paul has a new video  

 



visit the thread.

see the DVDs.

  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Solar Power Shed Project  RSS feed

 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey everyone,
Ben here, taking a break from woodgas for the summer to focus on this solar project I have been working on called solar station.

There is alot to love about solar, but I think it could be done better. Right now each install is custom, so it's slow. We as a society are adding more power consuming gadgets faster than we are adding renewable energy. My big idea is to make solar power scalable. Send these puppies off an assembly line like Henry Ford. To do that they need to arrive complete. Pre-installed, wired, inverted, with batteries. So I thought about it and the common garden shed is the ideal delivery mechanism for weapons of mass electrification.

By combining solar with a shed you have more flexibility on orientation toward the sun. You have a place to put your batteries outside of the house if they ever (god forbid) caught on fire. They are alot easier to clean. (dust and pollen) And you get extra space for storing stuff, outhouse, office or even a guest bed. Plus if you move, you can take it with you!


I put together one of those crowd funding thingies and despite the fact that I'm a noob (mistakes were made) and I launched it right before a major holiday it's doing alright.

What's in it for you?
-We have cheap photo rich plans for backers
-We have video workshops and other goodies so you can build your own
-Can't build right now? No big. You can send a plan set to a school instead and teach a whole bunch of young minds
-Plus a portion of the proceeds benefit permaculture shenanigans (of course)

Here is the link to solar goodness.
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-station-fast-simple-solar-power-at-scale/

COMMENTS & FEEDBACK APPRECIATED (unless you are complaining about the price of a complete unit

Oh, I forgot to mention that the money being raised is going toward construction of a BIGGER Solar Station, v3, to power homes and charge cars or even tractors! We are 1/3 funded, so we have already begun building the larger station and will update the campaign page with our progress throughout the month. Note: We can't finish v3 without reaching our goal, so please share a link to this page with your network so we know that visitors are Permies.

 
Amber Samandulugu
Posts: 27
Location: Ghana 05°31′12″N 00°28′48″W: Rainfall 83 inches, Temperature 83 degrees F, Elevation 260 ft
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Is it battery storage or grid tie?
 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yup, there are batteries in there.
 
allen lumley
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
58
books fungi hugelkultur solar wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
- Everything posted below is personal opinion only!!! If I am wrong, or if you just think I might be please feel free to comment below !

Every once in a while a project comes along that goes 'against the tide' And Delivers a useful or even a superior product ! This MAY Be one !

When IKea when to the flat pack shipping and D.I.Y. assembly by homeowners it was initially derided ! It has proven its worth, and has many imitators today!

When an Article/package is shipped from State to State a Common Carrier Rate is a baseline for figuring shipping costs ! This Common Carrier rate is figured
Two Ways, Weight or Volume, Volume is self explanatory, if one item fills up the shippers vehicle he will figure his total costs and profits based on his costs to
move between point A and point Z

Also If the unit is tiny but very heavy, the shipper may not be able to legally carry any other 'freight'- thus he will figure his shipping costs based on his move
between points A and Point Z

Independent truckers are allowed to bid for Almost all Shipping jobs from any where to any other where, It is just as important for Them to turn a profit !

-IF I understand correctly the model that is being proposed here, an almost completely assembled unit to simplify final Assembly and Erection( with a planned
South or South-Western facing view of the solar arc of the sun's path across the sky)- Then I must seriously look at the inflated shipping costs of this
pre-assembled Unit against a more modest flat pack shipping plan !

Flat pack shipping also seems to have an advantage of providing rigid materials to provide additional protection of the still very fragile Solar Cell and Electrical
components !

While shipping everything together will slightly reduce shipping costs the packaging to protect the fragile components mentioned above will make the receivers
job of inspecting for hidden damage of some rather expensive components difficult if not impossible while the Shipper is held up during a Self-protecting inspection
by the Home Owner / final receiver !

If a '' from the Back of an Envelope '' Build plan is followed -there is little doubt that the total shipping costs added up Should be more than the total shipping costs
of a carefully assembled flat pack. However even with a flat pack D.I.Y. build the total shipping costs of all of the materials will certainly create a ''Sticker Shock''
moment for the receiver !

As a possible alternative to the build plan As I understand it, perhaps a franchise could be offered to local knowledgeable/trainable Contractors for assembly
of the " solar shed " components and a local delivery reducing the Regulated Common Carrier Shipping costs.

This is where I sit back and await further comments ! For the Flag ! Big AL
 
Amber Samandulugu
Posts: 27
Location: Ghana 05°31′12″N 00°28′48″W: Rainfall 83 inches, Temperature 83 degrees F, Elevation 260 ft
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The reason I asked about the batteries: I see small ventilation. Do the batteries need more ventilation than that? When I read "hydrogen ventilation for the batteries", I always thought it was more than that. Its a good idea. I have an idea to put one on a market kiosk here in Africa and use it the same way you are illustrating but for charging cell phones in addition to internet connection for when the power goes out. Here it is called DUMSOR. It means "on/off".
 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Amber- I used off the shelf lead acid batteries so some ventillation is required if you want to spend time in the shed. I have a vent low and a vent up high in a sealed chamber so convection can handle it. I feel confident enough that I hang out in it and so do my kids. We will go to sealed AGM batteries in the future to avoid the need for this.

Allen- Flat pack is a good idea if there are local contractors to do the assembly.

I don't know what this project will turn into. It just seems like one of those ideas that is so obvious and yet its rare to see a solar shed and it doesn't seem to exist on any manufactured level at least not that I have found. Maybe a few small shed shops somewhere do it. The greatest untapped resource is mirror neurons. Billions of mirror neurons in billions of people. aka Monkey See, Monkey Do.

I think this will become like the tiny house movement. Lot's of people building their own versions to sell locally. It's not patented, but I don't want to venture into open source either because it has become an ideology of everything must be free by people who largely don't spend any of their own money on R&D. Even a relatively simple project like this still cost me over $15k in parts, trial & refinement and this darn Seattle rent. F Microsoft!

I would be most happy selling a shitload of plans and conducting workshops for local builders. I'm ultimately going to build my own little eco village with the various tech I've been working on. Making stuff is hard on the body. I've been building for 20 years and most of my actual profits end up with the massues or chiropractor!

Thank you for your feedback.
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 401
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
3
forest garden greening the desert trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For those that want to build from plans without hiring any contractor help, what is the Bill of Materials for everything included in the finished product?

I suppose you have a chicken and egg problem in that until your customer sends money for the plans, they don't know what it is that makes the finished product anything more than a bog standard shed with some off the shelf solar kit stuck to it. And without knowing that, it's difficult to be convinced to send for the plans. Can you give enough info away to get over this without giving so much info that there's no need to buy the plans?
 
Don Eggleston
Posts: 43
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Probably not worth it for this size shed, but it seems to me that most any solar collector/array should have provision for rainwater capture--small channels or gutters.

Don Eggleston
 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Don- I left a gap along the front roof lip for a gutter for rainwater collection. You are right that it isn't a large surface area, but depending on where you live it could still add up quick. It rains alot here. I was thinking it could be possible to put a small water storage tank inside the shed if needed. I am going to put my composting toilet in mine and a little storage tank with a foot pump sink would be nice for washing hands.

Steve- There is no doubt you could put panels on any structure and if you already have a shed that may be the way to go for economy. But this particular shed design was built to take 3 small panels or two large panels and leave the mounting studs at the corners to dig into the thick wood beams. Plus the roof angle is optimized for solar performance. The nitty gritty is running the wires in a clean way and having appropriate placement of the batteries for sealed convection draft of any off gassing so its safe to sleep inside. The goal is to have space that is clean enough to use as an office or guest loft so it's more valuable than just a solar system or "bog standard shed." The material cost is dependent on where you live. I know many Permies readers live all over the world and will pay different amounts for things. In the US, I paid a little over $3000 for all the materials and hardware to finish it inside and out.

If anyone is debating the value of a $25 detailed, photo rich plan set then it's probably not for them. No big deal. I know that having a solar shed has been a great addition to the property because it gives me a place to put security lights at the end of my driveway, I can plug in my electric weedwacker without using 50 extension cords and my kids have taken it over as their playhouse (ah! peace)

What is your time worth? I know one extra trip to the hardware store (to get the right part) in my truck is gas money & time. More than $25, but hey everyone is different.

Thank you for our questions and comments. Keep them coming. Enjoy your Sunday.
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 401
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
3
forest garden greening the desert trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There's definitely value in a good ebook on how to do something like this.

I have the skills to build a solar shed without an ebook, but I would still happily pay $25 or more for a *good* book that would save me time and money and enhance the end result.

Your challenge is to tweak your infomercial and supporitng publicity in a way that shows the value of the content of the ebook without giving all the info away for free.

Details like the fact it is vented for safety and cooling are the exact kind of thing I would be wanting to see within seconds of taking the click bait. That's a selling point, and you didn't have to give away how you did it to make that point.
 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good point Steve.
 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just an update for those following. We are now at 1500 watts of capacity on the version 3 solar station and will add 500 more soon.

We went with a barn door style fold out thinga majiggie. Pardon the tech speak. Here is a photo or two that speaks louder than words:

 
Laura Emil
Posts: 56
Location: northeastern USA
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm going to rely on the adage "there's no such thing as a stupid question." I'm no techie, just a landowner who wants to reduce my carbon footprint and am clueless about how many panels I'd need for what uses. So I tried searching "how many watts need to power a house" which led me to a consumer reports page with the following advice for folks purchasing generators:

Small portable: 3,000 to 4,000 watts; $400 to $800 for most (more for inverter models)
What it can power: The basics, including items such as...

Refrigerator (600 watts)
Microwave (1,500 watts)
Sump pump (600 watts)
Several lights (400 watts)
TV (200 watts)

Midsized portable and small stationary: 5,000 to 8,500 watts; $500 to $1,000 for portables; twice that for stationary
What it can power: Same as small models, plus...

Portable heater (1,300 watts)
Computer (250 watts)
Heating system (500 watts)
Second pump (600 watts)
More lights (400 watts)
;
 
Laura Emil
Posts: 56
Location: northeastern USA
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
oops - wrong button before I asked my questions - are these wattages about right? Is there a better place to get that info (in 'keep it simple, sweetie' format) ? Looking forward to getting my set of plans; thanks for the work you're doing!
~laura
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 401
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
3
forest garden greening the desert trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you want to power stuff from solar then look for 12V DC appliances where possible.
Microwaves are fussy about the quality of the power supply, they need an alternating current with a good sine wave. You will need a very good quality inverter. I'd recommend ditching the microwave from your plans and allowing urself to save money on the inverter. I also doubt an $800 generator will run a microwave.

Some of the appliances you listed run on DC, but have an AC power supply with transformer. It's wasteful to put your solar DC current thru an inverter then put that AC current into a transformer and power a DC device such as computer equipment. It's not trivial to convert your DC equipment to run straight from solar, but it's close to trivial for someone who knows what they're doing. Whether it can be done legally by a professional is another matter.

U've listed 800 Watts of lighting, that's a huge amount of power for lighting a small space. DC led lights will need a fraction of that.

Once u've got your inverter and charge controller and fridge and computer running in a small space, you probably won't need a heater.
 
Bill Flicks
Posts: 11
Location: SouthEast Oklahoma
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been living with solar exclusively for 10 years... to Laura, I suggest a Kill-a-Watt meter($25-$35) and plug devices around your home into one for a few days or a week at a time. It will give you a good idea of how much power each item you actually have uses. Big thing I've found with solar- do with what you have until you can get more. There's no across the board formula that's going to be accurate in every situation- solar exposure varies(both by latitude and average cloudy days/year), not all panels degrade at a predictable rate, some batteries are better than others, wiring, inverters, distance- all contribute to inefficiencies. If I had to give simple advice to someone taking the plunge, it'd be two fold: A) take the plunge, B) assign a budget for your solar system and learn to live within it's constraints.

For what it's worth, I run a meager 1.2kw w/ 2250ah in battery(never use more than 30-40% and run an electric kitchen. I'm taking a break from the 100 degree heat with a window unit blaring on me and run power tools constantly.

To Ben: GOOD.

I KNOW systems like yours have a place... $25 does not seem too much at all- I really think it's low, particularly if it was a well-thought out how-to instead of the typical online 'downloadable pdf' or poorly photocopied/stapled packet. I worked for a company that handcrafted(garage level engineering) self-contained boat dock power systems that were approved by the Corps of Engineers, though much smaller. Built around quality components(Xantrex, Kyocera etc..) and ranged 85w to 260w incoming with only 450ah max in a lockable aluminum dock-mounted unit. Business was good until everyone that wanted one had it. They don't wear out fast, hah.

Too many positives- it's easily modular, could be built in a range of configurations(500w to 2000w or so?) and adjusted to compensate for solar insolation... Can be made very secure, etc... Only thing I'd offer- Stick with lead-acid deep cycles. I'm paying about $150 for t-105's these days but finally got an 8 battery bank of AGM's with similar specs to do the Pepsi Challenge with- they just don't take the punch. I'm fine checking and adding water as a monthly routine in exchange for the added 20% or so I can squeeze out during those long stretches of cloud cover come December(I never actually run them too low).

Cheers and BEST of luck.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Laura, using solar to power a house is way more complicated than just how many watts an appliance uses. That's the tip of the iceberg. We need to understand electricity, voltage, wattage, AC, DC, grounding, and that age old math question everybody hates, if there's this much coming in on one end at one rate, and some going out on the other end at a different rate, how much do we have in the container? We have to understand why a system needs to be 24 volts or 48 volts (or more) for a house. We need to understand the differences among batteries.

Deep cycle batteries are used for solar, they are very expensive and need to be cared for regularly (once a month or more in summer) and topped off with distilled water only. Battery terminals need to be protected and maintained so they won't corrode. We need to understand wiring batteries in series and in parallel. We need to understand what watt-hours are.

All of these calculations require sun every day, which doesn't happen. Three days of overcast can drop a solar system too low, so there have to be backup ways to cook, have lights, run a printer, refrigerator, etc. , which often ends up being propane or generator., which requires a separate shed from the solar. Then there has to be a separate shed to store gas in, away from the shed of the generator or any other flame or spark.

And if the system is on batteries, recycling batteries hasn't really happened yet. There's toxic fluid in them that only one company is recycling, Toxco in Ohio, and it costs $200 to get one battery there (small systems have 8 deep-cycle batteries) by train or truck (diesel gas) then it gets shipped to France by even worse fueled ships where it goes through another stage, then it gets shipped to Germany (more diesel) where it ultimately gets reused. Not green at all. And obviously, the majority of batteries don't even make it to Ohio.

Controllers that are just green light/yellow light/red light are the cheapest, but they don't even begin to tell you what you need to know. Within that green range is a huge difference of voltages that can mean the difference between going into darkness with enough power to use appliances, or not.

That said, living somewhere rural where the power goes out a lot, learning all this and living with it is a great project.


---------
Ben, so you've probably noticed how heavy those batteries are, and that you need a serious foundation for a solar shed. Lead acid batteries cannot go up and down the way deep cycle batteries do, and don't have the watt hours that deep cycle batteries do. Since the deep cycle batteries are giant 6V batteries that are very heavy, that means way more weight, requiring a very well-built foundation and floor that doesn't heave in frozen ground or sink into saturated ground.

A battery shed has to be pretty big to fit all those batteries that are sitting side by side and wired specifically to suit the system, sometimes 10 feet isn't long enough. The size of the shed limits the number of panels, and therefore limits the number of batteries, so there is that calculation.

Is that metal building grounded with a rod deep into the ground?

The panels need to be able to withstand 110 MPH winds. I get 60-75 several times during the winter, and I'm not even on top of a mountain. I've sat in bad wind storms just watching the panels, making sure that some crazy, swirling wind doesn't sneak up behind them and blast them in the wrong direction.

If the battery overflows for any reason it will eat the metal pretty darn fast, so a wooden shed on a treated foundation is a safe bet. One battery I got overflowed because it was defective, but it did enough damage before I got it out of there. Over-filling batteries can cause them to leak.

The controller and all the electronics should be in a separate building or addition, there should be a wooden wall between them because the off-gassing of the batteries is a serious thing and will eat through teeny wires in those very expensive pieces of equipment. Both building and addition should be ventilated properly separate from each other. Batteries need to stay cool in order to get the most life out of them.

The inside temperature of either building should never get too hot because the equipment will shut down. That's very easy to do in any building in the summer. It obviously can't be under a tree because the panels need complete access to the sun all day long. You lose DC wattage if the line between the panels and the building is too far.

How would the panels adjust tilt for the differences in summer and winter?


 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There needs to be plenty of room to walk and sit next to the batteries. It has to be high enough to stand up in, store gallons of distilled water in, and for folks with a bad back, they need to be able to sit on a stool to put water in the battery bank. There needs to be shelves for all the supplies that are necessary for taking care of panels and electronics.

Call me crazy, but electricity in a metal building makes me nervous.

Have you actually lived with one of these sheds and powered something 24/7 with it?
 
Laura Emil
Posts: 56
Location: northeastern USA
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for all the info. I KNEW this wasn't going to be simple (hahaha!) but I was looking for a starting point to help me set priorities on which of the million projects I want to pursue, OR hand off to others when I find the right folks to share the land I'm paying off. This info is just such a starting point; and while I see it's far more complex than I have time to fully pursue, it gives me enough to begin looking for more specifics. (I think at my 'j-o-b', I even have access to one of those meters that will let me test my elec use; guess it's time to borrow and start recording some data.) This is a thread I'll keep watching with interest. thanks again!
~laura
 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for all the great feedback everyone.

Kill-a-watt is a very valuable tool. I love mine.

The building is wood with metal siding. It has a series of 4x4 wood timbers underneath to support the weight.

The batteries in the recreational model are a marine deep cycle that is good for both storage and cranking power for a backup generator if needed. When we install batteries in the v3 we will of course go with big bad ass deep cycle batteries.

Has anybody found any other battery that they like? I saw the comment on AGM having a bit less juice. I was actually looking at a company in Utah that makes a seawater type battery. It will require some more research and real world testing. Tesla has the lithium batteries coming to market and you can get the forklift version of them now which is an option. There was a nickel type battery that was supposed to be pretty indestructable, but harder to get out of china.

I am powering the tools to build v3 with v2 electricity. I don't work 24/7, just 10/5 and not all of those hours are electricity consuming.

The v2 is a recreational model for camping and outdoor fun, charge an rv or tiny house.

Just added the last 2 panels onto v3. At present I still have plans to make the whole little building track the sun in the future, but obviously site conditions and budgets vary. A windy spot might be better served with more anchoring.

 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ben, your website says you are charging cars and homes (implying a whole house BTW), is that true?


"Turn up the juice! We are charging homes & cars
Together we can change the world. Your support buys the needed materials"
 
Ben Peterson
author
Posts: 49
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cristo- Charging cars and homes is what version 3 and the crowd funding project is all about. If you watch the video it goes into more detail on what v2 is for and what we are doing with v3 development. Just updated the crowdfunding video a day or two ago. Thanks
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ben, how long does it take to charge a car with your V3 shed?
 
Whatever. Here's a tiny ad:
Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/digital-market/digital-market/Permaculture-Playing-Cards-Paul-Wheaton
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!