Solar Panel Electricity Generation – New Heights

What a day – new records broken despite the weather not being perfect.

My little 2kW array of Sanyo HIT-H250E01 panels started the Sunny Boy inverter flashing just before 7.30am today and was then generating electricity shortly afterwards. That’s the earliest yet, or what I’ve seen so far anyway. This was also after a slightly frosty night so there would probably have still been frost on the panels to deal with too.

I checked the inverter display again while approaching the best generation time of day, this was around 11.30 and was pleased to witness my highest peak of generation so far. With a peak of 1821kWh, this far eclipses all previously seen figures including when I reported several records broken on the Feb 2nd. This is now giving my solar system 91% of its possible output. And that figure means a lot in that I now know that I have a solar array that’s working well – OK I still want the other 9%, but for February that’s got to be pretty good.

The day ended with a generation figure of 7.72kWs – yes another best! And as the end of February approaches my solar system is now generating for about 9.5 hours per day – starting at 07.30 and ending around 17.00.

The months not out yet and I feel there’s still more personal solar power generation records to come in February… watch this space!

Chasing-up the FIT Agreement

Over the last few days I have been trying to tie up a few loose ends left outstanding from my solar panel installation in November. Although only paperwork issues they are still important and I would rather get them sorted now rather than any later.

With the 3-month mark now approaching since my solar system array was installed I have now started chasing up on my Scottish and Southern Electric (SSE) feed-in tariff (FIT) agreement. I am not overly troubled by whether the application was accepted because I already know from a call made in November when I called SSE microgeneration to confirm its receipt that the paperwork was in order and that the feed-in tariff rate of 43.3p would apply from my installation grid connection date. It’s really now more of a concern after learning that other solar pv systems installed later than that of my own have already received and returned their contracts. Could my paperwork have been lost in the post? Could it be delayed due to the problem encountered with the electric meter spinning backwards on bright days and then subsequently changed over by the utility company? I came to the conclusion that 3-months wait is long enough!

I am not really any the wiser now – after calling the microgeneration department at SSE and explaining the situation, I am now awaiting a call back from their payments team to clarify matters. The gentleman who eventually took my call did confirm that it’s probably down to the meter swap scenario delaying things slightly, but as it does seem to be taking some time he would pass-on for a call back.

Hopefully I will receive that call quite soon confirming that the details are on the way – if not I will give it another week before chasing again – Another reason for wanting to get this resolved is that  I’m also going to start missing solar generation meter reading submission dates. Although I won’t lose out on payments – they will just be delayed.

Another issue that I’m still to resolve is that of the Sma Sunny Boy extended warranty policy. This warranty extension was purchased as part of my solar panel package and should really have been received at the time of system handover from the installers. I did question its lack of presence at the time, but was informed it would follow. I was concerned, but accepted this in goodwill. I have now chased the warranty policy on three occasions only to learn that it will be with me before Christmas, it’s coming in on the 27th Jan, and finally I have now learned that it will here on the 1st March!

Solar PV System Specifications

This week has seen the addition of a new fixed page to the blog – the Solar system specification section. This page can be found direct from the main links at the top of any page and will hopefully serve as a quick look-up and reference for anyone wanting to know the specification of my South, South East facing solar pv array. As my blog has also been featuring my fathers East-west split solar system, I have also included this specification too.

How to monitor solar power generation through the SMA inverter

How to monitor solar panel power generation through the SMA inverter using the Sunny Explorer software.

I have been monitoring the yield of solar harvested electricity produced from my Sanyo solar panel array by linking to the SMA Sunny Boy 2000HF inverter via bluetooth technology. As previously advised of the 25th November, When I said that I will order a bluetooth dongle to place in one of the spare USB ports on the side of the computer.

Equipment / Software Required

Computer – I’m using a desktop pc running Windows XP SP2.

SMA web site states other supported operating systems are Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit) and Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).

Sunny Explorer Software – Free download from SMA (see link below)

Belkin Mini Bluetooth AdapterBluetooth Dongle – I’m using this Belkin Mini Bluetooth Adaptor. It’s the only item I have purchased to monitor my system. I gambled on compatibility and for the price (see details and spec here) it seems to work fine with my set-up. Some laptops have bluetooth built in so it’s worth checking if you have got this facility already. Drivers that come with the device support Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Monitoring

I have primarily chosen this method to monitor my solar system due to already having most of the equipment needed at hand. Also I do like having a more detailed system of reporting than just that of the all time total generated figure displayed on the generation meter. The front panel of the SMA inverter is useful but only really for that day’s yield – and that’s when it’s accessible and not located out of reach in the loft. The current solar generation level is another useful feature from the lcd display. I use this to determine if my solar panels are reaching their maximum yield and capacity. You can access more from the Sunny Boy inverter panel by tapping the display twice, but you only then get a brief overview of the yield for the last sixteen days. As my system inverter is easily placed for access I tend to use this method for a quick check when required.  It’s also ideal to check things are working without booting up the PC.

The bluetooth adaptor purchased recently came with the required drivers for my operating system. After installing these I next plugged the little adaptor into one of the spare USB sockets. During installation you have to answer a few simple questions and finish off by re-booting the system.

SMA Sunny Explorer Software IconNext, to monitor the SMA Sunny Boy inverter via this new blue tooth device I had to download and install the Sunny Explorer software direct from the SMA web site at http://www.sma.de/en/products/software/sunny-explorer.html.  Again, installing this was fairly straightforward, and once finished left me with a little desktop SMA Sunny Explorer icon.

When running the Sunny Explorer software you have to first locate and connect to the inverter. I guess if you have lots of bluetooth equipment close-by, it may be just the case of choosing the Sunny Boy inverter from the list of found devices. It found only the one connection in my case. You can also download a manual and check system compatibility and full set-up instructions.

Sunny Explorer Plant Assistant
The software will store details of your PV array as a PV plant that can then be selected to open the bluetooth connection.

Select your plant from the list and then press the next button to continue.

Blue tooth connection
This should then open another window showing a laptop establishing a connection to the SMA inverter.

Once the connection has been established you will then need to enter the plant password.

The default password in shown on the window. After entering and clicking the next button again it should then open the Sunny Explorer home page similar to that shown below. At this stage you should also notice a blue light on the inverter front signifying connection.

The left side panel shows your inverter details – serial number and plant name. The main panel shows performance and current yield. And below you will find tabs linking to various graphs showing daily, monthly, yearly and total statistics for you solar system.

Sunny Explorer Main Page

Daily Statistics GraphMonthly Statistics Graph

Yearly Statistics GraphTotal Yield Statistics Graph

Arrival of the FITs Contract

The SSE energy supply contract arrived today, but not for my system. Although the solar panel array was installed two weeks later than that of my own, it was my father’s feed-in tariff agreement (FIT) that was received in the post this morning.

The agreement came with a covering letter thanking him for appointing Scottish & Southern Electric as his FIT licensee. The document confirms that he has been registered for the FIT scheme with two copies of the contract to sign. One to be retained and the other to be returned as soon as possible in an enclosed pre-paid envelope.

Also stated within the communication are the submission dates that the meter readings must be taken and conveyed. This is the reading from the generation meter that records all yielded electricity from the sun. It is to be read and submitted to enable quarterly payments for FITs generation and export. These figures can be emailed or phoned through on or around the required dates.

Record Week Of Solar Generation

Wow what a week! This week has both been encouraging and dispiriting all within seven January days. I’ve set four new generation records for my 2kW solar harvesting system. Three of which were very welcome. The other I would rather forget about, but for the sake of this blog I will bring myself to mention it once more!

First, just to confirm that due to the installation date of my PV array, my generation week runs from Thursday to Wednesday. Now then, to get it out the way I reluctantly report that my first record of the week was that on Monday 30th January I generated my all time low of 0.17kW. In fairness it was a dreadful day, very grey and wet from start to finish.

On a much more happier note I am pleased to report that during the same week I also broke three other records since having my solar panels installed. Even with the day mentioned above, the week turned out to be my best ever week’s generation yielding over 24kW of electricity from the sun’s rays. The other records for the week included the greatest yield in one day at 5.86kW and finally, if I have not bored you away, I also saw the highest generation peak from my array of Sanyo HIT-H250E01 panels at 1.464kWh that works out to be 73.2% of its maximum possible system yield.

Things are moving on a lot from two months ago when I reported very poor results in comparison. As this is only now the end of January I look forward to presenting even greater achievements from my little solar energy system!