SOLAR RESET.


We continue to stumble along and find our way. In this case, I think its important to share the process and ignore the embarrassment of “being wrong” as we go along. We need to walk our sins out with you. It’s peculiarly important in this case. As my needs for personal self-aggrandizement are modest and diminishing rapidly with age, cool.

As many of you know, I spent a personal fortune on a photovoltaic power system for my home in Morrison Colorado in 1998 – about $275,000 for what would today be viewed as a quaintly modest 15kW system. More recently we had a 24kW array installed here at the EVTV shop at a cost of $63,000, which was actually rebated by AmerenUE to $48,000 of that amount. And more recently yet, we added a little over 13kw as a DC test array using 40 Panasonic HIT panels that we just use for testing.

So it would appear solar power is pretty far along as a technology – perhaps even mature.

Our work with EV’s is really pretty much done. That doesn’t precisely mean we won’t do them anymore. But our mission, to promote the adoption of electric vehicles and magnetic drive for personal transportation is pretty well over. We kind of lingered in the tinkerer and innovator stage of this, but appear to be rather racing through the early adopter phase which looks like it barely occupied 18 months. The demand has basically “hockey sticked” or turned vertical and I take the Model 3 demand as evidence of that. Volkswagen is now issuing press releases indicating 16 new electric models. Capitulation by BMW, VW, GM, and essentially ALL automobile manufacturers. Forward from here, there is little EVTV can contribute to that process. Our impact will diminish by the hour. We won. An irony of winning in all the endeavors of my life has been to make myself irrelevant as fast as I possibly can.

Am I premature in this analysis? Well, I would hope so. Peering into the future rather demands a bit of that.

But it has caught many by surprise our sudden interest in solar technologies. They too have “hockey sticked” and indeed OVER HALF of ALL solar installations in the United States have occurred in the past 24 months. Of about 53 GW of total generation capacity, some 25 of it was installed in 2016 and 2017. So it might appear we’re steering from one area that is taking off to another.

Perhaps. But I find a deeply disturbing situation in Solar and we need a resteer or reset and we need it quickly. It’s rather part of an unholy alliance between the utility companies, legislators, and a backroom tie between the grid and Underwriter Laboratories and the regulatory schemata to require all installations comply with UL listed equipment that directs our entire solar effort toward the benefit of large stake holders at the expense of the small. The wild west nature of current installations has caused them to come quite out of the closet on this and they have dropped the facade. The irony is that it is actually NOT in the interest of the large stake holders, neither in the short term nor in the long. And I am incensed by the pathological stupidity and lack of vision of those managing those assets.

And it all centers on a central issue with solar energy that has never been satisfactorily resolved – electrical energy storage.

Elon Musk has been the central figure correctly steering the adoption of EV’s. He’s done less well on solar. We’re never shy about offering him advice. I ordered a Powerwall TWICE, the original and the newer one. We’ve of course never received one. Most of those who have are in Australia. He can’t get Powerwall installations “approved”.  That’s why they’re not available.  They’re not legal in most venues.  We’re not quite so bound by legalities at EVTV as we might be as a large publicly traded company.

Those cluck clucking and admonishing about “following the law” are simply woefully ignorant of the history of technology and what the purpose of laws are. It is kind of a unidirectional tool to CONTROL YOU and at any point if you find the powers that be breaking exactly the same law willfully and with malice aforethought, you will be shocked at how little is done about it. It is simply excused and swept away with vague and unsatisfactory misexplanations.  It has nothing to do with fairness or justice or being a “nation of laws”.  It is about the powerful protecting their position.  Let me assure you, slavish adherence to law would have prevented you ever seeing a global Internet through which you access these words today. It would not have happened.

It is brilliantly obvious that the sun doesn’t shine at night, and it is rather dim through hurricanes, thunderstorms, and blizzards. The energy generated by photovoltaics MUST be stored to be useful. And we have idiotically designed a photovoltaic world where the grid is used AS the battery for energy storage, which it is curiously and almost uniquely ill-suited to perform. 97% of all photovoltaic rooftop systems in the U.S. have ZERO battery storage. They pump excess INTO the grid, and withdraw shortfall FROM the grid, using it AS the battery. And if the grid goes down, hysterically it can’t make ANY power at all by DESIGN of a grid that really has no storage of its own at all.  With a rooftop of solar, almost everyone invested in it cannot charge a cell phone at 5v and 1 amp if the grid goes down.

The solution is inevitable and inescapable. Lithium batteries WILL be the default storage for solar electrical power. There are other chemistries and indeed other storage forms. They are simply unworkable as a practical matter. Much lower efficiencies, much higher complexities, and extraordinary cost define them all. Oachim’s razor commands the simplest solution. And that is lithium ionic batteries.  And I actually view it as somewhat more practical to have a couple of large batteries in every building in the country than to have a few enormous battery sites in the Tesla fashion.

They are expensive. But not so very much so. And in an irony of my life, the solution is held in the problem of the electric vehicle. Batteries. It is ALWAYS about the batteries. Our universal suspicion of batteries has driven automakers to offer long warranties of eight years and 100,000 miles OR MORE, on batteries for EVs. ALL Tesla electric cars since the first model S delivery (not including the 2400 Roadsters) are STILL under warranty. And the very first to expire with regards to calendar won’t be for another two years.

It is also THE most expensive part ever devised for an automobile. And when the car is destroyed, the battery rarely is. But there is NO automotive market for it as a replacement. All the cars on the road are under warranty. They will be for some time. And relating the battery warranty period of eight years to the normal working life of an automobile, 9.6 years, the automotive market for salvaged batteries is destined to ever be essentially nonexistant.

Irionically, the demands for storage and power in solar installations are truly trivial juxtaposed to those in a car. A Tesla battery has to be able to deliver 350kw of power for brief periods. Solar installations, at least for homes, would reach 20kW only in large homes and only for a few seconds.

Battery capacity does diminish with age and use. For a 75 mile range Nissan Leaf, reducing that range to 45 miles severely limits the utility of the car. It does little to a solar installation, indeed we can START with the 45 mile range battery and use it for years. Unlike the car, we don’t have a range, and having two elderly Leaf batteries or even three hardly strains the storage capacity of a house or barn.

Absurdly today, if you have a rooftop solar installation in the U.S., if the grid goes down, you have a 97% assurance that you can’t make ANY electrical power even with a 50kw array on the roof with full sun shining on it. You are grid-tied, so to speak.  After investing $50,000 in a solar system, you can’t charge a cell phone until the grid comes back up????

And so we are examining this. And everything you think you know about solar equipment and solar energy MIGHT be true. I’m from Missouri. I think a fresh look is in order. And you kind of have to show me.

I wanted to experiment with using an off-grid inverter to provide the necessary AC waveform for the “grid-tied” inverters to synchronize to and so produce power even when the grid is lost. EVERYONE assures me you cannot do this.

To do so, I had to of course shut off the grid. When I did, I found my grid-tied inverters on one circuit, and the rest of my shop on another, and they weren’t connected at all. Examining the setup, I found it more than a bit bizarre although ultimately it all made sense. We had TWO grid shutoffs and when we shut them off, we disconnect the two sides. So we had to “rewire the sucker” so we could put them back together on our side of the wall.

I had noticed an anomaly with our utility bill and concluded in this video that I had one side going UP the meter and then DOWN the meter to the other side. That would partially explain the billing anomaly. I had inquired of our grid provider, AmerenUE and while they always promised to get back to me, nobody ever gets back to me.

After making this video, a number of viewers noted that my connection COULD NOT work that way. Yes and no. The separation was real, but the loop through the meter simply cannot be. Falling on my sword, I jumped to a bizarre conclusion. It’s a bizarre situation.

I have since contacted AmerenUE rather insistently. Here is a copy of my most recent bill.

 

I was pleasured to be entertained by the ever charming Ms. Kimberly Alexander of the AmerenUE Missouri Business office – an erstwhile refugee of Charles Murray’s Bell Curve. I very politely asked her to help me understand how this bill was calculated.

Note that there are TWO electric readings at the bottom of the bill Both on meter 17317959. The upper reading in blue, I happen to know, increments with my use of energy FROM the grid and never decrements at all. It shows a use in this billing period of 448 kWh.

The line below it, I happen to know, only increments when we are PRODUCING power from the grid-tied array. It never decrements at all. It shows 1101 kWh during this period.

The ELECTRIC ENERGY CHARGE at the top of the bill is a modest $37.49. And while modest, it doesn’t quite explain how I produced over twice the electricity I used, but still wound up with a due amount. And so I asked her to walk me through it.

She did. And it was impressive. First, she did so in unctuousely condescending and indeed a patronizing lecturing tone. She explained that you took the 440kWh from the top line, added it to the 1101 kWh on the bottom line to get a total of 1549 kWh. You then multiply that by the winter rate of 8.3 cents per kWh and presto chango, you get $37.49.

I waited a full minute in silence for her to catch her embarrassing 2nd grade arithmetic mistake. “Can I help you with anything else, Mr. Rickard” was the next thing I heard.

I replied that I didn’t think that her calculation was correct. She insisted it was. And I asked her to try that on her calculator. “Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, Mr. Rickard. It appears we have UNDERCHARGED you on this bill. I’ll make the correction now and it will be added to your next bill.

I have decided to BE nice during this call. And as all EVTV viewers know full well this is just NOT part of my skill set or core competency. But straining heroically and indeed in physical pain from the effort, I attempted to explain the solar installation and the raw concept of net metering and how it was supposed to work.

That caused some serious attitude on her end and I could see the fight was on. So I reined it in and asked to speak to any other humanoid in her vicinity. She replied that she was only trying to help me and she was sure she could handle it. And so I kind of blew up and told her to lose the attitude and put her mickey fucking mouse listening ears on then.

Incredibly, she must have been used to that type of blowup and indeed apparently enjoys it. She told me she wasn’t trying to have an attitude and would be happy to inquire about the bill from the accounting office as indeed there appeared to be something amiss. I thanked her, gave her a brief course on the basics of net metering and how I thought it was SUPPOSED to work, but stressed I had no idea how they were actually doing it.  She assured me something was definitely wrong and she would absolutely get back with me within ONE day – no longer.

Sounded good. Predictably enough it was FOUR days later. She did call, and said that they had looked into it. They were sending me a 12 page billing correction and would I like a check for the $2346.85 credit for the past two years.

I pointed out that the system was installed four years ago come July. She told me that they only kept billing records for the previous two years, and then noted the most profoundly spiritually life changing pronouncement I believe I have ever heard. Resuming the arrogantly superior and condescending tone of our initial contact: “You know it is the CUSTOMERS responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the billng Mr. Rickard. We of course don’t have anyone checking these things.

At this point, I was having fun. I told her, “Kimberley, let me play back what I heard, and you compare that to what you think you said. You all MAKE the electricity. I BUY the electricity. You use YOUR meter, to calculate how much I have used. You then send me a bill for it. MY RESPONSIBILITY is to write the check. And if I don’t do that within just a few days, you disconnect me. What would I know about the accuracy of the bill? On Tuesday, you carefully explained to me how read the bill and how it was calculated, and YOU didn’t get ANY PART OF IT CORRECT and you work in the AmerenUE Business office. So if YOU can’t read the bill correctly, how can it be MY RESPONSIBILITY to do so?

To her credit, she did giggle out loud and somewhat at length. Glimmer of sentience?

Compare this with Elon Musks assertion that it is the DRIVER’s responsibility to drive the car when in autopilot mode. FIVE YEARS ago I went on a raging rant wanting to know WHY he was going to give up the cart blanche pass granted automobile manufacturers by our legal system in the event of a car accident. The first responsibility is driver and driver error. And if any mechanical failure occurs it is ASSUMED to be due to the driver/owner failing to maintain the vehicle. But autopilot virtually assures that some 20 year old girl in court will be telling the judge: “But your honor, I thought the CAR was driving. It said so on the web site.”  Why would he voluntarily take on this legal quagmire by adopting this “autopilot” thing???

This month he is assuring us that it is THE DRIVERS RESPONSIBILITY to make sure the car doesn’t have an accident while on autopilot. Indeed, they have LOGS proving that the driver had his hands entirely off the wheel for six full seconds prior to the collision.????  It is the drivers responsibility to make sure his broken autopilot works?  This on a car that cannot reliably open a garage door?

And so we are on the brink of establishing lack of responsibility by declaration. If you DECLARE that it is someone else’sresponsibility, then it is. Methinks NOT. Maybe if you add some four point type in the Owners Manual. Well that’s on screen now so you can even add it to the manual in arrears.

Two solar stories have emerged since our episode. One involves a California utility that is addressing battery backed up Solar installations. They are incensed that the end users are CHARGING the batteries at the low Time of Day rate, and then selling electricity BACK during the high TOD rate period. They are buying back their own electricity and are nearly hysterical about it.  But they MIGHT support the notion of battery storage for solar installations, but ONLY if they can get an Underwriter Laboratories requirement that the battery be entirely UNABLE to charge from the grid.

This was the first time I’ve actually seen a utility note that they conspire and collude with UL for profit. UL is supposed to be certifying electrical equipment for SAFETY standards.

Actually I’ve known about this little scam for decades but this was the first time I had seen them actually talk about it in public.

What strikes you about this? A couple of things should. First, they don’t want to sell you electricity when they experience low demand and so charge a low rate for it. And they definitely don’t want to buy it back during high demand periods when they charge more for it???  In other words, they don’t even know WHAT they want. Just whatever YOU want they DON’T want. Obviously they NEED power during high demand periods and definitely need USE during low demand periods. You do realize they pay DOUBLE THE RETAIL rate in some cases for additional capacity to peaker plants and even more bizarre, they pay LOAD suppliers to absorb electricity when they have excess. Why would they even WANT you not to do storage for them and pay you for it.????? This is an eggregious case of dog in the manger without benefit of sentient life form oversight.

The second thing notable in the article was what the periods were. There has apparently been SO much solar installation in California that afternoon periods of highest level of irradiance are now the LOW rate period  when they have an excess of electrical generation capacity. This inverts the historical model where we previously used about 55% of the level of electricity at 3:00 AM as at 3:00 PM.

The bottom line is that solar installations and batteries offer a serious advantage to levelling the demand curve FOR electric utilities. But they are so myopically focused on short term business model issues caused by a relic system of monopoly rate structuring, that they cannot see the forest for the trees, and indeed in this case the trees for all the leaves. Moronic and deeply troubling dysfunctional public policy going forward.

A second story in Montanna just brazenly and without art announces that the utility companies are tired of net metering and will not survive unless the legislature removes it and replaces it with net billing – described specifically in our video this week. In this story, they actually correctly used the same terms we did in our explanation.  Net metering.  And Net Billing.

And so the war between utility grids and home solar owners I predicted several years ago is on FULL BORE. You’re in it whether you think you are in it or not. My job is to show you how to win it. But you will have to break the law. And most importantly, you have to learn to break it safely. Comic incidents and explosions that pose a danger to the community will be used to make the case for MORE regulations and LESS freedom to generate electricity at the point of use.

 

Here are our latest efforts. I advocate using full batteries from EVs as they come out of the car. But currently most of our viewers just aren’t there yet and want to deal with 48vdc banks of MODULES extracted from the batteries. Unfortunately, most of the charge controller and inverter equipment available just isn’t a very good match to the voltages in the current Model S modules. This is a subtle thing, but crucially important for safe and effective operation.  They innately want to overcharge your batteries.  And then tend to do low voltage disconnect at much higher voltages leaving you with half your capacity stranded.

We’ve commissioned a Chinese inverter design firm to modify their 12kw 48vdc inverter to work SPECIFICALLY with the voltages of two Tesla Model S battery modules as kind of an OEM version for EVTV. It will actually do 36kW peak for up to 20 seconds.  It will allow discharge down to 36v and never charge beyond 50.5.

It connects to the grid from the rear. And in AC mode it simply passes the grid through to the loads and to a series of AC-coupled microinverters. It also charges the batteries kind of bidiretionally from the grid power and/or the microinverter output. Microinverter output in excess of the batteries and loads would push to the grid if available.

On grid failure, or if in BATTERY priority mode, it works with the microinverters and produces AC from the batteries and panels to the loads. Only if the battery reaches a low level of charge is the AC grid power or generator power switched in. It even provides a generator start output.

This vastly reduces the body count and expense of such a system. It also probably breaks 30 or 40 laws in the process. But it will operate on loss of grid. IT won’t present solar power to the grid if the grid goes down. And should be reasonably safe. IF nothing else, it provides an inexpensive way to update one of the 97% grid tied systems to have battery backup.

We’ll be doing a build of a large box with 10 Tesla Modules for 50kW storage using this for a gentleman in Costa Rica I believe starting next month.

Finally we did acheive what I originally set out to do and BLEW UP our 20kW inverter by tying it to the grid-tied inverters. With two cars charging, and with about 10kW charging the batteries, the batteries reached full and automatically disconnected from the inverter. We lost all electrical power of course, but this time we blew the capacitors in the inverter rather completely with an enormous BOOM but no fire or smoke really.

I think we can repair it. But it illustrates the common wisdom that you can’t use an inverter to trick a grid-tied inverter to make electricity. Actually it doesn’t. You can. But you have to have a battery to absorb any excess and so we have to come up with a contactor control system to disable the microgrid inverters when the battery becomes full and no grid to push to. We’re working on it.

It’s actually quite easy. What I would like to do is work out some Power Line Communications (PLC) system to effect it to eliminate two wires.

 

I dismiss and indeed laugh out loud at pathetic attempts to be an activist and shrilly demand change based on nonsense global warming religious arguments. Jute grocery bags are not going to change the world. But I do have deeply held true religious beliefs that command and direct a better stewardship of our planet, its’ environment, and the lives of the humanoids living there. Not by ineffective chants and polemics and shrilly annoying anyone who might otherwise find common purpose.

I believe empowering and enabling the generation and storage of electricity at the point of use through photovoltaics and lithium batteries provides an UNBOUNDED benefit to dozens of problems simultaneously. The benefits are just incalculable. Almost beyond human comprehension. Vast and enormous arrays of filth and nast and disease-causing noxious vapors are simply ERADICATED if large numbers of humanoids see a clear and present advantage to adopting this FOR THEMSELVES.

Mandating nonsense is neither persuasive or effective. But enabling and empowering people worldwide to cut the cord and harness the power of the sun for local energy needs (and personal transportation) can truly and radically change the world for the better. Not by a little bit that is theoretically cummulative. But massively and DISRUPTIVELY.

And those who happen to get disrupted can lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.

Cynically having perhaps lived too long already, I can predict how they will react too accurately. But you never know. Hope springs eternal.

Repurpose electric vehicle batteries for local solar energy storage.  Simple. Wish I’d thought of that… who knew????

42 thoughts on “SOLAR RESET.”

  1. I am surprised that there are restrictions on connecting batteries to the grid when there are ‘ancient’ 48v lead-acid systems that offer battery storage and grid tie capability already http://www.studer-innotec.com/en/products/xtender-series/. If one were to substitute 48v Li-Ion in place of Lead Acid and an EU CE for a UL listing, you would be on your way. You might also need an additional double pole relay to isolate from the grid in the event the grid went down (to stop it electrocuting the lineman). The solar inverters could be connected to the AC-out side of the inverter per this application note: http://www.studer-innotec.com/media/document/0/an008-ac-coupling-with-xtender-1.pdf

    I don’t work for them… just a happy customer

  2. I am surprised there is so much trouble mixing Grid Tied vs Battery Storage systems. I am using a system (albeit in an off-grid capacity) with (unfortunately) 48v flooded lead acid batteries. http://www.studer-innotec.com/en/products/xtender-series/ However, it does support grid feeding with the addition of a double pole relay to isolate from the grid when the grid goes down. It will also charge the batteries (officially) from solar inverters back through the AC-out (per this application note:) http://www.studer-innotec.com/en/downloads/xtender-series/an008-ac-coupling-with-xtender-5047
    I also managed to solve the issue of dealing with too much power when the batteries are full and isolated from the grid by activating a water heater, though it could also vary the AC-frequency causing your micro inverters to shut-off. Is it possible to substitute Lead Acid batteries with Lithium Ion? If so, how much additional jiggery-pokery is needed?

    1. Well there wasn’t originally. We used to use a simple grid disconnect transfer switch and I have one now on my generator at home. It’s kind of a scam by the utility companies, in collusion with UL vaguely called Anti Islanding and exhibited in UL 1741. If you have an older system, you never did have to deal with it. It’s just new equipment and installations.

      It has caused inverter designers to go millenial in an attempt to be incompliance and still be able to perform the obvious. Kind of like a cat chasing it’s tail during a laser pointer storm.

      The corresponding strategy is put in whatever can get signed off, and then engineer your own outlaw modifications later and on your side of the wall. But you still should prevent providing power to the grid when it goes down. My strategy always goes like my original system in Denver, automatically disconnect from the grid. And you have to MANUALLY reconnect if the grid is restored.

      But I think the little inverter we have coming will actually do all that anyway. We’ll see.

      1. The same kind of thing applies in the UK under engineering recommendation G83, but it is a “simple” matter of installing a G83 compliant (i.e. damn expensive) protection relay in front. The problem is when you run into someone who won’t sign of on something ‘unusual’. I guess the MANUAL reconnect is so they know who to go after if the linesman got electrocuted. The inverter I mentioned above isn’t G83 compliant (no two pole relay) probably due to cost… my guess is that it is not the relay cost but rather the certification cost.

        I’m interested to see what you have in the pipeline. Keep up the good work!

  3. So I pose the question… What’s the difference between an off-grid inverter and a motor controller? All I see is the variability in the PWM signal for the motor speed. Seems to me like your grid-tie inverter is doing “regenerative braking” with a static PWM signal. So, of course it works.

    1. There are several, but you have the right idea. An “inverter” in the EV sense features 3 phases separated by 120degrees. An AC inverter features two phases separated by 180 degrees. The EV inverter uses the inductive coils in the motor itself. An AC inverter generally uses a split phase transformer for this duty, though some modern designs eschew it. I still like the transformers.

      The rest is mostly software.

  4. Pingback: SOLAR RESET. – EVTV Motor Verks | Car News, Reviews, & Pricing for New & Used Cars.

    1. I know I’m really supposed to be flattered by this, but I really don’t want our articles appearing on your appalling collection of clickbait items and nonsense. Is there any way you can just stop that?

  5. Jack, I’m glad you are doing this work because you are sharing what you learn and moving our knowledge quickly – at great expense to your wallet and at great danger to yourself and your building. Could you install a video camera at each end of your shop so that if you start a fire in your inverters when you flip a switch at the other end of the shop on your batteries you can spend your time exiting the building instead of walking into the fire?

    Good blog and video. We’re all sitting in the bleachers with popcorn watching you, learning a lot from your actions and enjoying the show because of your good humor. I can only imagine what shades of color you must have turned while on the phone with that Utility company representative.

    Thank you for your work. Thank you for sharing. We are watching and waiting and eager to implement the technology you develop – to address the problems we want to solve, but are unable to because there are not enough rich people like yourself willing to invest your $ in practical R&D to take us to the next level.

    On a side note, I’m glad that the Tesla, Volt, Bolt and Leaf batteries all are about the same voltage because I want to apply the technology you are developing for Tesla batteries for Leaf and Volt batteries. I like Volt/Bolt batteries because they are made 16 miles from my house. I like Nissan Leafs because they are an awesome vehicle and with just enough range to remind us that we shouldn’t be driving around as if energy is cheap. I really like the idea of being able to plug my house into my car and to have this be plug and play with no tangle of mad scientist wires in the mix. Car CHADEMO Plug Cable EVTV Black Box (Charger/Inverter/EVSE/WiFi/Bluetooth/Canbus/4g) House ( being a symbol that means power can flow either direction based on what is desired).

    Keep up the great work. We’re cheering for you! And by the way, ready to help when you ask.

    1. I’m really looking forward to taking delivery of my EVTV 20 kW (dyslexics untied) invertor. There have been several ways to communicate over a home power bus. My uncle used X-bee to control water heaters on the other end of the mansion. Back in the 70s you could get an intercom Heathkit that allowed a voice intercom system to operate on your side of the meter in a home or small business. I just wrote a scandalous check to the IRS. The next order of business is to work with my CPA to see if I’ll be able to reap the 30% tax rebate in 2018. None of the stocks I liquidate for my system will yield a 30% return in a single year. Especially the utility stocks.

    2. Much to be done. I’m kinda/sorta helping at least two efforts to harness Leaf batteries. I was kind of interested in a Volt project, but the guy is such a bottom feeder that I really just don’t want to spend any more time with him.

      We support efforts to reduce the cost of solar installations where it makes sense. And we deplore the effort to combine junk items into larger more complicated piles of junk that have little hope of safety or elegance or simplicity. Rube Goldberg “contraptions” hold no allure for me. We’re after more powerful, more effective systems with reduced parts count and complexity. I know that seems confusing when our entire premise is to use batteries from junk yards, but there it is. An enigma.

      We’re focused on Tesla. But I think the Bolt holds some promise. An LGChem battery from Korea. They’re having some teething problems at the moment. But it could be a winner.

      The other area we are avoiding in the future is the orphans. Azure Dynamics, Coda, that we’ve worked on in the past, just don’t have any numbers. I helped a guy with some RAV4 batteries the other day. But they made 2600 of them. What? And the Smart. I love the Smart. It was just a dead end. Mercedes is a brain dead company and $3 billion dollars later they have sold hundreds of cars to very annoyed owners. I actually spoke with the head of Mercedes/Smart U.S. operations four times. Not trainable. Just no aptitude for higher education and would never benefit from it.

      Tesla is the top of the heap with an 85kWh battery. But yes, there is a lot of room in this target rich environment and companies with sufficient numbers of cars to be worthwhile. Volt is a LITTLE bit weeny simply in that it is an 18kWh battery. But at the right price point in the salvage market – there’s ground to plow there. But Bolt would be better simply based on capacity.

      I don’t do things this way because I am rich Kraig. That’s how I GOT rich. I grew up too poor to pay attention. But I paid attention anyway. It’s a bit of detail work and requires focus and persistence. But none of this is precisely a NASA pilot project. CAN messages only have eight bytes when all is said and done.

      And as always, in the end there will be a lot more said than ever quite gets done.

      1. Jack, I’ve got the Leaf and I’m willing to go with the (expensive) Pika energy bi-directional inverter (the Power Core) IF I could only substitute their battery with my Leaf. The solar panels are ready to go, but I’m not smart enough to figure out their REbus and Nissan’s CHAdeMO protocols to make it all work. Setec figured it out, so it must be doable. Driving into my solar shed, plugging in the Leaf and having an emergency off-grid system that works on grid for 99% of the time is a dream come true for me. What do you think?
        Mark

  6. Anthony Kiszka

    Jack, I feel your pain on the power company. I have net-metering on my residence meter, for total approved generator of 12KW DC, (2) of those 6KW Aurora inverters. I have a chevy volt which we mostly drive like an electric car so I wanted the power company’s PEV rate. Well with my power company you can’t have both net-metering and PEV so last year I opted to try the PEV rate which is really just a two tiered rate plan with cheaper power starting at 7PM until 7AM.
    I have another meter on site that is in a feed in tariff program which generates a substantial amount of cash. This $ amount is rolled over to my residence account so I never really see a bill, and a check for the excess shows up once in a while when it meets some threshold for the power company to print a check. I realized I hadn’t had a check in a while and for the first time in YEARS I had a power bill due. So I called them to find out what was going on and and it turns out they never put me in he PEV rate, they took me out of net-metering so I was in some non-discounted, assume the position rate plan. Well, after the net-metering coordinator looked into the issue he found that it was their mistake and he went back and re-rated the last 18 months, which meant they were issuing a credit of almost $1k. I guess I need to be more diligent in following all the statements.
    Net-metering is about to die here in Michigan. All of us with existing contracts will grandfathered in for an additional ten years after the PSC adopts the new rules. So my plan is to update my array with newest most efficient panels and start planning for something similar to your battery system. In ten years or sooner I hope to them to pound sand.

    1. You bring up an interesting point. Generally, solar installations are “grandfathered” rather liberally. My 1998 system in Morrison Colorado would never be approved today, but it is net metered and already in. So I can make modifications and repairs as necessary and need no approvals.

      Brian Couchene advises me that the 2017 National Electrical Code specifically requires all lithium batteries to be UL listed, though they don’t touch lead acid batteries which are in many ways more dangerous. So the use of EV batteries is already illegal and you can expect that anything you would WANT to do economically WILL be illegal and increasingly so.

      My strategy is to install legal systems and get them signed off. And then quietly make whatever modifications I want and generally with equipment that could be unplugged at will. Eventually, not only will all this be legal, but they will promote the concept that they actually somehow invented it. This is my third rodeo, so I’m getting accustomed to the dustoff and a full 8 second ride is not really necessary.

      The pressure will increase in the interim. You see as Brian also points out, the utilities are not precisely ant-solar. They are installing it themselves at an impressive rate. They are against YOU participating. They want the advantages and they want you to pay for it.

      It’s kind of like the concept of selling videos online. Zero cost of production, but we really should deserve the full price as if we’d produced and mailed you a video cassette.

      But your other point is also well taken. They make natural human error mistakes in billing. Oddly, those mistakes are almost always in THEIR favor. If you make a mistake, they disconnect you and you can face felony charges for conspiring to steal electric service. If they do it, it’s a “Whoops, tee-hee, silly me, my bad” situation with check forthcoming. While they are clearly conspiring to steal electric service.

      So in theory we can’t win. In practice we can’t lose. The reason is that they are large, lumbering, and stupid. They don’t even know WHAT to want as a goal as evidenced by the California story on batteries. They just know whatever YOU want they want NOT.

      ATT, GM, BP. It doesn’t matter. It is their nature. BP is now contracting with Tesla for large battery storage for a midwest Wind Farm.

      Jack

      1. hi jack,
        I hope you pull this off. When hundreds of people crowd around the person on the block with the ‘illegal’ solar panels so they can charge their phones after a disaster (earthquake most likely here) that is going to really make the legality/idiocy clear.

        Please try to comment on how this could be scaled to just help run a fridge/phone charger/furnace blower/iron lung from a few panels.

        1. That would be what we term weeny solar and there are 3000 YouTube videos on how to do that…albeit badly. We have zero interest in that. We’re not going camping. We don’t do tiny houses in Montanna. I’ve never lived in a container. I don’t want to. Even one on wheels. You can already buy a small solar panel and battery to charge your phone. African refugees carry them under their arms now instead of the color TVs they used to lug around during national disasters and civil war/tribal genocide outings.

          Picture a big house. 6500 square feet. Or a shop like ours, 14500 sf. And we want to make ALL of our electricity here. Day, night, winter, summer. All the time. Ideally, we’ll pay $11.24 for a grid connection we never use, even though we could make $80 or so by selling electricity to them. We don’t need the $80. And they apparently don’t need our electricity.

          For the present, I do need the natural gas. Eventually that goes too. But it gets pretty involved with geothermal. I’m waiting for the Star Trek little tripod device that drills a hole to the planet’s core.

    1. Richard has been after me to do the Zombie Apocalypse Trailer for six months. I hear about it everyday.

      I don’t personally want to wind up with a $70,000 trailer parked outside that we never use. And I’m most interested in getting the building operating in chorus with all the other operating nuances and some of the issues are quite subtle but important. So the ZAT is not happening at the moment.

      But he’s been practicing his arguments for it every day and they are starting to sound pretty good.

        1. I try not to think about it at all. It is deeply discouraging to me personally. To the uninitiated, you have these young happy guys doing it very inexpensively, and a grouchy old man who wants you to spend money. So how is anyone to discern that one is an ISIS training film for U.S. based terrorist cells, and the other offers a reasoned shot at doing it safely and without incendiary calamity

          Anyone who has watched EVTV over the years knows I am NOT a safety NAZI. I deplore the constant admonitions of poseurs and wannabees to wear safety glasses and rubber gloves. But crimminy. Using a BROOMSTICK as a precharge circuit? NO contactors. NO cell monitoring. And using an MPPT charge controller that doesn’t have a MODE that won’t overcharge the batteries?

          Indeed I have a long history of discouraging the use of Battery Managements Systems – with LiFePo4 cells. But NCA is just a different chemistry and simply cannot be used with our LiFePo4 survival techniques. And they are twitchy little bastards. The Black Cat of batteries.

          But this happy little video is entertaining, attractive, inexpensive, and deadly.

          The true issue is they don’t even need to blow up a trailer to make the case that DIY solar should be OUTLAWED, regulated, UL listed, and banned on the continent. They are unconsciously conspiring with the utility companies and large stakeholders to disempower YOU by providing comic examples of why electrical wire should be a controlled substance. And they are OBLIVIOUS to it. Don’t know and don’t know they don’t know. Refugees from Kruger and Dunning.

          It almost makes me want to go over to the dark side and join the other team. They make the case perfectly that YOU shouldn’t be allowed to work on your own electrical system. Or anything else for that matter.

          So how do we deal with or respond to this? Help me here guys. I’m at a loss. Organic is right. This is the tip of a huge iceburg. Solar DIY clickbait is growing faster than solar itself. HUNDREDS of videos. Many just comical. We watched a 30 minute video of a poor guy trying to scientifically troubleshoot his 12v solar installation that suffered the “defect” of having a fully charged battery. It seems it just wouldn’t put as much current into the fully charged battery as it did when empty.

          In this case, the guy was claiming to BE an Electronics Engineer. And he was using a broomstick and bypassing a fuse to precharge the input capacitors on a Schneider inverter. It was hooked up to two entirely BARE Tesla Model S battery modules. I mean they didn’t bother with a JLD404. NOTHING. And they announced they were going to manufacture and SELL them.

          I’m in lockjaw awe. I just have no response to this. It cannot be. And it certainly cannot be in DOZENS of YouTube videos. I’m embarrassed to be seen as part of this.

          1. Solar DIY clickbait.. I love it, it’s like a new version of the hydrogen generator guys. But with m80 fireworks and a hot trailer.

          2. Jack, I’ve been doing solar on my home since 1994, obviously, this has been a process. I now find myself on my 4th set of batteries since the very expensive Enersys PowerSafe AGM’s just died on me. I have been a Tesla fan since their beginning and I’ve been watching your videos about using their batteries for solar storage. I am using an OutbackPower system with a Mate3 system controller, 2 – FX3524 inverters and a FM80 Charge controller. I only have about 2kw of solar panels and a small 500wt VAWT. I have purchase 2 Tesla 85 Modules and I’m VERY concerned about the safety of the system, especially with the new Tesla Battery modules. I saw your video about using the Tesla BMS and find that very interesting, but it seems that project is dead, since I can’t find any NEW information on it or on the https://hackaday.io/project/10098-model-s-bms-hacking website. As a backup, I also purchased an Orion JR BMS in case I can’t use the builtin Tesla BMS, but I have no idea how to set it up or integrate it to the Outback system. Or if it even needs to be integrated.
            I know that I can set the FX3524 & FM80 chargers to any voltage setting and can tell them when to use the grid or the batteries to power the home, but I don’t see anything about Balancing the cells, just “Equalizing” which was designed for Lead acid, not lithium.
            Any guidance you may have around this would be deeply appreciated.

          3. Joe:

            We continued the process here at EVTV. The hackaday was a moribund project that had reached a dead end. But we worked with the author and kind of revived it for EVTV. Had some breakthroughs and developed them.

            We have an entire section of the store devoted to controlling individual modules. http://store.evtv.me/products.php?cat=31. The basic kit is here: http://store.evtv.me/proddetail.php?prod=basicsmodulecontroller

            The Tesla BMS board does the individual cell balancing. I think it is important to use this board designed for these batteries. Our controller communicates with that and then controls contactors and measures current and allows you to set some configuration values to match it to your system.

            Jack

      1. Seeing the $70k number I realized that something is off. I already have the solar panels, and I think I can get some grid-tie microinverters and a shut-off. Most of the panels (21) are going on the roof of a house, but I also have some (11) that can go on the trailer. I also have the loads panel installed. What is left needs to be on the trailer.

        1. The ZAT is an interesting concept but not for the first glance reasons. I’m building my 5 kW prototype system with expansion site for a 20 kW total. I just bought my Unitrac yesterday to sit atop a custom solar deck. That all well and good, but I notice the amount of labor involved would be a deal killer for any small business person. Fast forward to the adoption phase. We have modular home builders here that could very easily retool to pre-fab solar modules 8′ wide by 40′ long. These would have to be hauled on a semi-trailer and site installed with a crane but the rules of large numbers would likely start to kick in. It’s the same sizing trends we saw happen in wind turbine generators.

        2. Trust me. If I did it, it would be $70k.

          I go to first principles in these kind of projects. It’s not what can I get away with. But rather, what would I want a Zombie Apocalypes Trailer to DO.

          Well the first thing I would want is electricity. And with the current cell efficiencies, I’m not sure how much solar you can wear as a trailer. So we are talking massive battery storage to transport electricity FROM a solar installation to a point of use.

          So figure at least two or probably 3 full Tesla Battery Packs. Since we have all that, we might as well put in a 50kW inverter so it could actually be used in a REACT or municipal disaster situation – like to power a fire station or police station.

          Finally, the show stopper is in EVERY disaster scenario, there is the matter of water. We need a largish dehumidifier and tank storage system with ultraviolet UV sterilization to produce and hold 100 gallons or so. Not just haul water, but actually make it from solar.

          Since the trailer can’t really wear sufficient photovoltaics, perhaps it can haul it. Have space for 40 panels stacked and appropriate wiring. An external connection on the trailer for them. If all else fails, lay them out on the ground and hook em up.

          Once the batteries are full from solar, we use any extra to run the dehumidifier air/water generator.

          I would put an entire bank of 30 USB charge ports on it for walkup cell phone charging with a folddown ledge to park the phones.

          And similarly maybe 20 120vac outlets on the outside walls = weather protected of course.

          And so I MIGHT get all that cobbled together into a 24 or 28 foot trailer for $70k. Thinking through it, it’s going to be $90k. But whatever. After we do the project, and with a critical lack of Zombies in the area, what do we do with it?

          Park it outside. And put up a Craigslist ad ZOMBIES WANTED – PAID DAILY – TOP RATES.

  7. Jack,
    This little beauty was just donated to Dallas Makerspace. http://www.evalbum.com/4339 It is a 2010 conversion of a 1997 Ranger XLT. Done in Lead Acid and ADC forklift type motor. It appears to be electrically functional, but reportedly has the clutch plate adapter stripped.

    I’m wondering if you, or one of your readers, might have an engineering drawing of such an adapter for a 1997 Ford Ranger manual transmission clutch plate so that we can make a replacement for the stripped component.

    We plan on doing some classes on EV basics and on converting this from Lead Acid to LiFePO4. We may even convert it from DC to AC if the right motor/controller deal lands in our laps. We are definitely planning on doing a class on replacing the lovely upholstery in this truck.

    1. I got my adapter from Canada EV and it is very nice.
      You could make your own engineering drawing from whatever cobbled together adapter plate the Ranger currently has? You could use the exercise as a learning tool. From that drawing you could make a more professional adapter (assuming the current one sucks…).

      1. Canada EV doesn’t seem to sell the adapter by itself, but they have a partial drawing on their site that was helpful… Now to pull the ADC motor and fish out the mangled aluminum (!) adapter that is currently in there. Thanks for the pointer!

  8. Will need to do my pilgrimage to Cape Girardeau to meet the man who is making my dream of responsible self sufficiency using lithium car batteries, now if we could connect to the batteries using a dual chademo adapter to connect to two car batteries without having to take the batteries off the car then I’ll be set to build my mountain hideaway

  9. There is a company here in Australia (Selectronic) making inverter/chargers that run off a 120V battery bank, still a long way from the 360 or so volts you want but a good step up from 48V.
    They run up to 20kW per phase and can control up to 40kW of solar inverters (AC coupled), so can do 60kW in 3phase configuration with up to 120kW of solar. They can be connected to the grid,are extremely programmable so can be used with many battery types, and are transformer based so they have surge capacity out the yinyang. This all comes at price, of course. The kicker is that they are not available in the US. Probably a 50 vs 60Hz thing

  10. Ben~Andy Hein

    Hi, Jack,

    What a breath of fresh air both the video and the write up are. On the matter of interconnection to the grid, a young man named Will Prowder made a video about an automatic transfer switch for RV and small home systems w/ battery. In it, he is reviewing a ONE WAY inter-tie. it NEVER sends power TO the grid. It only sources power FROM the grid when you don’t have enough power to service the load from either batteries or PV [and he was converting it to AC for much of the load and using a wrecked Tesla battery module he’d bought from Amazon as battery]. He also had a battery management system to keep the Tesla battery within his preferred range of charge to as to ensure long battery life. I’m not sure I’d have understood much of the issues you were highlighting w/o having watched several of his videos this week. When I say “young”, I mean it, mid to late 20’s!

    Please do create your controller. It is exactly what I want to have here!

  11. Outstanding commentary and I absolutely support your approach. Will watch with glee as this rolls out. I cannot imagine that in the long term, the electric monopolies will win this issue. The genie is out of the bottle and the electric companies will have to learn that the disgusting levels of profit of the past are a thing of the past. This whole PV era reminds me of when bill gates started packaging every useful piece of extension software into his Windows behemouth. It is now a fait accomplis and we all accept it. Yes, there are differences, the individual PV user is not in a position to throw their political/legal weight around to protect their sometimes amoral behaviour as the mega companies do. But as the tech gets out there, we will see more and more fully off the grid builds and less and less of this grid tied (hog tied) approach. I will bet you that at that point, the power companies will find a way to force that off the grid individual to pay some subsidy surcharge to sustain the grid for the “have nots”. ARGH!

  12. Here in the UK we can install Powerwalls tied to PV. As I understand it (I should as an electronic engineer but not in this field) it requires a “Gateway” (box) that ensures the 240V grid (can be 3 phase) is isolated if the grid goes down. Safety for the grid repair guys. The Gateway may be controlling the car charger point (which might be fast) and probably is ready for vehicle to grid. We have companies ready to factor the selling of the second by second buy/sell scenario. And UK regulators have this in mind.I don’t think it is possible for small installations yet, a problem of scale I imagine. Fully Charged know about this. I’m sure you know of them. Musk will have this sussed, and maybe in the USA eventually, he earned his first two fortunes in software after all. He didn’t get to where he is today …………………..

  13. Enabling and empowering people worldwide to cut the cord and harness the power of the sun for local energy needs and personal transportation can truly and radically change the world for better.
    Amen Jack.

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