Educational Grid Tie System

maxfieldlDecember 4, 2009

we have a solar and wind grid tie system set up at a summer camp and are trying to figure out how to visually see what the output of this system is, so we can show the kids what kind of power they're really producing.

We have a skystream 3.7 wind turbine and 8 Kyocera 130 panels attached to a sunnyboy 3000 inverter and then tied in to the grid with net metering.

Or are there some other suggestion on how to tie in the educational component so kids could visually see what these renewable energy systems produce?

Is there some sort of meter or output display that we can insert before it ties into the meter so that we can see what the wind and panels are producing? something that would make sense to the average onlooker.

Or are there some other suggestions on how to tie in the educational component and show kids what these renewable energy systems can really do?


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One question, how old are the kids?

One suggestion, ask the kids. Seriously, they will let you know what they would like to see.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2009 at 6:48PM
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A couple fairly inexpensive solutions:

- Get a retired electric utility meter. These are meters from homes where the meters have been replaced with newer digital meters. They are quite cheap -- check ebay or google.
You would need to get a meter base and do a little wiring to set it up.

- The TED "Energy Detective" will measure the output for any circuit you hook it up to. I have mine hooked up to my PV system now to monitor it -- currently reading all of 60 watts in the middle of a snowstorm :)
You just snap the TED current transformer sensors over the wires inverter output wires -- pretty simple installation.
They cost about $250
They have a software package that can be used for realtime viewing and to keep records over time.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2009 at 12:54PM
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I like the T.E.D. idea because it can easily be used elsewhere later.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 10:25PM
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Thanks Gary- I'm going to look into those options. The kids are ages 7-17 but will probably be used most with our 4th and 5th graders after school. It's good to have something visual and super simple to understand.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 9:17AM
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TED or a similar device will be able to look at the AC side of the invertor. Check to make sure it can display negative numbers (I think it does). That way, you know which direction the current is flowing (in to or out of the grid).

TED won't show you which of the two DC devices (wind/solar) is contributing what, so you might want to look for some cheap DC ammeters of sufficient size that you can put in line and see which is doing what.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 6:45PM
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The TED actually does not tell you which way the power is going.
On my system, during the sunny part of the day it will show the net AC flowing out of the inverter to the grid -- this is usually somewhere north of 1500 watts.

At night it shows 20 watts, and I believe that this is the power going out to the inverter from the grid. It does not show this with a negative sign, so I assume that it can't tell the difference on which way the power is going. But, this is really not much of a problem since the inverters uses very little power in "sleep" mode at night.

I had a look at the TED site yesterday, and they now appear to sell fancier systems that are actually intended for monitoring PV/Wind systems, so you might want to look at these as well -- they were more expensive, but I guess they figure these renewable energy people have big budgets :)


    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 10:56PM
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