Renogy 200w foldable solar suitcase

Discussion in 'Power - Site Power/Batteries/Generators/Solar' started by jackquontee, Jun 4, 2020.

  1. jackquontee

    jackquontee Active Member Diamond Supporting Member

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    I bought the kit https://solartown.com/solar-panels/renogy-200-watt-12-volt-monocrystalline-foldable-solar-suitcase/ several weeks ago and finally decided on how I wanted to connect things. I have the Aliner Expedition with the Zamp SAE "reversed polarity" connector on the side of the camper. I had read quite a bit about the need to utilize a reverse polarity adapter so bought one.
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    However, I also recently read quite a bit about avoiding the use of the adapter and simply reversing the wires when connecting to the charge controller. As I already had to wire in MC4 connectors, a 20a inline fuse holder between the solar panels and the charge controller, and a 20a inline fuse holder between the charge controller and the batteries (not mandatory for either, but recommended), I figured avoiding another connection might be nice. As I traced the wires I couldn't understand the need to reverse the wires to correct the reverse polarity as all wires ran positive to positive and negative to negative, as they should. I even pulled the SAE connector to be sure the hot wire was red, and ran red from there.
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    Sooo, I just commenced connecting wires (including the 30ft extension red/black cables I bought for the solar panels) as I would if reverse polarity wasn't a factor.

    I had given thought to where I could install the charge controller - a place that was easily viewable but protected from the elements. When looking at the Zamp SAE connector and needing to trace the wires from it, it was evident that the wires leading from the SAE connector ran inside to the storage area under the dinette seat, which gave me access from the exterior storage door as well as from inside under the dinette seat.
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    Once I connected the wires I was receiving 1.4 amps under a cloudy sky.
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    Once the clouds cleared it increased to 6.6 amps.
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    Not sure if that's considered good or not but it's comforting to know I have another means to keep my batteries charged. I'll be testing things as the days go by to get an idea how long it may take to fully charge from 12.2 volts. I do have two additional 100w panels but not sure if I want to bother with them right now. I don't imagine I need them to keep the batteries charged.

    And THEN, I want to see if I can charge my electric bike off of the fully charged batteries.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
  2. Eric Webber

    Eric Webber Active Member

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    I have two of those suitcases, one with the controller and one without

    6A is about right. I find eyeballing the angle to about latitude is a good target

    I also sliced and rewired it so I could wire it to the other suitcase in series as well as in parallel. Makes it possible to have it at 24v too (with a different CC)

    nice to have options
     
  3. jackquontee

    jackquontee Active Member Diamond Supporting Member

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    I have the 100w kit and actually bought the 200w kit for something else (wanna see if I can charge the 48v lithium battery of an electric bike - I'll need an additional component for that) but can obviously use it for a number of things as it is a portable, though heavy, kit.
    I'm assuming the 24v is for another use as campers are generally 12v systems?
     
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  4. Eric Webber

    Eric Webber Active Member

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    The solar system and the camper system are independent, so long as the charge controller can handle both. The small, low amperage, Renogy Voyager that ships with the suitcases is limited to (nominal) 12v, with a peak voltage somewhere around 20v, so it really only charges at 12v nominal.

    For a 12v, 100w panel you can expect to see 17 or so volts at about 5 amps (you can look at the spec of different panels for Vmp and Imp stats) in absolutely perfect conditions. The charge controller will step down the voltage and increase the amperage until the optimal point to charge. If you are seeing 6A, you are getting about 50% of capacity for two 100w panels, which isn't bad.

    All things being equal, if the voltage coming in is less than the battery voltage, the system is so inefficient at stepping the voltage upwards that you are losing most of the potential power. The opposite is also true. If I have a 24v solar panel system with 12v batteries, I'm going to get some amount of charge from dawn to dusk. No real benefit during the peak sun window, but there are times where it's overcast and my 24v system is down below 20v, but is STILL CHARGING MY BATTERY.

    The setup on my shed is at 48v nominal, and it charges all day long.

    When I run the two suitcase panels in parallel (same voltage, add amperages together) I get a lot less charge then when I run them in series (add voltages together, same amperage), assuming no shading of the panel. However, the built-in voyager controller only handles the parallel connection; it can't handle the voltage of a series one.

    Upside of series:
    1. Higher voltage means it charges longer throughout the day and/or can handle higher voltage battery (which has its own benefits for inverting)
    2. Higher voltage also means the same amount of power (watts) go through at lower amperage, which means you can run smaller wires, or longer wires for the same "loss".
    3. Cheaper charge controller (assuming it can handle the voltage) because the limit is usually on the amperage side, and that just got halved, although a good MPPT really does benefit at high voltages stepped down to a small battery

    Downside of Series (as compared to parallel)
    1. If one panel is shaded, they all produce less. Only as good as weakest link
    2. After a certain voltage, safety against shocks starts being realistically relevant. I like to stay under 48v nominal, but that's just me
    3. Can't use the included small, cheap (but waterproof!) charge controller because it can't handle over 20v, which is a hair over what as 12v panel can produce at peak


    For my camper, the panels on my roof are in "series parallel" meaning I have pairs of panels paralleled to other pairs of panels. This is because the layout of my roof means that shade from my Air Conditioner at one time of day would drop production on all panels if I had them all in series. I'm actually thinking of going to pure parallel only at 12v, because despite all the benefits of higher voltages, the rooftop is almost always in partial shade when I'm in the woods.

    The suitcase panels can go where I want, so Series makes more sense to me - and the higher voltage means the wires can be longer without loss, so I can almost always find a sunny spot to set them up.

    Of course, this means two charge controllers - one on roof and one on suitcase for the one 12v battery bank.
     
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  5. jackquontee

    jackquontee Active Member Diamond Supporting Member

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    Aahhh, this is more like it

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    Initially when I set up I was getting 6.6 and your comment above came to mind. I leaned the panels forward a bit (it was about 9:30am so the sun was still a bit low in the sky) and immediately the panels showed at 8.3. I ran some errands and came back and, when I re-positioned the panels, I checked the controller and happily found the amps creeping up. I actually took the pic at 10amps but it may very well have increased beyond that. I just wasn't going to stand there and wait to see as I had things to do.
     
  6. Eric Webber

    Eric Webber Active Member

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    Nice!
     
  7. jonkquil

    jonkquil Active Member

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    Subscribing to this thread for future reference [:D]
     
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  8. Eric Webber

    Eric Webber Active Member

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    I decided to show the difference on my panels

    at 8am, I got 2 watts generated at 12v nominal with all my panels in parallel

    5 minutes later, I rewired them to be “strings” of 24v (two panels per, and two suitcases together) in parallel and was over 100w. Half an hour later and I’m at 300w. Be past 600w in an hour or so.

    Ran my rooftop AC on full for a few hours yesterday as a test. If I can get back to close to 100% before noon, I consider it a success that I can run the AC and recharge in time to do it again

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