Off grid living is not for everyone but there are some who wouldn’t have it any other way…
ABB’s Variable Frequency Drive can run 3 phase motors directly off solar and Hire Electric has the 1st one in the US. I blogged about ABB’s Solar Drives in India back in February. After that blog post ABB’s USA Drive Group contacted Hire to see if we would be interested in installing one of their drives as part of a BETA test group. Last week the drive arrived and today our BETA customer, with the help of Schroder Well Drilling, changed out their single phase well pump with a 3 phase pump and we got the drive running on 240V, single phase AC power: 210′ deep well, 7.4A draw, 24gpm output. The next step will be finishing the solar array and running some tests on the 1.5hp, 3 phase motor running directly off sunbeams.
We’re extremely excited about the potential for this product for several reasons:
- As net metering caps are met in more and more utility districts, having ways that customers can transfer load to solar power without interconnecting with the utility will be increasingly important.
- Off grid customers have been forced to use extremely expensive and underperforming pumping options – or their diesel generator to access water.
- Irrigators and stock waterers can open up land that is too far away from utility service.
- Water security during power outages is high on most peoples preparedness plan.
- Potential for micro-pumped-storage applications
You can read more about the product here: ABB Solar Drive Flier
— Hire Electric Solar (@hireelectric) October 11, 2014
We often get asked about a “little back up system for our freezer and critical load.” So here’s what we came up with:
- 4 – SolarWorld 250 watt panels (1000watts) w/ roof mount racking system
- 1 – Magnum ME2012 – 2000Watt 120V AC, 12VDC inverter/charger w/ remote display and Conduit Box
- 1 – MX80 – Outback MPPT charge controller
- 2 – Full River AGM Sealed L16 415AH Batteries
- 1 – misc wires and connectors
We can sell this system as a do-it-youself kit for about $6,200 or we can offer a full installation. The kit is not plug and play and requires some basic electrical knowledge of both AC & DC circuits. It’s typically much cheaper to use a little generator for this scale of backup but this system can run you fridge, freezer and small loads on solar almost all year round. It does qualify for the Washington state sales tax exemption and 30% federal tax credit.
Of course our back up systems can scale up in every direction – more solar capacity, more batteries, greater inverter capacity, etc.
Irrigation Scale Water Pumping Made Possible by ABB
Until recently solar water pumping has been limited to small scale pumping operations: 6 gallons per hour, residential scale or stock watering units.
But things have changed.
We’ve been installing Variable Frequency Drives (VFD’s) at Hire Electric for almost 20 years now. Driving pumps from 3hp to 250hp. I’ve often wondered when someone would make the jump to a solar drive. A VFD is basically a rectifier that turns 3 phase, 480V AC (or 208V or 240V single phase) into DC and then uses IGBT’s to deliver a variable frequency and voltage to a 3 phase motor – running it at whatever speed is required for the operation. The applications are almost limitless and the cost savings over across-the-line AC control can be vast: Think utility demand charges, wear & tear, inefficiency of running a motor at full tilt and valving it down to 25%, etc. So, heating up the DC buss in a drive with solar rather than rectified AC is basically just cutting out the middle man.
I’ve seen some experimental projects using large scale solar and bench built drives to pump water but until recently there hasn’t been a commercially available product.
In India ABB recently launched a new line of SOLAR drives that run standard, 3 phase, AC motors from 1/2 HP to 25HP. ABB is marketing these drives heavily in the developing world to help reduce the cost of water pumping and open up areas that have never had a reliable water supply. There are huge potential applications for these drives in agriculture and off grid facilities here in the Columbia Basin as well. I recently got this update from ABB:
We here at ABB Untied States are playing catchup with respect to the ACS355 solar pump inverter (SPI). The ACS355 is an industrial drive that normally is installed in factory settings. The big difference between the ACS355 industrial version and ACS355 SPI is the firmware in the drive. The ACS355 SPI was a product developed for India and we here in the US had little knowledge of it until customers started to ask for it.
We’ve asked and they hope to have the product released for sale to distribution by the end of Q2, 2014 (June). Can’t wait! Click here for the ABB Solar Drive cut sheet.
— Hire Electric Solar (@hireelectric) February 8, 2014