Tell me about SolArk.

Haugen

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I have been pretty set on an Enphase system and completely sold on the concept of microinverters.
After about 6 solar installers, I have been having good deep discussions with a company that is willing to help you get what you really want. After talking about Enphase, Generac, and Tesla systems and how they are restricted to only their battery modules, he introduced me to SolArk.

I'm still a little hesitant about the string inverters, but the fact that I can build my own LiFePO4 batteries for the system is a real bonus. Adding 10kWh of battery for less than $2k would save $10k right there.

I'm hoping that some of our members will be able to give me some feedback about their experience and knowledge about the SolArk system.
Let's hear what you have to say!
 

GXMnow

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I have an Enphase system now with 16 micro inverters on my roof. It works great, but now I am adding batteries.

The Enphase Ensamble battery setup is very good, but it is expensive.

I can't help a lot on the Sol-Ark, but it is one of the units I looked into. It could be a very good solution, but I was not able to find all the info I wanted to be comfortable using it AC coupled to my existing Enphase system. If I was starting from scratch right now, the Sol-Ark and the OutBack Skybox both look great. I think they both have 2 independent MPPT solar inputs which would have worked for my two 8 panel arrays. They are string input, which is actually quite efficient, but if you have shading issues, or panels at different angles, it might not be able to pull as much power as the independent micro inverters. Sol-Ark claims to be the most efficient at putting power into the batteries and them outputting it as AC. In my case, I am installing a Schneider XW-Pro to add battery backup and time of use shifting to my Enphase setup. And I am using a DIY battery bank made from LG Chem Chevy Bolt packs, totally about 17 KwH of usable storage. One of the main reasons I went with the Enphase is I have 16 inverters. Failures will happen at some point. If I lose an inverter, the other 15 keep working. If my Schneider fails, I won't have battery backup, but the Enphase units will still work. With an All in One, if something goes wrong, there is a good chance the entire system will stop producing any power. Also with micro inverters, a broken panel stops just one panel. With the dual inputs on the Sol-Ark and SkyBox, a single broken panel still takes out half of the array.

I tend to stress over details and take months to decide on what to get. 15 months ago, I decided on the Enphase, but always knew I would add batteries. After 2 moths of research, I ordered the Schneider inverter. If I started this all now, it would have been a much harder choice. The Sol-Ark has a lot of great features, and if you use all of it's functions, the price is hard to beat also. My only negative is it is a bit too new and I can't find a lot of people using it yet. The manual was a bit vague and for my AC couple system, I did not find enough data to make me comfortable with that. On a new install, use the built in charge controller, and then no need for any other inverter. Then there is no AC couple issue at all. With all the buzz around it, I think we will start seeing a lot of people using them fairly soon.
 

Ampster

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I think @solardad has a SolArk and I have heard good things about them.
I have an Outback Skybox and there are a lot of ways to deal with shade with either system. The SolArk has more capacity but costs more. To clarify what @GXMnow mentioned, the Skybox only has one MMPT channel. That doesn't affect me because I have only a little of my production coming from the panels connected to the Skybox. The bulk of my production comes from a Solaredge GT system and some Enphase microinverters both AC coupled to the Skybox.
 

svetz

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... the fact that I can build my own LiFePO4 batteries for the system is a real bonus....
Sol-Ark was my number one pick until I ran into the BFE issue. But that doesn't mean you can't build your own AC battery system. All it would take is a properly designed inverter; for example it's likely you could hook your liFePO4s in a bank of IQ8s. 3rd party inverters are probably on their way (discussed in Incrementally Adding AC Batteries). Don't forget there are also concerns with Incrementally Adding DC batteries.
 

Haugen

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One of the things that is attractive to me is that I am being told that the SolArk team is very responsive and they will share system details with customers as easily as with contractors.
I am also told that the system is very modular, so you will never be waiting for a complete 100lb box to be shipped to install. It's a matter of a circuit board that arrives and you swap it out.
Are these true @solardad?
 

Archetype-IS

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One of the things that is attractive to me is that I am being told that the SolArk team is very responsive and they will share system details with customers as easily as with contractors.
I am also told that the system is very modular, so you will never be waiting for a complete 100lb box to be shipped to install. It's a matter of a circuit board that arrives and you swap it out.
Are these true @solardad?
The last time I emailed them about product information when 12K was released, i have been emailing them for years from the SolArk 3K days, they told me the latest demand for their 8K and 12K products exceeded their expectations and they plan to go the contractors/partners support model instead of supporting DIYers. So, I am not sure if they implemented that yet. Feel free to chat / email them and see they have to offer for DIYers. @solardad can give more details.
 

Haugen

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The last time I emailed them about product information when 12K was released, i have been emailing them for years from the SolArk 3K days, they told me the latest demand for their 8K and 12K products exceeded their expectations and they plan to go the contractors/partners support model instead of supporting DIYers. So, I am not sure if they implemented that yet. Feel free to chat / email them and see they have to offer for DIYers. @solardad can give more details.
At this point, I am going to hire a contractor to install the system due to the need to get it done by the end of the year. I'm willing to pay the extra for that service and get a warranty, but DIY the maintenance and upgrades.
 

solardad

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Sol-Ark was my number one pick until I ran into the BFE issue. But that doesn't mean you can't build your own AC battery system. All it would take is a properly designed inverter; for example it's likely you could hook your liFePO4s in a bank of IQ8s. 3rd party inverters are probably on their way (discussed in Incrementally Adding AC Batteries). Don't forget there are also concerns with Incrementally Adding DC batteries.

@svetz you may want to give sol-ark a call on the eta for their NEMA 4 outdoor version of the 12k. I believe they are coming out with one soon.
 

solardad

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The last time I emailed them about product information when 12K was released, i have been emailing them for years from the SolArk 3K days, they told me the latest demand for their 8K and 12K products exceeded their expectations and they plan to go the contractors/partners support model instead of supporting DIYers. So, I am not sure if they implemented that yet. Feel free to chat / email them and see they have to offer for DIYers. @solardad can give more details.
Not aware they were thinking of shifting away from support DIY, if anything they were more than helpful with my questions when I did my DIY install. In addition their setup manual is more than adequate and their online video tutorials are highly detailed. If you can screw in a light bulb you can probably install one of their units... ;-)
 

Ampster

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At this point, I am going to hire a contractor to install the system due to the need to get it done by the end of the year.
That sounds like a good plan. Later if you find you need more generating capacity you can always add some AC coupled micros. Do you have lots of south facing roof area?
Do you have a plan for the circuits on your critical loads panel or are you going to power your whole home?
 

Haugen

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That sounds like a good plan. Later if you find you need more generating capacity you can always add some AC coupled micros. Do you have lots of south facing roof area?
Do you have a plan for the circuits on your critical loads panel or are you going to power your whole home?
Looking at 20 380W panels. That's four strings of 5. Depending on how much I want to expand:
Add 1, I can switch to 3 strings of 7
Add in increments of 4, and it's one panel per string.
As you said, there is also the option to add microinverters on the AC side.
I have almost 50ft of south facing roof in a single facet. Almost 800ft^2 with very little shading.
I would love nothing more than to have a hurricane blow through and not notice that the grid is down afterwards.
 

Ampster

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Has any body mentioned if there is a Rapid Shut Down requirement in your code? If so they will probably use optimizers to solve that issue in which case you will get shade mitigation much like micros would have given you.
 

Haugen

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Has any body mentioned if there is a Rapid Shut Down requirement in your code? If so they will probably use optimizers to solve that issue in which case you will get shade mitigation much like micros would have given you.
I'm not sure what rapid shutdown you are talking about.

I know that the SolArk kicks in the battery backup of battery power in 2ms. From what I understand, a transfer switch is integrated and there is an auto PV cutoff, which, I believe is required.
 

Archetype-IS

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I'm not sure what rapid shutdown you are talking about.

I know that the SolArk kicks in the battery backup of battery power in 2ms. From what I understand, a transfer switch is integrated and there is an auto PV cutoff, which, I believe is required.
Rapid shutdown button is exactly what it said mandate by state or city electrical code for safety of fire fighters and other emergency personnel. You can look it up to see if your location requires it. The SolArk shutdown button under the unit won't be accessible by emergency personnel so you would need a button on the outside for them for the shutdown.
 

GXMnow

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PV Rapid Shut Off is now required for all new solar installs here. This is a shut down to turn off all the power on the roof. Under the "old" rule, a relay at the combiner box was good enough, but now they want it at each panel. All wiring has to be under 30 volts in under 30 seconds from hitting the kill switch. Micro inverters and PV optimizer boxes now do the rapid shut down, but string inverter systems need an added box at each of the panels now.
 

Ampster

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but string inverter systems need an added box at each of the panels now
And Tigo have a model of optimizer that does that. @Haugen can ask the installers if it is required and at what level. He mentioned some shade so I thought for $50 per optimizer he would get that benefit as a by product of having to do RSD.
 

Haugen

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Rapid shutdown button is exactly what it said mandate by state or city electrical code for safety of fire fighters and other emergency personnel. You can look it up to see if your location requires it. The SolArk shutdown button under the unit won't be accessible by emergency personnel so you would need a button on the outside for them for the shutdown.
I was just looking through the website and saw this. Haven't dug into it yet, but I assume there is an output signal that will accomplish the rapid shutdown.
I don't really know why that would be required if I'm going to have the power routed into the house in place of the grid when the grid goes down.
I suppose if there is a fire, they want the power off. Of course, it won't take long for the panels to go up in smoke in that situation.
Screenshot_20200816-001541_Chrome.jpg
 
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Ampster

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don't really know why that would be required if I'm going to have the power routed into the house in place of the grid
Rapid Shut Down is for the protection of firefighters who may be on your roof and exposed to a string of panels that could be putting out 500 volts even if your inverter is shut down. That is something that is native to a microinverter which is why this may be new to you with a string inverter. That panel level shutdown is the second phases. The button shutting down the inverter is the first phase. It has been implemented in two phases and your installer would know which phase has been adopted in your jurisdiction, It is not something that can be answered here. Each jurisdiction has its own timeline for adoption.
 

Haugen

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Rapid Shut Down is for the protection of firefighters who may be on your roof and exposed to a string of panels that could be putting out 500 volts even if your inverter is shut down. That is something that is native to a microinverter which is why this may be new to you with a string inverter. That panel level shutdown is the second phases. The button shutting down the inverter is the first phase. It has been implemented in two phases and your installer would know which phase has been adopted in your jurisdiction, It is not something that can be answered here. Each jurisdiction has its own timeline for adoption.
Good information. The team I'm working with should be on top of that. I'll ask.
Getting on my roof during a fire would be futile. Metal is going to be the last entry method that would help. Better to try to knock out one of the hurricane windows. Not much easier, but at least you're on the ground. 😊
 
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