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RV Questions and Answers

My last post on living in an RV has generated a bunch of questions by comment and by email. Instead of responding to them individually, I'm going to answer them all here.

How long did it take you to outfit the RV with solar power?

Putting solar power into an RV is a simple job, primarily because most things in an RV (everything that I use) runs of 12V DC power instead of standard household 120V AC power.

Micro inverters

On Travelling light

Last Thursday, I attended a seminar on residential solar organized the MIT club of Northen California. Thanks Victor Huang for getting me in ! Among the guest speakers was Paul Nahi, CEO of Enphase, a forward thinking company specialized in micro inverters for PV systems.

An inverter has two role in a solar PV system:

1. Convert the direct current generated by panels into alternative current 2. Optimize the power produced by the system through Maximum Power Point Tracking.

If there is shading or any other issue with a single panel on the array, the inverter in a conventional setting will adjust the MPPT for the whole array, leading to a large diminution of the power production. Micro inverters adjust their MPPT independently at the panel level, significantly improving the efficiency of the system. Here is a technical study on the difference by Mr. Lee and Mr. Raichle from the Appalachian State University

An other big advantage of micro inverters is that they eliminate the high voltage part of the system, making it not only safer, but also cheaper to install and repair. Any electrician can install systems with micro inverters, while conventional systems require a high voltage operating license.

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