For quite some time power control electronics lacked excitement in their presentation and modes of operation appeared boring. Something as exciting as capturing invisible energy bombarding ones solar panels and injecting that energy through copper conductors craved more engaging equipment. A failed inverter would mean shipping the 135 pound beast back to it's manufacturer delaying the homestead's most important component from getting fixed and back into operation, let alone adding significant hassle and shipping costs. Charge controllers required that the solar array be wired to a nominal voltage to match that of which the inverter required. This inherently meant larger wires to keep resistance losses to a minimum as well as multiple parallel strings back to a combiner box.
Outback Power was founded in 2001 by Christopher Freitas, Robin and boB Gudgel after spending years gaining experience engineering RE solutions for Trace Engineering. These engineers designed solutions not only to address the shortcomings to those mentioned above but have continued to invent and innovate ever since. In 2010 Outback Power sold to the Alpha Group but they have excelled on building upon the solid work of it's original founders and have continued to be a responsive partner in supporting my off grid installations. They are reliable, predictable and intuitive in their nature and are the brand of choice for the large majority of my off grid installations.
Few would argue that no off grid solution can be offered complete without some sort of Midnite Solar product. Even most on grid installations will utilize one of their cost effective combiner boxes or surge protection devices. As more states start enforcing the 2014 National Electrical Code their Solar Birdhouse and associated shut off boxes might possibly become one of the most widely used boxes in the industry. They have pioneered so many great products over the years, myriads of solutions in a blue ocean of their own. Instead of trying to re-create the story that Robin Gudgel himself wrote so well I'll redirect to their site for the full story. Spend some time exploring their website and product list and see for yourself why they have so many loyal customers. They are to the RE industry what Simpson is to the building industry, except we like them!
Over the years I've had the pleasure to install over 21 brands of solar modules. Of those twenty one, thirty three percent of those companies are no longer around and one third of those have failed leaving no warranty support for their failed modules. Luckily only one brand I've installed have had issues which speaks largely to the reliability of this technology. In today's times there are nearly as many module manufacturers in the US as there are states and well over three times that worldwide. Interestingly, there is no single country that dominates the market and there is little to no correlation between country of manufacture and quality rankings. This coupled with the fact that many offerings pencil out to just a few percent difference in cost over the installed price of a system can make choosing a brand a little difficult at times. Often, there is not a single solution that fits every situation or aesthetic preference. Handfuls of manufacturers are hitting the 18% module efficiency mark which typically yields somewhere in the 300 watt range for the 60 cell format. From 2011 to 2018 I almost exclusively installed Solarworld modules but recently they were bought by Sunpower Corp in April of 2018. Due to availability constraints and lack of desire to feed the giants, I will no longer offer Solarworld solar modules. With so many quality affordable modules on today’s market I look forward to helping you select the perfect solution from my handful of favorites.
Besides for being known for what I feel is truly the best battery available for full time off grid installations, this company really excels at being true to their mission. When a colleague recently asked me which manufacturer I most respect Blue Planet Energy burst through my vocal chords without hesitation. In a day where most successful companies are just a subsidiary of another giant or bow to their investors at the expense of the environment, BPES comes from a different place. Their founder, Henk Rogers, has been on a mission to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and power the world with clean, reliable and affordable energy. Observing that renewable energy adoption was hindered by the lack of clean and reliable energy storage options, Henk embarked on creating what would come to be the battery of choice for anyone paying attention. Henk had a successful past as an entrepreneur in the video game industry with Tetris (yes that Tetris) and a strong desire to help Hawaii reach it's goal of 100% renewables by 2045 and in 2007 established the non-profit Blue Planet Foundation. His products have inspired me like no others in my 20 years installing battery based solar systems and in a time where corporate greed takes precedent over environmental stewardship I am proud to know and support a man like Henk and his talented team.