Post Install notes

Mine has been running for a week now, albeit with only half the panels mounted and installed, as I didn’t have time to mount the rest yet this visit – I’m back in Shanghai, China again now..

It finally went live on the 14th. Its working out well though, although I am getting slightly less output than I expected – panels are in theory 4800W total for 16 panels x 300w, but looks like they’re really 250w panels, as we get about 3.9x KW peak off the 16 we have mounted at the moment after inverter losses etc.

Everything survived the massive storm that hit Cape Town last weekend too, so that was a relief!

Still need to do paperwork for council approval, and arrange a new digital 4 quadrant Landis & Gyr meter so I can eventually “feed into the grid” as a SSEG (similar to Arthur), but we’re generating electricity on a separate circuit in the interim, and our power is down to pretty much zero usage daytime.

The Landis & Gyr people are a pleasure to deal with too. They answer questions, and are quite helpful. Thanks again to Arthur for their details!

Although the whole install so far was fairly painless given that it was all DIY, I did have one issue.

My DC switch for the panel side decided to fry itself almost immediately, and lose its magic smoke (black and stinky that it was). It was only there as an extra safety precaution, so it wasn’t a huge problem, I just wired MC4 connectors to the cable from the roof (after safely disconnecting from the roof), then plugged directly into the inverter.

I think the DC switch was just bad from the factory, and the inverter does have an off/on switch for DC, so it wasn’t a calamity.

Other than that oh faaark moment, its all been great.

I need to do an update on the blog to show current working status, then its the fun part of documenting all of it, getting council signoff’s, paying more money to get a bidirectional smart 3 phase meter (+-R4k with gprs and ethernet) , and becoming a small scale provider! (or not, depending on what the base charges will turn out to be).

Total costs:

Panels – approx R1600 / panel x 30
Inverter – approx R20,000
DC, AC Cabling, Mounting – approx R5600
Distribution panel side + 3 phase, 1 phase, dc switches etc – approx R500
Total – about 75k

I did get dinged for storage charges for 20k due to incompetence at freight forwarder, and clearance was expensive too, as the freight forwarder *****ed me on that too, that came to about 40-50k for that portion of the shipment, but I did have other stuff in the container, so its hard to calculate it out.

Assuming I use 40k for shipping, clearance, and taxes (no duties on panels or inverters), then looking at about R115,000

Installation took us 2 days (3-4 hours of work a day for 2 people), and there will be some ancillary costs for electrical signoff, and other paperwork bits n bobs, and of course a new meter, so for my 3 phase setup, total will probably be about R120,000 all in*

*At todays RMB-> Rand rate. I did buy most of it when the RMB was at R8.5 or so, but we are at 10.2 ish again, so used 1-> 1.6 for rmb->rand values.

Its grid-tied, and although I can go off-grid completely would probably cost me another R100,000 to do so at current prices in China for equipment + batteries.

Still, I think its a fair investment, as electricity is only going to go up in price in future, and if / when I do move, I can take it all with me! (Or sell it to the next buyer!)

I’ve learned from the experience though, and will probably be up for doing it again, as it was quite painless aside from the freight company royally *****ing me. There is a fair amount of interest in smaller (single phase) systems from everyone thats seen it, and I can put together a 4k + single phase inverter setup for reasonable prices for family+friends in future, and hopefully make a bit of cash doing it!