Power Generation

Ragged Jack Farm is powered primarily by a twelve panel solar array and eight 6 volt 430ah batteries. The twelve panels are split up into four sub arrays consisting of three panels each.  Due to room the sub arrays are split between two mounts. Each panel is rated for 260wattsand are wired in series for a total of 115volts.

Originally, the panels were going up across the peak; the house is a chalet design with a high 12/12 pitched roof facing a view not built for logic.  So to keep things interesting the plan changed fairly last minute, day before construction kickoff.  The peak was going to require a lift which was unavailable and this was my only week off to do this. So a new plan was formed…

To be honest, most of this construction was rough sketches and measurements for a material list.  After spending the one sunny day that week – luckily, the first day – watching the yard for shadows and sun rays.  The best location was the back of the house.  Quick math and no worry about blocking part of the bedroom glass slider, two columns of landscape oriented panels stacked three high (one array) will span about ten feet.  Despite offset door spacing, it worked out perfect!

The yard seems to be mainly rocky fill which made digging the piers improbable – time wise, impossible.  I placed the ten foot vertical runners on top of concrete pads roughly three feet apart and lagged to the house.  Branching from each runner is a seven foot leg projecting horizontally about two feet from the ground.  A short leg holds the other end up and a slope of 45° about ten feet long completes the mount base. Six of these were used in all. At my latitude a 45° angle is best for year round stationary positioning.

I had an idea of utilizing dock connectors as heavy duty hinges for a tiltable frame.  This didn’t end working out, but I still built a “quick connect” frame for attaching the racking system to the bases based on this original idea.

I used an Ironridge racking system to easily mount the panels.  These attached to my frame be simple L-cleats. Then aluminum rails connected to them and the panels to the rails.  Quick and easy.

I was also provided four 50foot MC4 wires, one for each array.   The first step was to snip each one in half, one for the positive end and one for the negative.  Then each array was wired into a PV combiner box that feeds into the power center.  Excess leftover lengths of the MC4 wires were used to ground the panels.  There is an arrestor wired in and each array has its own breaker within the combiner box.  Since each array is wired in series, there only needed to be one positive and one negative line per array.  So each MC4 cable was cut in half creating a maximum run length of 25 feet from panel to combiner (minus misc connections.)

The inverter is a Magnum MP480030 with a prewired Midnite Classic 150 charge controller.  The power center (inverter, charge controller, etc) takes in an AC feed, in my case this will be from my generator selector panel but could also be a grid line connection.   This allows me to utilize a generator autostart module – Magnum AGS-n – to autostart my standby generator if/ when needed.  Along side these devices is a battery monitor – Magnum BMK – that monitors the battery temperatures and

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