Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Solar Solace

Back in November I was very lucky to be able to attend an installer workshop at  AM Solar in Springfield Oregon. I really didn't know what to expect but I had heard good things through multiple like minded nomads that these folks are a class act and stand behind their service. I am relatively new to the field of photovoltaics with my only experience being a small 100 watt single panel system I installed on our boat last year. It was that single panel that lit a fire in me to go bigger and much farther with this technology when it came to preparing our coach for long term boondocking.
I also wanted to use our coach as a sales tool for future mobile installations while we're moving across the country so when I started thinking about our system, I wanted to be able to represent what I see as a quality, properly sized, properly gauged, properly installed system. With that in mind, it took the entire week at the workshop before I was able to make what I feel is an informed and balanced decision about what and where to buy.
MPPT or maximum power point tracking technology is amazing and Blue Sky was a real winner when it came to MPPT response time which is crucial on short days or partial shading events. Hands down this was my pic for ease of programming as well as aesthetics. Although the IPN ProRemote is not required, it is needed to adjust the 3024i for custom applications.

Every time I had the chance, I was playing with the different controller remotes both Tristar and Blue Sky. I liked different things about each of them but for me, if I'm demonstrating a remote to a potential customer, the simplicity of Blue Sky was far more attractive in my opinion. "In addition to giving you the full range of operating information for the controller, it also has a full feature battery monitor when you add the optional shunt kit . By combining an advanced battery system monitor and charge controller display into a single unit, the IPN Pro Remote eliminates the need for a separate battery monitor."

Panel choice was tough. I was torn to say the least. Our curved roof begs for a thin film panel but with the current available technology, panel efficiency for amorphous thin films are inferior to modern high efficiency monocrystalline. With that being said there is also the sales factor. It's hard to sell someone a panel that you yourself are not using. I wanted a panel that is readily available so I went for three GO160's  from
 AM Solar . These panels are a powerhouse with 160 watts in the same size frame as a Kyocera 140 watt. 
With 320 square feet of roof space, we are not too concerned about running out of room with a larger panel but we are concerned with upgrading in the future with three more GO160's so placement will be with that in mind. Our total for stage 1 of our solar system will be 480 watts capable.

Much like many of you, I wanted to pick through the kit and only pay for what I couldn't build or source on my own but after learning about each and every part's quality and reason for being and then factoring in the cost difference between buying bulk and having to find things retail, I came to the conclusion that I was getting a better deal then I probably deserved.

Little details like glue filled heat shrink and UV resistant ties, stainless screws, silk screened vinyl labels, marine breakers and disconnects, oversized 4 gauge wires and high quality lugs are included in their Signature Series Kits.
Here's another example of quality. AM Solar has developed their own Rocker Foot mount system. Made from laser cut stainless steel. I used to think I would probably build my own until we mounted a set on a Sprinter Van during class. There is a lot more going on then what you can see in this photo when it comes to these little gems. All in all, I was extremely impressed with the whole operation and I hope to go back in the spring to do some follow up internship with AM Solar and the crew. As my personal installation goes, I will blog each detail as I go and hope to have the system operational by spring. Thanks and stay tuned.


  1. So awesome to see this - I wish I could have been there for the workshop too.

    I can't wait to someday see the panels on your bus.


    - Chris // www.technomadia.com

    1. Thanks Chris! As soon as I feel a spring thaw, I will be mounting panels. My indoor space won't accommodate our bus so fair weather is key. I will however have everything else in place by then. Greg wouldn't sell me his experimental panels, maybe he was saving them for you? Haha!