My first solar panel

Posted by Jeroen van Agt in Solar energy 1 Comment»

My experience with my first solar panel and how this started the big change…

Plaatje van mijn eerste zonnepaneel

During the Solaris campaign of Greenpeace in 1999 in the Netherlands a good friend of mine has bought three solar panels. Unfortunately he was not allowed to mount them on his balcony of his apartment. The association of property owners did not like the looks of it.

When my friend asked me if I wanted to buy one of his solar panels it seemed like a good plan. The investment was not too much (~450 euros) and I heard that the solar panel would pay itself back on the long run. Unfortunately, I must confess that the panel stayed unused for 3 years in my barn. Every time I had an excuse not to install it (it looked like a lot of work. Looking back in time I still regret this, why will soon become obvious ….

Finally I started with the installation of the solar panel. The solar panel has 110 Watt peak and comes with its own inverter. This means that the panel can directly be connected to a power outlet. Very simple.

Alt Mijn eerste zonnepaneel

Together with the solar panel there was an mounting system for mounting the panel on a flat roof. This mounting system consists of two triangular shapes made of composite material (looks durable) and a basis board used for mounting the triangular shapes. The solar panel can then be installed on top. It was put together really fast. Why did I wait so long with this? After the assembly I placed the small pv system on my roof and added some heavy stones the fix its position on the roof. The directive for the weight is about 50 kg per panel for locations inland and 75 kg when you live near the coast due to the higher wind speeds.

After having drilled a hole through the outer-wall (with an angle, starting outside to the inside, up to prevent rain entering my house) I put the cable through the wall. The only thing I had to do was add a power plug and connect it to my power grid. It’s that simple.

To find out how much power the solar panel actually provides, you can use a special measuring device.

Alt Energie Check 3000 meter

I found a good tip on the Dutch solar website Zonnestroom Producenten Vereniging (ZPV) how you can change a cheap energy consumption device into a a more expensive power generation measuring device by just changing two internal wires. The energy consumption device, the energy check 3000 of the company Conrad, can be bought for 25 euros. A typical power generation measuring device cost around 75 euro.

Although it is an 110 Watt Peak PV panel, I have never seen a higher yield than 88 watts. Meanwhile, the panel is already 3 years on my roof and is still working like a charm. Until now I never had to clean it. Over the past 85 days, ie 24.7 kWh generated. This would means it’s about 112 kWh / year. The yearly average is probably a little less because the last 85 days are more in the vicinity of the summer than the winter (last measurement 06-06-2006).

Since my first solar panel started delivering my own power my enthusiasm about solar energy really started. There is nothing so good to see how on a sunny day just out of the blue, 80 watts of power is generated and all you have to is watch. I already started calculating how many CFL lights you can run on this one panel.

The next thing to see, is how your official power metering device of the utility company can run backwards. So what do you do, turn off enough electricity consumers in your house so you power generation is higher than the consumption. Well that is not as simple as it sounds. I started with by biggest power consumers: refrigerators, PCs, lamps, waterbed, wireless router, etc. Only then I realised how much equipment I had running in my house, all consuming power: TV on standby, video-recorder, various adapters (laptop, mobile, scanner, phone, etc.), battery charger. I could have switched the whole groups in one go using central power switch, but I found this exercise very instructive. After my discovery through the house, where I switched off these (small) power consumers one by one, one thing became very clear. I can gain a lot by start saving power.

Finally I succeeded in running my power metering device backwards. What a beautiful thing to see.

This was a first step on my journey for renewable energy. This tasted for more and currently I have 12 new PV panels of 125 Watt Peak each on my roof. Making it a total of 1500 Watt.

1 reply on “My first solar panel”

I like the enthusiasm you display in this article, Jeroen. I hope that your enthusiasm is infectious and will inspire others to follow your example.

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