun stuff! This 3D concept reminds me of “stacking functions”. If multipurpose structures can also serve as photovoltaic energy sources then there’s stacking happening. The “solar paint” dream is a example of taking the concept to another level. Many 3D objects could become solar collectors. Integrated systems have always fascinated me. The “cradle to grave” embodied energy would be invested in more functions. A tree provides many many functions. It’s covered in solar panels that are 3D.
 
Annie Hope
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When I read the research carefully, it gives up to 20X of the power output per squire foot of ground space of the collector, not the square foot of the panels itself.  Tracking in two directions only improves performance by 30-45% compared to a typical fixed array (more in summer as the sun has a few hours in the early morning and evening when it is not hitting the panels at all)    I think the tower would probably get less power per solar panel than a normal flat array.   It is made with the idea that the solar cells themselves are only a small part of the cost of a solar panel now.  the metal surrounds, and then the mounting racks account for the majority of the cost.  My own amateur opinion is that this would be good in one of the following scenarios
- If you are building solar panels from solar cells yourself
-  If you only have a very small space to put them on
-  If you often have cloud cover, and want to pick up the sun whenever you can  

It would be interesting to build one of these and to make flat array with the same number of panels and to test them for efficiency per solar panel area.

What the zig zag pattern does do is pick up the sun for a longer time of the day which is important if it is being direct fed into the grid, but if you are storing it in batteries for overnight use, then this is not an issue - over-all efficiency is.  


What does seem easy to make is something that allows the angle to be changed between ideal summer and winter sun, like this one:  https://www.instructables.com/id/Ground-Mounted-Solar-Panels-With-Adjustable-Angles/
It would only have to be changed a few times each year.  
Because we are on the property through the day anyway, and would use a lot of overnight power in summer (getting up early to cook for a small commercial business, and spray irrigation overnight) it might be worth it to look at building a hand-turnable tower that allows us to get the early morning sun and also allows us to adjust the angle of the panels, but this would take quite a bit of time, and it might be better just to put the money into more battery storage.


I have found this solar panel for half the cost per watt of panels here in NZ, and have ordered one to see the quality before i buy more.  It looks like a good option to build into an adjustable frame:  https://www.ebay.com/itm/100W-Solar-Panel-kit-12V-battery-Charger-10A-50A-Controller-RV-Boat-Caravan-Y5W9/114298009369?_trkparms=ispr%3D1&hash=item1a9cb13719:g:i6IAAOSwubtfCRiR&enc=AQAFAAACcBaobrjLl8XobRIiIML1V4Imu%2Fn%2BzU5L90Z278x5ickkAgU0umhwUTmgTFbE5cu7zQ51urp02Vv0UOQR8IV75zctrqjdKVwYtQo4R%2BwYv0uPjTsyd6azNWzAtVFtZtAUDxD1vB6%2Flqi%2BUmtdLT7j4V6C4r9bUyrpoeqmxQCCmaoZ9u9xvt7rPpPisWzBt5b5ZBfXc%2Fit%2Fz4n%2Bpc18LHHlBMLV8VqTy3zE1KFHUJtibMnwA%2BcaTFZ1JD7epuXMRfhShKcw4H28xnF%2B8lG7MzklPa13ErIgWDNQiCRCvsssZtp9y04GczGlaFD6%2FH281MCgVuqwO30ibT4mRwU93Xa74f3znF5aKsrB2Pal9RLMHSObQHT0qJn9lY8sFBfhe1dQksOzbJyIPWs3JK1s6K5CcrIIsiObFrxvUGT7KZTAXM3QaMdzYLaEBDRhe2XuntWr%2B1p%2FHh%2BKojIr1olFwj9LbNQ04n7aMfM0s5LX7qezAyWgZNMxcsbm4lCN%2BcVbJfwmm7z9eadsOcKItgFuErQuIf%2BL8D4QCFPyYdx0yY5eUNr9uO1SMqg7ghOpTIMg2qHhIc%2Fs10xrNiCHjJNtYdChvojuHomyOIYLv8Z4iwj6ldqXcGeAjtYqwMMQunXPNartrSxZ%2B%2BUJVunXsDOdulWMveAosnn%2FJ9%2FZz%2FZzFPskS%2F4L5L%2B1mxZj1SEzFJJikdC%2BVqgeuRVMf9s8veD%2FvGvSA%2Frefc6xQsUxtDsQjoSgcmqoz4gw2vDdI%2FLqteoZRCsLuX%2FRIjtN213nm59HRooeKHS9CfVpdb62lQAFoQLWp13mn6DnFM2%2BXS9W1UPtonx4A%3D%3D&checksum=1142980093698510bb9b7349432dafe300a43d70da35
 
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How did the eBay panels workout are they worth the investment?
 
Annie Hope
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Just received them a few days ago, and not sure what to do from here to test them for efficiency.
 
Jeremy Baker
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Maybe the short circuit current is a easy test. Do you have a digital multimeter?
 
Zachary Cahill
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Multi-meter would probably be the best to make sure you are getting at least the 12 v and see what amps it's putting out.
 
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Annie Hope wrote:Just received them a few days ago, and not sure what to do from here to test them for efficiency.



Yes well, gosh. Since I have lived off grid all solar for 15 years, I have gone through trying to outsmart the systems like this so many times that my best advice is, YOU DO NOT NEED TO REINVENT THIS WHEEL.
Anyway you are not yet equipped to test " efficiency" sorry but unless you are an EE with a few hundred thousand $ of equipment at your disposal, that is a false errand.
Look on the back of the panel. learn to understand what those terms mean. here is a simple how to. https://www.altestore.com/blog/2016/04/how-do-i-read-specifications-of-my-solar-panel/#.X08dK8hKhPY
Now obtain a multimeter capable of reading DC Amps. Many cheaper meters will only read AC amps, which in this case is a meaningless number.
Test the VOC, this is the "open circuit voltage" this is NOT what you may receive under load, but it is what you need to know to compare to the back of the panel specs. that means put the red probe in the positive and the black in the negative. If you do not have an indication on the panel of which is which, you can pull the cover and look at the direction of the diodes, but you need to up your game on this stuff first. Lots of internet resources, most are confusing.
Do not kill yourself. DC can do the same damage as AC, most amateurs (like me) do not believe this until we make one mistake and if lucky we pick ourselves up, and feel sick for quite a while. A single 12 volt panel is unlikely to cause any issues. But if testing a full array, just pretend you are trying to catch a 6' rattler by the neck.
OK compare your full sun VOC readings to the spec. Remember all the " ratings" for ac and dc appliances are a range. 120 VAC can be 110-125 at any given moment. 12 VDC can be 11- 14 If in range move on to the ISC which is the dc amperage. Set the meter at DC amps in a range comparable with the spec on the panel, put the probes in the + and - and make a note. compare to the spec on the back.
All you have done, ( all you can do) is see if the panel produces what the manufacturer says it does. If you have bought a quality panel you have just wasted a bunch of time, because it will produce what it specs. If you did not, you have just wasted a bunch of money. Panels are freaking cheap now, go for the ones that offer LONG warranties and have been at it long enough you can expect them to be there 5 years on. Jeeze when I started I was paying over $700 for not much over a hundred watts. Now you can buy excellent quality for a buck or less per watt. Your real issues are the balance of system components.
 
Jeremy Baker
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Decent summary.
I think there’s a need for a way to test strings of panels easily. I’m not sure if my strings are performing like they should. One obvious problem is the dirt on them. I’ll try to avoid flat solar arrays in future. They collect dirt and are hard to clean. The next problem is that isolating a problem panel is difficult. Ive read  there’s expensive and technical ways to test the strings.
Good luck with your system.
 
Michael S. New
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Jeremy if you have multiple strings, just test at your combiner. To get accurate readings I have pulled the + and - from the combiner panel and tested in the open, (carefully) If you have only the one string, I mean if that is the entire array, test at any point in the balance of system, like the DC breaker before the CC. But that would not isolate any losses in the PV path for you.
Yeah I would be tilting those panels a bit. Truly horizontal is not going to provide maximum yields, or much yield at all I think, during much of the year. An old rule of thumb which I followed, was latitude plus 15. But newer calculations have shown that to be too steep for best year round yield. I have one array at close to that, 45 degrees@ true south, (32 latitude) and another just below it at a lower pitch, more like 35 degrees. The lower one consistently produces more amps even in winter.
 
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