Renewable Energy Products
Over more than a decade of trading, we have tried out many products from a wide range of renewable energy systems manufacturers. Some very good and some not so good experiences over the years have allowed us to hone down the range of equipment we use in our own systems. So our customers will not be test cases themselves. Equipment is selected from field experience for rugged design and user-friendliness, reputation, manufacturer after-sales support and long warranties. And then their is value. Not purchase price, but long-term value. Solar systems are built to last more than 25 years, and often paying a little bit more in the first instance, makes for a much cheaper system after the first few years of trouble-free energy supply.
Typically, batteries are the most expensive component in a remote area of battery back-up renewable energy system. To get the most value out of your system, we need to make these batteries last as long as possible. Build quality, cycle life, and price are the main qualities we look for to achieve this goal of long-term value.
There is a lot of hype and media coverage about new battery technologies, such as Lithium-Ion, Vanadium Redox, Sodium Ion (saltwater), super capacitors and others. Prices for lithium batteries are dropping dramatically due to the increasing scale of production for their wide-spread use in the exploding market for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles need batteries that are light (in terms of kg/kWh) and capable of super fast charges and discharges.
Neither of these qualities are important in stationary energy systems. While the theoretical cycle life of lithium-iron-phosphate is impressive, their use in remote area systems - especially in the tropics - is not reccomended as they are not yet rugged enough, and are too sensitive to high temperatures. The best use for these is where weight is an issue - such as catamarans and electric vehicles - and in grid backup systems, especially where an airconditioned plant room is available.
Good old lead acid batteries are still very competitive for off-grid applications. Especially the high-end gel cells, such as Sonnenschein's Premium Gel A600 series. These 2 volt cells are rated to 4,700 cycles at 30 per cent depth of discharge (DOD). That is almost 13 years of daily discharges! More if they are not cycled daily, or not discharged as deeply. This has been proven in the field in the Territory, with some of the original Bushlight remote community systems getting battery changeovers in 2017, and Sonnenschein Gel battery banks lasting between 12 and 18 years. Saltwater Solar has been installing Sonnenschein batteries for years, and with this track record, continues to recommend them to remote customers.
The solar module manufacturing industry went through its disruption phase several years ago, which saw dramatic price reductions, a huge upheaval of the global industry, and the majority of manufacturing plants now located in Asian countries, such as Trina and Jinko in China, and Qcells and LG in Korea. However, solar modules are still manufactured throughout the world, such as in Australia (Tindo) and the USA (SunPower).
The most significant technical advances where in the manufacturing process, which scaled up to bring prices per watt down. The other cause for this was the maturing of the silicon production stream, and the owners of the expensive reactors reduce their profit margins in the face of increasing competition. The point being that while technical advances have been dramatic, the improvement of the actual product itself has been gradual and incremental. Solar panels today are similar to what they were in 1960, with much bigger footprint, bigger cells, less vacant space, longer warranties, and a tiny portion of the cost. Typical solar modules in 2017 are 300 watts peak power, about 1.7 square metres, and 20 per cent total energy conversion efficiency (insolation watts/square metre) and around $1.00 per watt retail price - depending on the quality!
Saltwater Solar supplies Q-cells premium range, LG Neon and Trina Honey, or Jinko Solar when up-front cost is the main concern.
Selectronic is an Australian company that has been making electronic components in Melbourne since 1964. Their new SP Pro series is still manufactured in Melbourne and now leads the world in battery interactive inverters, exporting to Germany and Asia, the traditional producers of electronic devices. These inverters are extremely reliable, with a 10 year guarantee when installed by a Certified Integrator like Saltwater Solar, has exceptional local product support, an ever increasing array of options for integrating with new system components, unmatched system monitoring and control. Other inverters on the market don't even get close. We do not allow our friends and family to use anything else. The extra cost, compared to other battery inverters, is well worth it.