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Old 09-05-2012, 06:17 PM   #15
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Has anyone here ever taken advantage of the tax deduction for outfitting your trailer with solar panels, etc?
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Old 09-06-2012, 12:06 PM   #16
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Amorphous cell panels like the Unisolar are not very efficient. But the build concept is great
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Old 09-10-2012, 04:52 PM   #17
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Pics below of first unisolar panel ePVL 144 panel going onto my 27" safari. Bought the panels online from ebay for $165 shipped. Manufacture date of the panels is August 2011. I can't tell if they are A stock or B stock - they look fine and they seem to perform within specs so far.

As I was scoping things out on my roof, I found that if I extended the bracket where the TV antenna rests (I used a 24" piece of aluminum bar to do this) I could roll out the whole 18 foot panel without needing to cut it anywhere. The panel lays out fine underneath the widened antenna rest.

I needed no roof penetrations at all for this install - the panel sticks to the roof, and the wiring comes up through the refrigerator vent. I used a length of 10-2 SOOW cable for power transmission, tying together the black and ground conductors in the cable for the positive feed, which is roughly equivalent to a single 7 gauge conductor - and using the remaining 10 gauge white conductor for negative. I bought the appropriate MC-4 connectors on Amazon to connect the cable to the panels.

The only thing that hasn't gone perfectly smoothly so far is that the adhesive on the back of the first panel is sticking to the pull off plastic protective covering that you are supposed to peel off to expose the sticky stuff. Going to wait until nighttime when things are cooler to finish up - expect it will release better then.

One panel is currently putting out better than 100 watts at 30 volts even though partially shaded. I'll wire the second panel in series later; together they should be generating over 275+ watts at 70+ volts.
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Old 09-10-2012, 05:01 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by ddruker View Post
Pics below of first unisolar panel ePVL 144 panel going onto my 27" safari. Bought the panels online from ebay for $165 shipped. Manufacture date of the panels is August 2011. I can't tell if they are A stock or B stock - they look fine and they seem to perform within specs so far.

As I was scoping things out on my roof, I found that if I extended the bracket where the TV antenna rests (I used a 24" piece of aluminum bar to do this) I could roll out the whole 18 foot panel without needing to cut it anywhere. The panel lays out fine underneath the widened antenna rest.

I needed no roof penetrations at all for this install - the panel sticks to the roof, and the wiring comes up through the refrigerator vent. I used a length of 10-2 SOOW cable for power transmission, tying together the black and ground conductors in the cable for the positive feed, which is roughly equivalent to a single 7 gauge conductor - and using the remaining 10 gauge white conductor for negative. I bought the appropriate MC-4 connectors on Amazon to connect the cable to the panels.

The only thing that hasn't gone perfectly smoothly so far is that the adhesive on the back of the first panel is sticking to the pull off plastic protective covering that you are supposed to peel off to expose the sticky stuff. Going to wait until nighttime when things are cooler to finish up - expect it will release better then.

One panel is currently putting out better than 100 watts at 30 volts even though partially shaded. I'll wire the second panel in series later; together they should be generating over 275+ watts at 70+ volts.
Nice I have my 128 watt "not on yet" and am thinking of getting another... What battery charge controller did you get or using? This is what I have left to get. I am looking at the mppt controllers as they use the voltage better.
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Old 09-10-2012, 05:18 PM   #19
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I'm trying to do this on a budget, so I am starting out with an Intronics MPPT 25, which was $205 shipped from the manufacturer. I don't intend to go above 300 watts, so if it works as advertised it should be a great fit. So far so good - it brought my batteries up to 13.5 volts today on the single panel and is currently holding them there just fine.

Once I get around to measuring how it is doing, if I don't like it I'll probably step up to around $380 for a Morningstar ts-mppt-45. The other $200 range MPPT controller I found, from BZ, has horrible reviews.
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Old 09-10-2012, 06:13 PM   #20
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I'm trying to do this on a budget, so I am starting out with an Intronics MPPT 25, which was $205 shipped from the manufacturer. I don't intend to go above 300 watts, so if it works as advertised it should be a great fit. So far so good - it brought my batteries up to 13.5 volts today on the single panel and is currently holding them there just fine.

Once I get around to measuring how it is doing, if I don't like it I'll probably step up to around $380 for a Morningstar ts-mppt-45. The other $200 range MPPT controller I found, from BZ, has horrible reviews.
I was looking at a brand called Tracer. Out of China. and I kinda figure most are made in China so it may not be a big deal. But this one is made in the US and only $60 more. And i'm guessing if there is a problem I can get it fixed.

Thanks I will take a good look at it..
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:20 PM   #21
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I've been looking at the Morningstar Tristar 45 mppt and the BlueSky 3024 mppt unit. They are a bit more than I need but but there seems to be a gap between 15/20A units and 30A+ units.

2 144W unisolar panels would feed into this.
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Old 09-11-2012, 02:24 PM   #22
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With the BlueSky 3024 you'll need to wire your two panels in parallel - it has a recommended maximum input voltage of 45 volts and each of the ePVL 144's put out up to about 35 volts. One thing about the Morningstar is you can run at roughly 70 volts by wiring your two panels in series, so you can gain a couple of watts by avoiding transmission loss.
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Old 09-30-2012, 12:21 PM   #23
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I had some time yesterday to perform the initial surgery on one of the ePVL-144 panels.

Important disclaimers - Based on what I've read on the Internet, the internal structure of the older PVL panels vs. the newer ePVL panels is probably different. Similarly, I only have cut into an ePVL-144 - so I don't know if the inside of a -68 or a -136 are different. So what you see here may not be exactly the same if you don't have an ePVL-144.

Here are the steps:

1) Look at the front of the panel - it's obvious where the individual cells are - they are about 9 inches long - and there is clear black line with silver edges you can see between every two cell. This is where you will make the cut - only in-between two cells.

2) Remove the white peel away plastic from the back of the panel - I used a single edged razor blade - in the area where you want to make a cut.

3) Peel away the sticky black mastic from the back of the panel - about 3/4 inch on each side of where you will make the cut. It comes off more easily then I thought it would. I found mineral spirits worked to clean up any leftover spots.

4) Now look carefully at what you are seeing. With the black mastic gone, you can see what used to be the black line in between the cells is actually empty space - about 1/8" of clear, transparent plastic between the cells. You can now also see the wiring bus that ties the panel together, including a bypass diode.

The colors you see are important - the copper is obviously the wiring bus. The silver color is stainless steel, and is the cell itself - the actual cell is silicon deposited onto a stainless steel sheet. The remaining black color is internal insulation within the assembly - this is going to be important later - because you will short out the panel if you don't keep the various elements insulated from each other. The little black square soldered onto one of the copper conductors (at the bottom of the picture below) is a bypass diode.

The reason I think the layout may have changed between the PVL and ePVL series panels, is that in this new ePVL panel the bypass diode is in a pretty good place if you are trying to cut panels - I saw references on the Internet to the diodes running across the area you need to cut. In this panel, the diode sits on the back of the cell, separated from the cell by black insulation. It also has copper leads, which should make the panel much easier to cut and re-assemble.

5) Use a brand new single edge razor blade to cut through the panel, right in-between the cells. The material is tough and it will take several passes. Very carefully stay in between the cells, and make sure to leave yourself enough of the copper lead connected to the bypass diode to have something to solder to later.

6) Once you separate the panel, you will see there are two more conductors that are buried within black insulation - one on either edge of the panel. So there are a total of four conductors. When re-assembling the panel, you will be re-connecting these conductors with solder and wire.

This is where I stopped last night. It is relatively safe to assume that the four conductors mean that the overall panel contains two strings of cells - it would make sense that every other cell is connected in series to either the left or the right set of conductors, and that the two strings are connected together in parallel at the end of the panel.

Having two separate sets of conductors also means that it's probably that you could find a bypass diodes on both the left or right edge of the panel - on the right side of one cell, and on the left side of the next one. So which side the diode is on probably depends on whether you cut above an odd cell or an even cell.

If I have some time later today I'll put the voltmeter on the cut panel pieces to try to verify what each of the conductors actually is carrying, and I'll start to work out a procedure for re-connecting the cut pieces.

The four pictures below are

1) The upper side of the panel, showing the line between two individual cells.
2) The underside of the panel, in the same place, with the mastic removed.
3) A closeup of the bypass diode
4 A closeup of the cut edge, so you can see the embedded conductor that is otherwise hidden by black insulation.
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Old 10-02-2012, 04:14 PM   #24
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Thanks for the update. I have still have not come across any ePVL-68 panels so would be interested in splitting the 144 panels.
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Old 10-03-2012, 07:27 AM   #25
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Thanks for the update. I have still have not come across any ePVL-68 panels so would be interested in splitting the 144 panels.
Amazon: Amazon.com: ePVL-68
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Old 10-03-2012, 11:29 AM   #26
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unisolar | eBay
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:28 PM   #27
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Made some progress on re-wiring the panels.

It was not hard to expose the four conductors and solder leads onto them. I used a razor blade to cut the outer membrane and expose each conductor - on each side of the panel, one of the conductors is best reached through the front of the panel, and the other through the rear. Then I soldered 12 gauge wire leads to each internal conductor. Took about 30 minutes and I was very very careful.

In testing the panel with my volt-meter, my latest theory is that the conductors on the right side of the panel are the main power bus, and the left side carries bypass current. I had previously thought that both sides of the panel were power busses. Why do I think this - when I measure the voltage on the right side of the panel, it is producing about 14 volts. On the left side, about two volts. This is consistent with one cell on the left, and seven cells on the right. It really doesn't matter since I am going to re-connect everything anyway, but I was curious.

Don't panic if you cut the panel and you no longer measure voltage at the connectors. You need to close the circuit on the power side of the panel - see the bottom right of the picture - if you are going to measure the output of one segment without re-connecting the whole panel back together. Otherwise you will be trying to measure an open circuit.

As you can see in the picture below, the panel segment is still happily producing 14 volts- and survived an 80 pound Labrador retriever walking around on it pretty well too!

My main concern at this point is physically reinforcing the connections. I don't want the solder joints to carry any mechanical stress, or they will eventually break off.
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Old 10-05-2012, 04:41 PM   #28
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$99 buys the 9'4" x 15.5" 68 watt panel at Solar Blvd...

Unisolar PVL-68T 68W, 12V Thinfilm Roof Laminate
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