Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need a trailer, if I’m off-grid and non-mobile?
All off-grid systems need an enclosure to protect the components, whether they are mobile or not. A trailer just happens to provide the required features, at a competitive cost. The ruggedized cargo trailers we use as a platform for our MS-Series provide the following benefits: 1) They provide a dry, clean, rodent-proof space that protects the system’s electrical components. 2) They are theft resistant and allow the user to move in an emergency, or move seasonally in the case of a seasonal home. 3) One of the biggest advantages is the extra space provided inside the trailer. Our past customers have used this additional space to store tools, food, sensitive electronics and emergency supplies. Some have set up mobile office spaces for jobsites, remote monitoring or surveillance.
What will the solar generator run?
This is perhaps the most important question, and the one we get all the time. In order to answer it accurately we need a little information from you. For instance, if you are powering a single electrical load like a tool, and we know how much power the tool requires when it is running (kW) and how many hours it will run each day, then we can calculate the total kilo-watt-hours per 24-hour period we need to provide the load (kWh/day). The idea is to roughly match your daily energy consumption (from you loads), with your daily solar energy harvest (from the solar panels). We can help determine your load, just give us a call or fill out our Contact Form.
How long does it take to recharge?
To determine recharge time from the solar panels, just divide the utilized battery capacity (in kWh) by the daily solar harvest (in kWh/day). For instance, the MS-225 has a battery capacity of 25kWh and solar array has a daily harvest of 9kWh/day. Let’s assume you drain the battery down 80% (meaning 20% is left in the battery). The math: 25kWh x 0.80 = 20kWh. And 20kWh / 9kWh/day = 2.2 days of solar charge to bring the battery back up to a 100% State of Charge (SOC).
What is the difference between a Kilo-Watt and a Kilo-Watt-Hour?
The short answer is that a kilo-Watt represents Power, while a Kilo-Watt-Hour represents Power transmitted over a period of time, otherwise known as Energy. Most of us think of these terms as synonymous, but they are not. A KW is a measured real-time rate of electricity generated or consumed. A kWh is a measured amount of power generated, or consumed, over a period of time. If you have a solar generator supplying 6kW to a load …and you run that load for one-and-a-half hours, it will have consumed 9kWh of energy. The load required 6kW of power to run. It used 9kWh of energy over 1.5 hours. The (k) in front of either just means “one thousand,” so 1kW = 1,000 Watts.
Are there any tax incentives or State rebate programs for purchasing a solar generator or light tower?
Yes, there is a 30% Federal Income Tax Credit available to all home owners and businesses. It is set to expire December 31, 2016. There very well may be a rebate or other incentive available from your State. For a full list of state incentives, visit DSIRE.org
Will the solar generator charge on a cloudy day?
That depends on how cloudy it is. The general rule is that if you hold your hand 8-10” above a surface, and you can see your hand’s shadow, the solar generator is getting some charge. That said, full sun is what really makes these units shine!
Will the solar generator output power at night or on cloudy days?
Yes. The large deep-cycle, solar batteries integrated into the unit store energy for days, sometimes weeks, of usage.
Can I buy the solar generator without the trailer?
Yes, you can. Look for our new ST products coming soon, or call to inquire about our component packages.
If I’m building a new home and want to power it off a solar generator, are there specials wiring concerns my electrician must take into consideration?
No, there are not. The home, or facility, gets wired just like a standard grid-connected building. Instead of a utility drop, the electric panel gets supplied with single phase 120VAC or 120/240VAC from our solar generator. In the future you can switch to grid power, if desired, without having to re-wire the building.
Can the solar panels be installed separately?
The solar panels can be separated from the MS or PK units and installed anywhere, including on a roof, pole, ground rack, etc. We recommend you try to keep them within 150-feet of the solar generator, but you can make longer runs with larger conductor. If know you intend to separate the panels, we can pre-wire connectors that will plug right into your wires.
How long do the batteries last and do they require maintenance?
The batteries contained within our MS-units are industrial steel-case deep-cycle lead acid, manufactured by IBE. They are rated for 2,000 cycles to an 80% depth of discharge (DOD). That equates to a 12 to 15-year life. Since 2005, we have yet to have a customer replace an IBE battery. All of our MS-units come standard with automatic watering systems, so maintenance is minimal – it requires about 2 minutes of your time, about 4 times a year. The batteries contained within our PK and LT-units are sealed AGM-type batteries and they require no maintenance. The down side is that they only last 4-5 years. A replacement set will cost around $1,800 in the LT-24, LT-2435 or PK-3. They are a standard 8-d group size battery and can be sourced from any vendor.
Is there other maintenance to perform on the system?
Other than cleaning the glass surface of the solar panels once or twice a year, there is nothing else to perform.
Do we ship out of state? Internationally?
Yes, we ship globally. Most of the units we build ship outside of California. Our most common method of domestic transport is via tractor/trailer. In some cases it is more cost competitive to have larger units single pulled to your destination, especially if you are within 600 miles of our factory. Some of our larger MS-Series units do not fit inside standard sea containers and require special packaging to ocean transport. We provide shipping quotes for your approval before any unit ships. Customers are welcome to arrange for their own freight as well.
How long will the solar generator supply power without sun shining on the solar array?
This depends on how much power you draw from the system, the size of the battery bank and how low you want your batteries to get before the inverter shuts off or tells a generator to automatically start.
Do I need a permit or license to own a solar generator?
Because the unit is mobile there are no city or state permits required. This means no fees, no inspectors or bureaucratic lag time. Check with local regulations for any specific law we may not be aware of.
How long does it take to set the solar generator up after towing?
About 5 to 10 minutes.
Is there a comprehensive warranty on the entire solar generator? What about component warranties?
Yes. On top of all the equipment warranties, all solar generators come with a five-year Product Workmanship Warranty. The Suniva solar panels carry a 25 year warranty. You can expect 30 years of really decent productivity from them. We use IBE batteries in our MS-200 and MS-300 Series models, hands down the best lead-acid solar battery on the market. They are covered by a 7-year warranty. With proper care you can expect 12 to 15-years of use out of an IBE battery.
Do the panels on the MS-units store inside the trailer when traveling?
No. The upper array is adjusted to its lowest setting and the side array is folded down along the vertical edge of the trailer.