Recommend SolaX X-Hybrid inverter for solar energy generation

Discussion in 'Energy' started by Ash, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Mentioned briefly in another thread in this forum, I thought I'd dedicate a thread to the product itself and give a preliminary (and progressive) working review on the product for what will continue to be an important part of self-sufficiency and energy-smart living. I would like to give an unbiased, non-marketing style report on this system for the benefit of those who are interested in solar power and its pros and cons in the current environment.

    The non-technical stuff: it's a solar power generator like most others we know, but with a battery backup service and the ability to provide real-time and long term reports on energy generation and consumption. The battery backup serves to charge during the day from the excess energy being generated by the solar panels that is not used by the household, and then kick in seamlessly whenever power consumption exceeds power generation. This is typically in the evening and night but may be during the day when there are multiple high energy appliances being used (one large fridge, ceramic cooktop and washing machine working simultaneously may be enough to exceed the energy being generated through the panels for example).

    Solax produced a short video that explains this quite well:


    The theory of it sounds great, but the Australian set up seems to have a crippled Emergency Power System (EPS) that cannot kick in automatically when grid power goes down, whether day or night. This requires a switch to be activated before the batteries supply the household so someone has to be physically present when this happens so the essential equipment can keep running. No good for computer systems requiring a seamless electricity supply.

    The limitations on my part were further that Origin refused to allow for energy export, even at their measly 7c/kWh, so any excess energy I generate is wasted, and any supply I require from the grid because I use more at night than what my batteries can cope with will be added onto my energy bill. Lots of places there of squandered opportunity for self-sufficiency, and I have to be extra savvy with energy generation AND consumption for this to be financially worthwhile.

    More later.
     
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  2. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    The technical stuff:
    SolaX X-hybrid inverter model no. SK-SU5000E
    4.6kW inverter with 6.5kW Seraphim (25 x 260W) solar panels
    http://solaxpower.com/products/sk-su-tech/

    The general set up is described here:
    http://solaxpower.com/product/x-hybrid/
    http://energyoptions.net.au/solax/

    Batteries ordered are two 2.4kWh Extra2000 LFP batteries with real-time display of status
    http://www.solar360.com.au/files/Extra2000 Data Jamie 4_23 (1).pdf
    http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/solax-power-hybrid-energy-storage-systems-and-batteries/

    And more marketing information on this video:


    More to follow again, for my initial personal experiences with photos...
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2016
  3. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Looking forward to that!
     
  4. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Yes looking forward to this too Ash. Sounds like a great system.
    Just a question, batteries always seem to be sticking point with cost being their big draw-back.
    Without getting into your personal business of what the system costs, how cost efficient are these batteries?
    Can you provide a ball-park figure of each battery and their life expectancy?
     
  5. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    The Pylon Extra 2000 batteries are considered second to the Tesla Powerwall in cost effectiveness, measured in $/kWh. The reference is here: http://www.cleanenergyreviews.info/blog/2015/11/19/complete-battery-storage-comparison-and-review

    One reviewer said that the $/kWh measure is inaccurate but it's one of the better comparative parameters we have.

    One 2kWh battery costs about $2,500 quoted from the solar company that installed it. This price is said to drop significantly in about 18 months. They are suggested to last 10 years in environments <35 degrees C and 8 years in <45 degrees.
     
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  6. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    It's up and running, clocking about 24kWh per day that we're using, but I'm not sure how much of this is being provided by the panels and batteries - I still haven't got the online portal running to tell me these figures. If I did, I would have found out sooner that Ergon put me on Tariff 31 for my hot water system, which is not solar, so all the battery power must have been going to this overnight... :mad:

    So I am calling a local sparkie to super-sleuth a way in which I can have the panels feed the hot water system by day so as not to draw energy by night.
     
  7. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Nothing's ever easy, hey mate.....o_O
     
  8. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I had a discussion with my electrician friend. We both figured there was no point in keeping the Tariff 31 (10pm-7am economy rate for hot water systems) because all that would be doing is drain the precious battery storage power, probably burning them out because of how much power they siphon out (well over 2.5kW with a heavy load of about 15A). There would be a substantial supplementation of power from the grid just to achieve this, and defeat the purpose of having battery storage overnight since all the other appliances needing power 24/7 (fridge in particular) would end up needing the grid anyway.

    Transferring the hot water system back to a Tariff 11 (full-priced rate but able to be used any time) with a timed meter that only allowed for the hot water system to draw electricity during peak sunlight hours (say 9am-2pm) would ensure that the electricity generated by the panels actually goes to the hot water system by day and not needing to be charged by night. This would conserve battery power for the fridge and any other appliance we'd like to run through the night, like fans or A/C (for summer), electric blanket or A/C (for winter).

    I'm yet to see what the difference in the electricity bill will be as we have not yet been issued our first bill :quiver:, but I would not like to wait around to figure out whether it will be cost effective or not to make the switch, since all the indicators are pointing towards using the most out of the panels during the day, which would minimise power usage from the grid altogether both day and night. Does this logic sound practical and make sense?
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
  9. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Yeah that sounds logical to me.
     
  10. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Here is the general set up of the system indoors:

    The inverter (white panel box) is connected to the switchboard and the batteries in this arrangement and makes a modest amount of noise for cooling the internal components, which is what most inverters would do. It isn't a great deal quieter than other inverters I have come across, old or new, despite their marketing the new product as being a quieter system. The battery cabinet currently houses two batteries but has the capacity to hold five.

    This is the bottom of the inverter panel, showing the number of connections to and from, including a wi-fi broadcaster for feedback to a computer logging onto the local server to provide real-time data on power usage, storage and generation.

    This is the front panel on the inverter with the basic real-time information on the system. As far as I'm aware, it displays the current and total daily power usage as well as battery capacity remaining at a glance on the home screen. Dive into the status menu and you can see what energy is being produced by the PV panels, how much is being drawn from the grid, and the more details electrical data on the battery power (individual voltage, amperage and capacity which are beyond my level of understanding for practical use).

    These are the two batteries I have in at the moment. They are interconnected, charging and discharging at pretty much the same rate, which decreases the burden on each battery particularly when being drained by high power appliances like hot water, electric oven, kettle, pumps, etc. The network cable sends information to the inverter, and another communication cable was sent from the inverter to the main meter box for an uncertain reason. There is no high voltage cable being sent from the inverter to the main meter box, which baffles me how it all works...

    This is the battery control panel up close showing the status report on the battery. It is a nice little touchscreen that enables you to again dig down into specific detail on the health and welfare of the battery, again well beyond my scope of comprehension. Nevertheless it seems to be a reasonable power backup system, but I have no other system to compare with and I am told the technology continues to improve such that even Li-ion systems may become less favourable.

    Overall, seems to be a decent system but then it better be for a price tag of over $13,000.
     
  11. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    That's not a bad price really...

    What noise does the inverter make I wasn't aware some inverters made a noise - mine doesn't?

    Overall, it looks like a nice neat job Ash. It'll be interesting to see what savings it gives you in the long term - it's got to help that's for sure!
     
  12. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Hmmm, Ash, I generally have no idea what all of the above means (electrical stuff just isn't my forte) - but did you end up getting the system you thought you were getting? Have they managed to engineer it to do what you wanted?
    We're considering either a Tesla system or Sunny Boy (German system - this is what our solar system is, so you'd think it would integrate more readily). Despite a 6.5kW system, we still get quite large power bills (I actually wondered whether all the panels have been switched on, as we were told this should be heaps for our house) but we do run a wine conditioner system full time. (Hate to imagine what the bills would be without the solar power/hot water).
    We're still at the "estimating pay back time" stage, so I'd be interested in following your progress to see what you reckon about efficiency.
     
  13. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    How many panels are there?
     
  14. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    "Him indoors" (haha) tells me it's only 5.1kW this morning! There's 21 panels for power and apparently another 4 for hot water...does that sound about right? Guess those missing 1.4 kWs could be making the difference! (Doh)
     
  15. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Well, a larger inverter does help I suppose but at the end of the day it will only process the energy it gets and that's why in my case we intend to expand our panels in the future because we have a 5kw inverter with 27 panels, which rarely peaks at 5kws throughout the day. That means, our inverter is consistently working below its capacity.

    Now that we have paid off our system, we're looking to add more panels and since they've come down in price over the past 3 years it should give us a savings compared to if we forked out the money for the extra 12 panels on the original install - this is the plan anyway... :)
     
  16. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    The systems are (and should be) getting more affordable as the technology improves and is more commercially viable.
    The inverter makes an intermittent mid-frequency whirring sound. Probably in the order of about 40-50dB. So not excessively loud but enough to notice it in the background when working in the shed. For those who need to install it in the garage, as long as it is not against a wall adjacent to a bedroom I don't think it would be an issue.

    I'm OCD when it comes to maximising the efficiency of the system, so I am hoping to get the grid input to be zero or as close to it as possible. I know this can only be possible with at least one, if not two, extra batteries, and the hot water system to be charging during the day when the panels are generating more electricity than we can use and store. Currently they are draining the batteries at night completely on account of Tariff 31.

    Oskar, I'm quite electrically illiterate also, but I do know that the way it was set up was not what I was told it would be. Basically, during a grid outage, we will not have our battery backup automatically feeding power back to the house. We will still have a blackout. The only power we will have available is via a double power point that was installed as an extension to the batteries for this purpose that I physically have to go and connect leads to and choose the appliances I would need to keep powered. I just can't see why the batteries cannot just seamlessly continue feeding the shed and main house with power in the case of a blackout. But that's just my ignorance perhaps on what is and isn't possible with the circuitry.

    In your situation, are you feeding back to the grid? And if so, do you have the higher rebate rate? That situation would be the best, like Mark's, where there is a 5kW inverter with 6+ kW of panels to maximise power generation feeding back to the grid and getting top dollar from your system. I think that set up would offset almost all your electricity costs even in winter. My situation, not being allowed to export anything to the grid, unfortunately means that unless I have enough battery backup to store excess power generated by the panels, all the electricity not being used is totally wasted. I was sold an underutilised PV system and I am hoping to rectify this with time when I can save up for another battery.

    There are 25 panels.

    I didn't know you could allocate some panels towards the hot water system. That would make a lot of sense if you're feeding back to the grid.

    That's right Mark, especially in winter when the peak energy would only ever be for an hour or two, more panels means more time generating a greater capacity of electricity. You have the right set up and future plans...
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
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  17. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Hey Ash, I'm not sure how the solar water system works...it's not your traditional drum on roof type of set up...we have 2 tanks, a little one that constantly cycles hot water around the house, so you never wait more than a few seconds for the water to get hot...then an enormous tank. I think the water gets pumped up to the roof...but I don't know what happens to it then! The solar systems seem to be quite separate for house power and water (but I could have that all wrong!)
    We're on a crappy rebate rate - we were renovating when the better rates were available, and didn't want to risk the system getting damaged while we rebuilt the house, so we missed out. So it's not that efficient for us to feed back to the grid - as our rate during the day is significantly less that the peak rate we have to pay in the evening. So a battery would be ideal as we could then draw back down the energy generated during the day.
    You just know though that as more people become less reliant on the grid, the govt will have to jack up the fees just for being attached to the grid. This of course will be to maintain our gold-plated poles and wires!
     
  18. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    That sounds like an elaborate hot water system - a little reservoir closer to the destination makes sense when there is a fair distance for the water to go between the main tank and the shower head. It would have a booster system though for when there is insufficient sun to heat the water so it would either be gas or electricity.

    The ominous signs of the times will see the big brother of the energy suppliers indeed charge the self-sufficiency seekers most of all to justify their existence. The cost-effectiveness of self-sufficiency starts to become less attractive financially and will be left to only the have-mores. :shock:
     
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  19. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Just as an update I have only just managed to set up the online monitoring system for this solar set up as it required a wi-fi extender to have the signal from the inverter in the shed reach the NBN modem in the house. The monitoring helps me know how much energy is generated by the system and if there are any issues with the system. I did see a repeating problem with the panels only generating about 1.5kW in the morning (green curve) before I had the system shut down and rebooted at about 10'oclock. Since then it generated the expected 5kW and managed to meet energy requirements through the day.

    Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 6.02.43 PM.png

    The fault according to the electrician is likely to be in the PV array wiring on the roof so I now have to have it repaired less than 6 months since installation.
     
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  20. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Bit of a bummer Ash.
    I've just turned my inverter on for the first time today, no idea if it did it's job or what as i don't have the monitoring system set up yet.
    I like the information you get on your monitoring system. Hoping mine gives some decent data....
     

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