Whether you have already converted to solar power or you are considering the switch, it is important to understand the best positioning and angling of your photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate the highest levels of power. Orienting your PV panels correctly varies with different locations around the world and is essential to getting the most out of the sun’s power to meet your solar energy needs. This blog post will provide valuable orientation tips as well as some insight towards the topic of solar panels and their ability to produce electricity on cloudy days.Continue reading
Many places in North America are experiencing cold snaps this time of year. Extreme temperatures can decrease performance or cause damage and failure to most batteries.
If you are using batteries for off-grid, RV or backup power, or are planning to start, it is important to know what batteries can withstand extreme temperatures. Azimuth Solar’s Ultra Long-Life Silicon Dioxide (Lead Crystal) batteries provide outstanding performance in extreme hot and cold weather conditions, faster charging and over 10 year lifespans, at lower lifetime costs.
Silicon Dioxide batteries (aka SiO2, Lead Crystal, or just Crystal batteries) are built to last in rough conditions. These batteries can be discharged deeper, cycled more often (even in extreme temperatures), charge faster and have longer lifespans. They recover to full-rated capacity. They do not require maintenance, special ventilation or cooling, and can be stored up to 2 years without recharge.
Extreme Cold Performance
Lead Acid batteries will freeze at -25C/-13F at 50% charge. The more you power you take from the battery, the easier it is to freeze and damage. Once a battery has frozen, you cannot use it until it is slowly defrosted and checked. This usually kills the battery. Lead Acid batteries can have lower freezing temperature ratings, but that is only helpful if you don’t plan on using them. The freezing point of Lead Acid batteries rises as their charge level drops. If you need a battery during an ice storm or winter blackout, you may not be able to use your Lead Acid batteries when you need them the most.
SiO2 batteries do not suffer from freezing damage and retain more available power at lower temperatures.
A Lead Acid battery at -30C/-22F has only 50% available capacity and you can access only 40% of that before it freezes. For example, a 100Ah battery becomes a 50Ah battery at -30C/-22F. You can only use 40% (20Ah) of that capacity before it freezes. At this temperature your available power is 20Ah if the battery is fully charged to begin with.
SiO2 batteries will have reduced capacity at low temperatures, but not the freezing limitations. You can use up to 100% of the available capacity of a SiO2 Battery. For example, at -30C/-22F, a 100Ah SiO2 battery retains 60% capacity, so will have 60Ah of available power (3x power vs. Lead Acid).
SiO2 batteries also outperform most batteries at high temperatures. They are rated to +65C/149F vs, 45-50C/113-122F for Lead Acid. Lead Acid batteries off-gas Hydrogen and Oxygen at high temperatures, an explosive mix that needs to be vented. Flooded batteries require fluid replacement.
The SiO2 technology is unique. Standard Lead Acid batteries suffer from freezing, poor low & high temperature performance, sulfation/corrosion, water loss, off-gassing, transport safety issues and short life cycles. The non-corrosive electrolyte in SiO2 batteries forms crystalline salts when charged/discharged. SiO2 batteries use 95% less sulphuric acid than Lead Acid batteries. They are essentially a “dry-cell” battery with no liquid to freeze, spill or off-gas. Eliminating most of the acid, means that the lead plates last longer and weigh less. Sulphation does not build-up and reduce capacity over time. With the crystalline structure, they can also be used in any orientation.
SiO2 Batteries last 2-5X as long as Lead Acid batteries. Deep-cycle Lead Acid batteries are rated from 500 charge/discharge cycles (discount batteries) to 1200 cycles for premium batteries, at 50% depth of discharge levels (DoD). The SiO2 batteries offer a much higher cycle life of 2800 cycles at 50% DoD. Their lifetime cost per cycle averages 1/2 to 1/3 of most deep-cycle batteries.
High Current Discharge Ability
SiO2 batteries have excellent high-current discharge ability and will not suffer any capacity loss when discharged to 100%. The Ultra Long-Life batteries have a rapid charging time in comparison to conventional alternatives. At 25C a 100Ah battery can be charged at 25A per hour resulting in a 4 hour charge time (20-40% faster than AGM and Lead Acid batteries, which typically charge at 15-20C which is 5-7 hours for a 100Ah battery). In practical terms, if you are using a fuel generator to recharge your batteries, you will need to run it 20-40% less with SiO2 batteries, than with Lead Acid batteries.
Because the SiO2 batteries have less Acid, no cadmium, no antimony, the batteries are up to 99% recyclable and are classified as non-hazardous goods for transport. These batteries are a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, less-toxic option using about ¼ of the resources of regular Lead Acid batteries.
Wide Range of Uses
They have almost no off-gassing and are well suited for marine use and in enclosed spaces, such as RVs and campers. They are widely used by Telecoms due to their long life span, and extreme temperature resilience. SiO2 batteries are available in a wide range of sizes and voltages, even up to 270Ah 12V 8D batteries and do not require a Battery Management System.
As concern over the increasing cost of energy grows, many people are looking into alternative sources of power, like solar. There are four main components in a basic solar setup: Solar Panels, Charge Controller, Batteries and Inverter. All components and the wiring connecting them need to be carefully chosen and sized appropriately to work together. Use this guide to demystify the terminology behind solar, and kick-start your journey to energy independence!
Solar Panels absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity through the Photovoltaic Effect (PV). They are available in rigid glass panels (seen on rooftops), flexible panels (for curved surfaces), folding solar panels and blankets. Panels are rated by their maximum power output in Watts, and produce Direct Current (DC). Many factors, such as angle of the sun (azimuth), shading, temperature and weather, influence how much power a panel will produce.
Charge Controllers are an important buffer between Solar Panels and the Batteries they charge. They monitor the settings of both the panel(s) and the battery and make adjustments during charging so that the power from the panels does not overload the battery. There are two types of charge controllers Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM). MPPT charge controllers are more efficient and are programmable to work with a wider range of batteries and settings.
Batteries are used to store the power your panels produce. Battery capacity is determined by multiplying the Voltage (V) by the Amps (Ah) to get the Watt-hours (Wh). Example: a 12V 100Ah battery can store 1,200Wh of power. Batteries come in a wide range of sizes and chemistries. Your optimal battery choice will depend on what you’re using them for, your budget and the conditions of use.
The Inverter transforms the Direct Current (DC) stored in your battery to Alternating Current (AC). Your fridge, television, coffee pot and most electronics in your home run off of AC power. USB plug-ins, most RV appliances, and well pumps are examples of DC appliances that do not need an inverter and can be powered directly from the battery. Inverters come in two types: Pure Sine Wave and Modified Sine Wave. Pure Sine Wave is preferred. Modified Sine Wave is cheaper but can damage sensitive electronics. For ease of use, some inverters come with plug-in outlets built into them.
UPDATE: Matt and Shari’s presentation has been rescheduled to 3:00 pm on Saturday the 18th August at the Red River Exhibition Park. A reminder that the event will be open to the public on this day – the gates will open at 10:00 am and admission is $10.00!
August 15th kicks off the beginning of a four-day event to celebrate the iconic Boler trailer’s 50th anniversary! Boler enthusiasts are set to travel from as far as Southern California all the way to Winnipeg’s Red River Exhibition park to attend the event. Winnipeg’s Mayor Brian Bowman will be attending on August 16th at 3:30pm to officially open the event; and a special open house for the public will begin on Saturday August 18th. Public attendees will be welcome to tour the trailers, chat with the owners while enjoying live music, a beer and wine garden, and various food trucks. The gates will open at 10 am and admission is $10.
Azimuth’s owners Matthew Longman and Shari McDowell are Boler enthusiasts who are excited to join in on the celebration and will be driving to Winnipeg with their own lime green egg in tow! For any fellow attendees Matt and Shari will be speaking from 11:15 am – 12:15 am on Friday August 17th as part of a workshop and demo presentation on Batteries and Solar for RV’s and trailers.
Be sure to go check out http://www.myboler.com/ for full details of the event schedule and location!
The Boler was one of the first moulded fibreglass trailers to be introduced in Canada and are known for their lightweight towing ability. The original Boler has inspired the design and manufacturing of many fibreglass moulded trailers since.
Raymond Olecko and his idea to manufacture a lightweight, fiberglass trailer came to fruition in 1968 when he approached Sandor Dusa, a fibreglass mould maker, to help him create his vision. Olecko wanted to build a compact trailer for his family to take on camping trips. Once complete Olecko realised they had manufactured a product that would appeal to the small, average income family who did not want to tow the standard heavyweight camper. They continued production and in 1969 moved to a larger facility to keep up with demand.
Before Olecko’s invention of the Boler trailer, he found success manufacturing and selling a fibreglass slingshot from the basement of his Winnipeg home. This unique design that could be ordered for either left or right-hand use was the first of its kind to be introduced to the outdoors/sportsman market and quickly gained popularity. He went on to register his slingshot business as Boler Manufacturing Co. and it was the success this business saw which lead to him continue the use of the Boler name for the fibreglass trailers (not to mention their uncanny resemblance of the Bowler hat!).
At Azimuth Solar Products Inc., we want to give you powerful and dependable solar power when you need it. Whether you’re an adventurer looking for a safer and cleaner way to keep comfortable on the edge of the wild or just looking to keep your fridge and lights running when the worst happens. We know solar power has a lot of ways to improve security and the quality of life of anyone to whom the grid is unreliable or inaccessible. That’s why we’re raising the bar for portable solar and introducing the first affordable mid-range solar generators to take advantage of the falling costs of solar panels to deliver something truly durable and life-saving to as many people as possible.
Affordable High-Power Solar
Our solar generator systems offer unparalleled power output for each dollar. No other portable system in their price range offers the same power rating or includes as many essential components as the ASP Portable Solar Generators. We’re taking advantage of the falling price of solar to offer high-range portable systems for prices that compete with systems with less than a third of their capacity.
These portable and dependable solar power generator systems have unique, compact folding designs suitable for disaster recovery, off-grid living, tactical expeditions, and adventuring. Our systems use high-quality solar panels with a specially designed high capacity tripod and frame support for unrivaled high-output mobile solar power. Our rugged systems use the most innovative components to function in extreme conditions from arctic, desert, to downpour. There are some comparable solar generators used by the US Forces, but our systems are a fraction of the cost, weigh less, and are quicker set-up. Our M400 system has been developed in collaboration with SBM Solar, a primary supplier of ballistic-rated solar panels to the US Marines. Read SMB Solar’s Press Release here.
The ASP 360 features compared to those of nearest competition. Watt-per-dollar, we offer a smarter, cheaper, and more powerful generator than any other portable solar on the market.
All the support components for our systems are designed for easy assembly, disassembly, and transport. They can be set-up in less than five minutes without tools and the tripod, pillar, and 2-axis frame fold into compact pieces to be carried by hand or in a case. The highly portable designs allow Azimuth systems to be put into a trunk of a car and set up in any location no matter how remote or hard to reach.
Most portable solar is designed for charging small devices or topping off partially-discharged batteries. Meanwhile, with a single day of sunshine, Azimuth’s portable solar generator systems can power appliances, entertainment, communication and medical equipment, and construction tools. Traditional portable solar generators may only charge a few cellphones or laptop computer, and can take several days to charge a battery pack. Our systems will run appliances and work as a back-up generator for adventure or crisis.
Our systems will recharge large, deep-cycle battery packs in less than a day, and the scalable design allows the systems to be expanded for additional power. The 2-axis, 360 full rotation frame can easily tilt and rotate to follow the sun for maximum input – up to 40% more power than a fixed solar panel, such as the popular folding briefcase style mini systems. Our exceptional efficiency and flexibility makes our systems suitable for micro-grid systems in cabins, micro or tiny homes, RVs, mobile work sites, boats, and off-grid homes.
Our compact design features on-board electronics which neatly nestles the combiner box and charge controller directly behind the panels. An output panel includes a 12V lighter and SAE socket so appliances, devices, and battery-packs can be plugged-in directly. Our RV connector cable can be connected through the 7-way socket on RVs and trailers to recharge their batteries without hassle. The charge controller can also be remotely mounted indoors for use with a battery bank for an off-grid home.
Comparison of practical use of ASP portable solar generators compared to leading competition.
We’re always working to improve our selection of high-quality components and reduce the cost of our systems. Visit our online store to learn more about these portable generators, or calculate your solar needs to find the right products for you.
UPDATE: Our campaign to donate solar power to the Caribbean is live! Click here to visit: https://igg.me/at/t6Zysws-3V8
Azimuth Solar Products Inc. has a long-term solution to help restore power to island communities who have sustained damage from recent hurricanes with our Portable Solar Generator Systems, but we need your help. We want to donate as many of our 360W portable solar generator systems as possible to on-the-ground emergency relief aid in the Barbuda and Puerto Rico.
We are hoping to meet their goal of $7,000 CAD to send two systems and as many power management components as possible. But the amount and nature of items ultimately donated depends on how much we raise. Along with our portable solar generator systems it’s also crucial to send batteries and power management components necessary to effectively store and use the energy generated by the Caribbean sun.
Our portable solar generators are powerful enough to supply power to medical equipment for emergency aid in hospital tents at the sites of impact. They can also power refrigeration for vaccines, insulin, and of course, food. These are high-capacity solar generating systems whose capacities far surpass that of conventional portable solar panels and systems. The ASP 360 is more similar to systems used by NATO or the U.S. Armed Forces for a much smaller cost.
Absolutely none of these donations will go towards administrative, marketing, or salary purposes. Every cent we receive will go towards overhead on sending these systems out to the right people. We’re partnering with humanitarian and non-profit veterans to create the right path for our systems to reach on-the-ground aid.
Why is portable solar the solution?
Island nations like Barbuda and Puerto Rico face some of the highest energy bills in the world because of the cost of transporting fuel. Fuel transportation costs were already high enough to stifle energy security in the Caribbean, with the average electricity bill in the region being three to four times that of the U.S. or other developed countries. Even more so after a hurricane, as fuel reserves are flooded and contaminated and gas generators are helpless until new fuel can make its way in over the water.
In such a situation, solar systems have a huge advantage, as they can start generating power immediately without any fuel. With the Caribbean sunny climate, it’s easy to get the most out solar panels. We’ve already set up our solar generator systems in floods at home during the 2017 Okanagan Floods and designed them to be fully waterproof.
By far the most popular high-capacity solar systems used are the traditional rooftop panel arrays that are exposed to the elements year round. This permanent fixture solar infrastructure is at the mercy of the weather and easily destroyed by a hurricane capable of tearing trees from the ground.
With Azimuth Solar’s portable system, the panels can be taken indoors during the worst of the hurricane. When the storm passes, it can and then taken back out and set up tool-free within five minutes. Even so, the durable design of our unique tripod and support system can withstand winds up to nearly 140 mph with proper securing. With more tropical storms expected to follow Hurricane Irma, it’s important that infrastructure rebuilt in the region won’t be quickly destroyed again by following disasters.
Thanks to their super portable design, our systems can reach remote or isolated areas where infrastructure damaged. Our solar generators are designed to pack up and fit in the trunk of a car or to be easily carried by hand. Because all the necessary electronics are mounted to the folding panel support mount, the entire functional solar system can be moved with very little hassle.
Why Barbuda and Puerto Rico?
According to Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, upwards of 90% of all government and personal buildings sustained some damage by Hurricane Irma with 60% of the population homeless due to the devastation. Barbuda is being described as being reduced to rubble, with nearly every element of the island needing rebuilding, including infrastructure, telecommunications, institutions, and roads. A conservative estimation of the cost of rebuilding is set at $150 Million.
Our solar systems are powerful enough to power communication devices that don’t rely on the telecommunication infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Irma. They can also run power tools, water pumps, and even portable cement mixers, so Barbuda can be rebuilt faster.
Puerto Rico’s crumbling infrastructure and crippling economic crisis has left the region especially vulnerable to the hurricane’s effects. The damage to the power grid has had catastrophic effects on the territory, with some parts of the island predicted to be in blackout for up to six months. Some 300,000 Puerto Ricans lost power before the hurricane even hit, and 1 million are now in dark since Hurricane Irma.
In on-the-ground emergency operations, solar panels can recharge communication devices and keep people in touch with their loved ones during the stressful process of rebuilding their towns and lives. Electricity is important for basic sanitation like powering water pumps and can offer vital air conditioning in a place where hurricanes can be quickly followed by sweltering heat. As well, solar-powered lighting has been shown to reduce gender-based violence in Haiti and parts of Africa and Asia, and allow people to work, cook, and co-ordinate into the night.
For the long term, supplying cheap electricity to struggling regions means going back to normal months sooner. Rebuilding efforts can be accelerated and the quality of life for those living in blackouts can be drastically improved while reparations are underway.
Azimuth Solar Products is ambitious about saving lives and rebuilding regions in the Caribbean, but we still need some help to make that happen. Before Azimuth can begin production, we need to raise $7,000 CAD to cover our initial costs of bulk ordering and manufacturing. These orders are ready to go, and our high-power solar generators can be shipped out in as little as three weeks. We will start our orders as prices come in and adjust them as donations continue to grow the campaign.
A full breakdown of budget and updates can be expected throughout our campaign.
Campaign goes live on Monday, September 18th, 2017. Click here to see more or to donate to send solar systems to the Caribbean.
Media enquires can contact us through [email protected]
Learn more on our website www.azimuthsolar.ca
Donation, partnership, and retailing enquires can contact us through [email protected]
Or call toll-free in North America 1-888-252-2452
There has been a lot written about installing solar power at home, but unless you have specifically set-up your system for emergency backup or disaster response, then it won’t automatically provide off-grid power.
There are several reasons why your system doesn’t work after the storm passes.
- If you have a grid-tie system (solar power on your home that feeds into the grid when you have an excess of power to improve your electrical bill)and it is not set-up with a backflow stop for when the grid shuts down, then you will not have power during a blackout. If the grid is down, then all your power will flow into the “empty” grid leaving you with none. This flow could also put a charge into lines that are being worked on and inadvertently electrocute utility workers or others around downed lines, so for safety reasons, your system automatically shuts down when the grid shuts down.
- Many on-grid systems use a type of inverter that synchronizes with the incoming power from the grid. If there is no power coming in, then there is nothing to sync to and your inverter won’t work.
- Hurricanes and tornadoes involve high winds and flying debris. Most people have photovoltaic solar panels on their roof or on post stands. When a major storm comes in, the panels are either ripped off their mountings completely or damaged by blowing debris. A damaged panel or one that is partially shaded will shut itself off completely and produce no power. Even a broken corner will result in most solar panels not working at all.
There are solutions. If you have a grid-tie system, make sure you have battery backup and a way to isolate your power from the grid. This may involve a hardwired switch to isolate your house from the grid or may need you to physically disconnect your battery bank from your house power. Make sure that your inverter can either synchronize the AC power to your battery power or create its own sine wave. Some more expensive systems like the Tesla power wall have this capacity built in already.
If you have back up battery power and have physically disconnected the batteries from the house power, then you need to have an inverter (to create AC power) and extension cords to run power from the batteries to your essential equipment and appliances. To run most home appliances with a motor, you will need a pure sine wave inverter. Wire your outside solar panels to the battery bank, but make sure you have a charge controller between the panels and the batteries to control the power flow to the batteries.
The solution to the problem of wind damaging or destroying your panels is an easy one. Take the panels down before the storm hits and store them out of the wind. Then when the storm passes, put the panels back up. Make sure your electronics are either waterproof or stored in waterproof cases. Off-grid portable systems makes this easy with quick set-up and take down. Alternatively, some lightweight panels also have additional protection that the rest of the solar panel still functions if one cell is damaged.
If you are in a hurricane or tornado prone area, and you have lost your solar panels to the recent storms, consider replacing them or offsetting them with portable panels and/or making your system emergency backup ready.
The most important part of any solar system is the sun, and how you harness the most power out of it can be one of the biggest challenges. If you take a quick look around the web, one of the regular questions out there revolves around how to get the most out of your system. How do you harness the most power? How do you figure out just what way to turn your panels to get the highest energy output?
For most people the answer comes from a series of calculations. There are websites, books, and entire forums dedicated to the formulas and mathematics behind panel positioning. Global positioning, time of day, and season all have to be accounted for.
At Azimuth we wanted to make solar more accessible to everyone, and that meant not only making it portable and easy to set up, but taking the numbers out of it too. With our Sun Track Alignment Sight we have done the math for you, all you do is line up the red dot.
The sight projects a red dot onto a crosshair display which shows the sun’s position over a five hour period. Simply line up the crosshairs to ensure full solar power production. Or position your panels for the best exposure over a five hour period without repositioning.
Why not make solar simple?
Portable solar isn’t something which can typically survive the elements. Charge controllers, cables, and batteries usually need to be brought in from the rain and moisture while wind topples most portable arrays. But some things need to run even when the weather is poor. Some things need to run specifically when the weather is poor.
Rain, snow, and wind don’t need to be obstacles to solar power. With the right design and components, complete solar systems can be left up to battle the weather and water while still generating power. The ASP Portable Solar Generators from Azimuth Solar Products use high quality and rugged components and enclosures to keep running even when the shine isn’t shining.
The IP67 rated waterproof enclosure of the combiner box can withstand the rugged demands of adventuring and off-grid living in any weather. MC4 connectors on the outside of the Combiner Box remove the need for opening and securing junction boxes during set up and take down, which is a feature all the more important in poor weather.
30A MPPT Charge Controller
Charge Controllers are the most water-sensitive part of any solar generating system. They are usually stored inside in dry environments and sometimes require additional de-humidifying equipment. More inventive solar users construct their own waterproof casing for their charge controllers. But they can be left frustrated if even a single drop manages to find its way to the component.
The 30A Charge Controller included with the ASP systems is an especially durable and weather resistant model. It is 100% non-condensing, allowing it to handle humidity and water without additional waterproof casing or solutions. The MPPT system is substantially more effective at harvesting power during extreme temperatures and low light than other systems, providing the maximum possible power in any condition. It is also 30% more efficient than regular models, wringing the most power out of any rainy day.
The on-board output panel includes waterproof and dustproof power sockets for 12V Car Lighter and SAE connections. While the receptacles themselves might be protected from the elements it’s still important to make sure the plugs going in are dry, too.
Tripod and Frame
All the panels and components of the generator systems are supported by a sturdy and unique design. The unique tripod, pillar, mount, and frame are all-weather. Made from stainless steel and powder-coated aircraft aluminium, there’s no worry of rusting or toppling in windy conditions. The support system can handle wind speeds up to 140 mph and can be anchored down with included military-grade stakes or additional equipment.
We are extremely excited to be debuting our products at the BC Interior Sportsman Show this weekend in Kelowna, BC! Come see us at Booth 34 from April 7th to 9th at the Capital News Centre. Tickets are available at the door and our own Matthew Longman will be speaking on Saturday the 8th at noon.
Matthew’s Speech – Portable Solar Generators: Solar Power for your RV, Cabin and Emergencies
Show Hours: Friday April 7th 5pm-8pm | Saturday April 8th 9am-6pm | Sunday April 9th 9am-4pm
Address: 4105 Gordon drive, Kelowna