SMA inverter extended 10-year warranty

It is now coming up to 4-months since I had my solar panel installation, and finally this week after repeatedly chasing-up the installers, my extended SMA 10-year Sunny Boy inverter warranty certificate has arrived. Even towards the end, this was not without complications. The warranty paperwork did arrive 11-days earlier only to be returned because the serial number on the certificate did not match that of the inverter. Something that potentially could prove to be a very worthwhile check before filing away.

With the feed-in tariff agreement documents also recently sorted, this now concludes the original installation of the south, south-east solar panel array. I can now, hopefully look forward to many years of trouble free service.

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!

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

Solar Panel Generation – First Month Stats

Today  marks my first month since my Sanyo solar panel array with Sunny Boy inverter was installed. Within a previous blog, on 27th November after just four days, I posted my first solar electricity generation statistics. Maybe at that time I set my expectations a little high, especially considering it was the end of November with the darkest and shortest of wintry days still to come.

At that time I could not compare these solar stats with other systems in the area. Even now I can not compare like for like electricity harvesting systems. I have however, now that I have my own system, come into contact with others who have offered some feedback. Also since the 7th December, if you have been following these pages, you will have noted that my father is also now an owner of a solar array. This will enable future entries to include statistics for this system also.

As already mentioned, I am a solar novice and this was and still is all very new to me. I’m promoting this blog as my journey in the hope that it will help others. Maybe inspire and encourage others to do the same. Or pessimistically, dissuade them!

Below I have published my first month’s electricity generation statistics for the period from 24th November to 23rd December 2011. If you have not been following, these figures are for a 2kWh solar array facing south, south-east. During this first month the system harvested just over 53 kW of electricity, averaging 1.77 kW per day. The chart also shows some interesting spikes of generation hitting highs of almost 3.5 kW.

Solar electricity generation statistics - month 1

Solar Panels Ordered But…

Having committed to purchase my solar panel array and system, it did come at a cost. Partially down to my initial reluctance to commit caused by the problems already mentioned, and also down to the solar rush caused by the pending tariff changes – this has forced me to accept a different module to enable the culmination of the order.

Although still a Sanyo panel, the installer informed me that he could not get the more efficient Sanyo HIT-N240SE10 panels in time but could procure the larger HIT-H250SE01.

He also stated the panels would be at the same price as already quoted and that they would also give me a further 74.8 units per annum.

This could well be a good thing as I originally wanted ten of the slightly smaller panels, but due to a roof surface area restriction noted at time of survey it was found that I only had room for eight. So now with the bigger HIT-H250SE01 module I will gain a little more from the space available.

So, to confirm, my order has now been placed and the system will be made up as follows:

8 x Sanyo HIT-H250SE1 modules

The SANYO HIT(Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer) solar cell is made of a thin mono crystalline silicon wafer surrounded by ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers. This product provides the industry’s leading performance and value using state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques.

    More Clean Energy
    HIT can generate more clean Energy than other conventional crystalline solar cells.
    Efficiency 20.8%
    Module Efficiency 18.0%
    Output / m2 180 W/m2

1 x SMA Sunny Boy SB2000HF Inverter with

    Max DC Input Power: 2100W
    Graphic display
    Bluetooth technology

1 x Schuco Module Mounting System

I have also taken the opportunity to have a full distribution board upgrade at the same time. The current board has long been overdue for an upgrade.