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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 9/27/2014

Well, it's been far too long in coming, but this weekend I finally began to relocate the solar hardware from the existing shed to the new one I've been trying to build for the last couple of years. Mind you the new shed is not really "done," but it's "done enough" to get this move taken care of. I can't put it off much longer as I'm rapidly running out of summertime and I don't relish the thought of babying the system in the old shed for another winter! So the move began today... and may I just say, it's about fracking time...

Bright and early Solar LeRoy and I hit the site and began to dissasemble and move the solar equipment. Of course this meant shutting off the power to Tanglewood proper for safety's sake. I'd previously put a shelving rack into the new shed that was identical to the existing one so we could just disconnect batteries and move them essentially one shelf at a time. This went pretty well for the first couple of shelves, with Solar LeRoy disconnecting each string and then testing each battery as we moved them. Given the previous problems I've had with the batteries (never ever use Gel batts; I'm going to be replacing the entire system next spring or summer as I've had it with these things) we thought it would be wise to see if any individual batts had problems. For the most part they were in fine shape - until we got to the bottom row that is.

That's where we found out that one of the batteries had literally exploded... One entire cell had blown out. Suddenly the problems I'd had with poor system battery life made sense - this blown out battery was dragging down the entire system! I'd never noticed it because it was in the most inaccessible location of all the batteries, the bottom row in the very back and darkest corner. I regularly looked at and even dusted off the batteries on the other shelves, but this was simply never one I could easily reach.

I'll need to check my records, but I think the battery probably blew out about two years ago. That's when I believe I noticed a big dip in performance, with the charge seeming to decline faster and charging from the solar panels not being as effective as it used to be. At the time I chalked this up to the Gel batts themselves - they're really subpar for a renewable energy system - and just assumed that this was an expensive learning experience. Our guess is that this battery experienced what's called a "thermal runaway" for some reason, though it's not at all clear why - this battery wasn't in the hottest part of the shed at all so external factors shouldn't have done it. Now it was obvious what had really happened to my poor system!

So once we found this little disaster we regrouped and decided to pull out an entire string's worth of batteries, removing the ones that were testing poorly. Most of those were (as you might expect) on the same string as the blown battery but a couple were on the adjacent strings; we sorted those out and just moved the good batteries over to the new shed. With the blown battery and subsequent retrenching we didn't have time to hook things up at all of course - we frankly were lucky to get the equipment and the batteries taken down and moved. Solar LeRoy did get the generator hooked back up so I could run the house overnight at least, so the plan as of sundown is to power the house with the generator and finish moving and hooking up the batteries

Sure feels get to finally get this move underway!

Steven in Colorado

Photos

The first few batteries moved over the new shed and shelving. Once we cleared the batteries off of the top shelf in the old shed we move that over to the new shed's shelving unit.
The blown-out battery we discovered about halfway through the move. Amazing!
Slightly better and more close-up shot of the blown out battery. Those kinda look like wood chips mixed in with the Gel.


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