Greetings from Nicaragua Central America

GFruge

New Member
Hello from Nicaragua.

I’ll be upfront and honest. I don’t know anything about solar energy, systems, etc. All I know is that I want a system.

With that said, I had a local company come out to give an opinion and estimate on a system.

I live in the mountains with a temperature of a constant 65-75 deg F all year long. There is a rainy season and considered tropical.

My home is approx 6,000 sq ft. With all the added amenities less air conditioning and heating. All lights are LED. Stove, dryer, hot water heater are all propane. My big consumers are a submersible pump to transfer water to a 660 gal holding tank and a pressure pump to pressure water to the house.

I have a transfer switch connected to my panel to run the entire house on a 6.5kw gas generator.

Attached is the list of materials I was quoted for.

I post this on DIY because I have to treat it as I’m doing this myself, because outside of 1st world countries, things can get shady.

Please feel free to ask questions. I have no problems posting pics, giving details, etc. Like I said, I’m mostly ignorant to this.

If I need to translate, please let me know.

Thanks in advance.
 

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Hedges

Photon Sorcerer
Hi,

I would think that if you have someone else put it in, cost could be much higher.
If you know how to work safely with higher voltages, it could be OK as a DIY system.

You need to determine how much power you need - watt hours during the day, watts at night, highest watts consumption. Also surge to start any motors, which is typically 5 times as much as the nameplate says.

What are the ratings for the two pumps?

That information can be used to determine how large a battery, what inverter, how many panels.

Batteries 50% depth of discharge - that sounds like lead-acid, which people do use. Today, many people use lithium. Some of those are more of a fire hazard, but LiFePO4 is pretty safe. The commercial batteries are more expensive than lead-acid. People here DIY LiFePO4 batteries for same price or less than lead-acid and cycle life is much longer.

I recognize some name brands on the list, but I'm not familiar with the inverter.
What are the prices? How much can you or do you want to spend?
There is a wide range of quality, capability, price especially for inverters.
 

GFruge

New Member
I don’t work very well with electricity. I’ll do simple things like change a light switch, fan, and other small projects. I respect electricity enough not to play with it if I don’t have to.

One of my big obstacles with looking for equipment readily available in the USA is the heavy taxes and tariffs getting it back to this country. Things can get very expensive very quick.

The equipment that you see listed are Trina panels and Victron energy components. Victron it seems is a reputable company in Europe.

Here’s a link: https://www.victronenergy.com/upload/documents/Datasheet-EasySolar-with-Color-Control-EN.pdf

I’ll look for an energy bill to see consumption. It’s very steady as far as usage.

Both pumps are 6 running amps.

As far as batteries, I’ll call the place to see if lithium is available.

Attached is the full quote with prices. I don’t mind paying it if it’s worth it. Like mentioned, availability is the issue.
 

KauaiMolokai

Solar Enthusiast
Hi GFruge, I sent you a private message. You can find is by clicking on the little envelope symbol in the top upper right corner of your screen. Aloha.
 

reg

Winter: New York City Summer: Atlantic Canada
Victron it seems is a reputable company in Europe.

It's well-regarded everywhere. People may or may not agree with the precise specs, but the people you're dealing with aren't trying to sell you junk. On price and the vendor, it might be worth talking to expats and local people who have gone the solar route.
 
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GFruge

New Member
Just found the most recent bill. It shows 321 kWh usage. This is usually consistent. But let’s just say up to 400kWh usage
 

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AgroVenturesPeru

Solar Enthusiast
Hello from Nicaragua.

I’ll be upfront and honest. I don’t know anything about solar energy, systems, etc. All I know is that I want a system.

With that said, I had a local company come out to give an opinion and estimate on a system.

I live in the mountains with a temperature of a constant 65-75 deg F all year long. There is a rainy season and considered tropical.

My home is approx 6,000 sq ft. With all the added amenities less air conditioning and heating. All lights are LED. Stove, dryer, hot water heater are all propane. My big consumers are a submersible pump to transfer water to a 660 gal holding tank and a pressure pump to pressure water to the house.

I have a transfer switch connected to my panel to run the entire house on a 6.5kw gas generator.

Attached is the list of materials I was quoted for.

I post this on DIY because I have to treat it as I’m doing this myself, because outside of 1st world countries, things can get shady.

Please feel free to ask questions. I have no problems posting pics, giving details, etc. Like I said, I’m mostly ignorant to this.

If I need to translate, please let me know.

Thanks in advance.

If you can find Pylontech batteries in Nicaragua go with those instead. They're LiFePo4 batteries (LFP, Lithium Iron Phosphate), which are the best kind of solar battery. They have that brand here in Peru. I live in a similar climate to you, and I'm in a very remote area. I looked at all the solar distributors in this country. They're all based out of the capital, Lima.

I didn't like any of the "kits" sold by any of them. Most of them are willing to work with you though to come up with your own kit. When I arrived to Peru in September I spent about two weeks on this forum doing some research to figure out what I need for my own personal situation. I went with one company, because the Pylontech people said that was their authorized distributor. That's really the only reason I went with them. I was put off from the get-go by their condescending employee. If you search the forums for Novum Solar, you'll see my ongoing monologue about my experience with them.

But hey, it's Latin America, where the customer is always second and never right, so set your expectations low.

I like the idea of using a Victron EasySolar in your kit. That will make the installation so much easier. Victron is compatible with Pylontech. The reason I suggest Pylontech is because they're one of only two LiFePo4 batteries available in Peru as far as I know. The other, Narada, didn't sound very compatible with Victron, and I think the Pylontechs have a better BMS. When you're in the third world there aren't a lot of options for Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries.

You're right not to trust anyone to do a good installation in latin america. You need to do a thorough check of the person's credentials. Treat it like a job interview, demand references, and don't be afraid to ask tough questions. I'm sure you'll get flack, but if they give you attitude upfront, you can expect worse later. And definitely never give any money up front. You will be lucky if you get any work done at all if you give someone any money up front.

Unfortunately, I haven't installed my system yet. I was shopping around for an installer, and the short version of a long story, is that there just aren't that many people doing solar out here in the jungle. The few I found wanted exorbitant amounts of money by local standards. I figured for the same amount I could buy all my own tools, and still have money left over. So, at this point I'm pretty much just committed to doing everything myself, and maybe hiring a local electrician to help out at certain parts.

Get everything in writing up front. What is their return policy? What is the warranty policy? Where do you send the components if one has a problem? Who pays for the fix? The shipping back and forth? Get it in writing. Be persistent. It never ceases to amaze me how horribly trained salespeople are in Latin America. You'll be eager to spend thousands of dollars, and you won't get a response to your inquiry for days or weeks. Do they offer follow-up support? In what form? How much help? I'm sure you know about the wheelings and dealings in latin america, so just don't be surprised if they say you can call anytime and they'll put you through with a technician to troubleshoot over the phone, when in reality, they will just call screen you so they can ignore you forever.
 
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Hedges

Photon Sorcerer
Just found the most recent bill. It shows 321 kWh usage. This is usually consistent. But let’s just say up to 400kWh usage

Utility bill - so you have grid power available?
In that case, what is your objective putting in solar, also batteries and inverter?

Often, PV is a fraction the price of utility grid power. For those of us with a utility company that permits "net metering", we use a grid-tie inverter to backfeed the meter, creating credits during the day that we can use for power consumed at night or in the winter. Compare to batteries, this is 100% efficient and free, except for any monthly fees we might be charged.

Some people can't have net metering or don't want the rates/terms that go with it, so they do "zero export". Similar grid-tie inverters, but with production from PV reduced when necessary to just match consumption, never spin the meter backwards. This does mean wasting available PV production, but PV costs a fraction of utility rates and a fraction of what a battery would cost to store the power.

Some people use a battery to store production part of the day, and draw from battery while also drawing from the grid other times (or even backfeeding the grid when rates are high.)

Battery systems are also used to keep things operating during power failures. Or for off-grid homes.

Lithium batteries last longer than lead-acid, maybe 5 times as long, but probably also cost 5 times as much. The only exception I've seen is DIY, where people buy individual cells, a BMS, and build the battery themselves.
If you have grid power, a lithium battery may not be justified considering the cost. I use lead-acid AGM battery for backup during occasional power failures. That is infrequent enough that cheaper batteries which can't cycle as many times make sense for me.
 

Hedges

Photon Sorcerer
400 kWh/month
8, 410W panels

An "Insolation" map/website will show how many effective sun hours to expect each month.
In my San Jose (US) location, I expect average 5 hours effective sun per day around the year. The day might be 10 hours long, but some hours sunlight is weaker and hitting panels at an angle, so equivalent to 5 hours pointed straight at the sun.

Your daily consumption is estimated at 13.3 kWh. Divide that by 5, and 2.7 kW of PV is needed.
8 x 410W = 3280W ratings. Panels typically produce about 0.85 times as much in field conditions. I think someone said as little as 0.75 times for Trina panels?
So 2400W to 2800W, approximately your expected consumption.
Your location may get more effective sun hours, or if foggy could be less.
If trying to power the home off-grid during the winter, you would have less power. Either conserve, or consider more panels.

Pumps -

6A, 230V = 1380W
I would expect it to draw 5000W to 7000W for a second when starting.
The data sheet for your inverter says 10,000W peak. How many seconds isn't listed, but being Victron I would expect it is enough.

or are the pumps 120V?
In that case, 6A x 5 = 30A,
I see you have an autotransformer for 120/240V, good for 32A so that looks sufficient.

As Reg said, this is quality equipment the vendor is proposing.
 

GFruge

New Member
My objective is to have available energy. Power goes out often and sometimes for days. At the end of the day, if I want to disconnect from the grid, I have that option. But for now, I’d like to have the grid as backup.
 

Hedges

Photon Sorcerer
My objective is to have available energy. Power goes out often and sometimes for days. At the end of the day, if I want to disconnect from the grid, I have that option. But for now, I’d like to have the grid as backup.

I think the lead-acid (lead-carbon) batteries in the quote are a good fit for the application.
The claimed cycle life (3000 cycles to 50% DoD) is particularly long. They might last 10 years more or less in off-grid use depending on how deep they drain at night.


Lithium batteries could last longer, but presently cost more too. It is likely that lithium batteries will continue to come down in price. Lead has been going up. So when you do replace them some lithium chemistry will be a better deal.
Lithium could last 3000 to 5000 cycles to 90% DoD. It accepts higher charge rate.
On the down side, can't be charged below freezing, and rate must be reduced close to freezing. Also, BMS limits maximum discharge current which could keep inverter from starting motor loads.

PV panels are only 14% of the total price. I would double the number of panels. At that point, panels could charge battery at 0.6C which is probably too high (spec for your battery is 80A max charge, and likely some lower charge rate would extend life.) Victron can regulate max charge current (I think a battery shunt is required.) The extra PV would make up for times of less light and shorter days. It could allow more loads to run during the day, while still charging the battery.

My system has SunXtender AGM batteries (3000 cycles to 20% DoD, 600 cycles to 75% DoD). The PV array is enough for about 0.65C charging, but that is regulated to 0.2C which allows it to do bulk and absorption charge during the day. There is enough PV to run A/C, laundry, everything else during the day. Mine isn't intended to run off grid every day, just during occasional power failures, so I expect 10 years lifespan. Like a car starting battery, these can deliver plenty of surge power.
 

GFruge

New Member
I’ll start with what’s on the quote. From there, I’ll see if more panels are needed. I’ve always thought more panels, but I’m no expert in this area. So, seems like I’m being sold quality equipment. And I’m assuming the system is big enough for my needs and maybe even a little growing room.

Should I ask the company for better panels?

During rainy season, the sun peeks out sometimes. We also live at the top of a mountain, so many foggy days also.

We have neighbors with small systems and not like what we’re trying to put together. They say that even during rainy season and the foggy days, their systems still get enough charge. And they’re covered in shade with the trees. We’re slightly higher than they are and have a clear area where the house is. Panels will be mounted on rooftop for best coverage and the most exposure to sun.
 

GFruge

New Member
The other thing to note is that the 2 pumps mentioned never turn on together. The submersible pump is on a float switch. When the 660 gal tank reaches a little less than half tank, the float switch falls and the pump turns on to fill automatically.

And of course the pressure pump turns on more often when the pressure reaches its minimal threshold.
 

Hedges

Photon Sorcerer
Trina should be decent panels. I think they are toward the economy end. Price of $0.45/watt isn't bad. I don't know if others would give more or less power in overcast or other conditions. When someone has limited mounting area, "efficiency" or watts per unit area can make a difference. I found a place with reports on stress testing of many brands:


Inverter/charger ratings:
Maximum output current 100A
Maximum PV power 5800W

You'll have a bit under half that much PV. With maximum PV it would be current limited at lower battery voltage.
I like to orient some panels partially toward the West and some partially toward the East, resulting in lower peak power but more hours of production.
You could add more PV arrays later. I don't know if your roof has multiple suitable orientations.
 

GFruge

New Member
So, another quote came through and since I hadn’t purchased the Victron setup just yet, wanted to get an opinion. Seems like I get more for less. For approx $600 less, I can get (12) 335 watt panels instead of (8) panels. (8) batteries instead of (4). And it would be a 6kw setup instead of 5kw. The other difference would be a MUST controller instead of the Victron.

Any opinions on the MUST setup?
 

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GFruge

New Member
Actually the guy gave 3 options. Here are the other 2. The difference is in the battery setup. Another has same 8 batteries, but inferior capacity. The other has only 4 batteries. Seems like all are acid sealed batteries.
 

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Skid

Solar Enthusiast
I'm waiting on components to arrive in Nicaragua from the US shortly. It's next to impossible to buy quality equipment here. I've been to all the stores and it's mostly Alibaba low quality inverters and pricey AGM.

A company, Nicamisol sells good systems but only for their installation. They recently did two installs near where I live and hope to check them out soon. It might be worth it to contact them. They have given me good, friendly advice and tips though I am going about it on my own. Most photos are LFP batteries that look similar to GYLL and Growatt inverters but I'm sure they can build what you want.
This is a nearby installation. I know of the people it was built for, but not personally.
 

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GFruge

New Member
I’ll give them a try. I live in the Matagalpa area, so a little distance from the island of Ometepe. ECAMI is who gave me the quote with the Victron equipment. I also contacted Tecnosol. Just contacted many places to see what they had to offer and rates.
 
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