AC Coupled Battery Backup Install Questions

What's up everybody. Been a while since I posted but haven't had any crazy designs until now.

I have a client in Western MA who is getting a (55) panel, 19.525 kW DC, 16.2 kW AC install (LG 355 Mono-X! panels and Enphase IQ7+ microinverters).

He wants battery backup, and I was able to convince him to wait a little longer for the battery technology to develop further. I have my eyes set on Enphase's IQ8 technology, but it keeps getting delayed.

Never the less, we will be using microinverters, so the battery backup needs to be AC coupled. There are no DC strings to intercept since everything is 240Vac off the roof.

I am planning on adding a critical loads / backup panel, which will also act as the solar subpanel for the (4) 20 amp branch circuits. I want to have everything set up for the battery backup, and only have to add in the inverter and battery, or Enphase's batteries, whichever technology we go with.

Here are my questions / concerns:

It is looking like I will need a very large panel, possibly a 200 amp subpanel for this application. 80 amps for the solar branch circuits, maybe 60 amps for a 10 kW inverter for the battery circuit, and all the critical loads (maybe another 60-80 amps). This is leaning me towards a 200 amp subpanel.

I have never wired a 200 amp subpanel off a 200 amp MSP. I do not want to do a lineside tap, since we would in theory be at risk of overloading the conductors coming in for the 200 amp service. I have not made note of their size yet, but I will next time on site.

My electrician seems to think we will be able to use a 200 amp breaker like any other subpanel install, but I think he may be mistaken here. I can't imagine the size of the terminals to accept the proper sized wire for 200 amps. I have only seen 100 amp breakers, never anything higher.

I am hoping some of y'all can help guide me through this. I will be having a professional electrical engineer stamp and approve my design, since our install is above 15 kW AC this is a requirement here in National Grid service territory. He seems pretty unfamiliar with all this residential backup technology so I wanted to look elsewhere for assistance.

Thanks in advance and solar on my friends.

-Alex DeFreitas
 

jaggedben

Senior Member
If your maximum system output (solar+battery) would be 120A after 125% factors are added, and your maximum backed up loads are to be well under that, then you don't need a 200A feed from an MSP. You may need a 200A backup panelboard depending how you qualify it under 705.12(B)(2)(3), but the utility side feed could be on a 125A breaker.

You are also wrong to think you could overload 200A service conductors with only 120A of system output if you did a supply side tap. But I'm not saying this is the best option, since there are many other potentially relevant details you haven't filled in.

Finally, 200A branch breakers do exist, at least for most newer equipment. But actually installing one in an existing panel might not be feasible depending on details, and certainly would be a pain in the a** on most residences. There's probably a better option.
 
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jaggedben

Senior Member
Also, like you I'm waiting for Enphase's new stuff and hoping it will compete well. But as far as planning this install, if you know anything about how Powerwall works, whatever Enphase comes out with is going to have to follow the same basic design principles. There will be some kind of getaway/automatic disconnect, and the solar, battery, and backed up loads will have to be all on one side of it. Plan your install so that can be easily inserted later, or at least so you're not making it harder.
 
If your maximum system output (solar+battery) would be 120A after 125% factors are added, and your maximum backed up loads are to be well under that, then you don't need a 200A feed from an MSP. You may need a 200A backup panelboard depending how you qualify it under 705.12(B)(2)(3), but the utility side feed could be on a 125A breaker.
Ahh I see what you're getting at. The solar is like a generator, and backfeeds instead of drawing power. The batteries work both ways, so adding the solar output + battery output would be maximum backfeed, then the critical loads actually subtract from the amperage. So I just need to size for the solar + battery if I'm thinking correctly.

You are also wrong to think you could overload 200A service conductors with only 120A of system output if you did a supply side tap. But I'm not saying this is the best option, since there are many other potentially relevant details you haven't filled in.
So my thinking here is let's say we tap above main breaker. The MSP then can draw the 200 amps, and I didn't want critical loads + battery backup charging (if it's charging from utility) to exceed the amperage rating of the service conductors. I haven't checked the conductor sizes when on site (rookie mistake), but I will obtain next time I am out.

By keeping all the new equipment below the main breaker I need not worry about overdrawing from the service conductors.

Finally, 200A branch breakers do exist, at least for most newer equipment. But actually installing one in an existing panel might not be feasible depending on details, and certainly would be a pain in the a** on most residences. There's probably a better option.
Good to know. I just can't physically imagine bending the conductors which land on the main lugs for 200 amps, and fitting them on a double pole breaker. My electrician is looking into it.

Also, like you I'm waiting for Enphase's new stuff and hoping it will compete well. But as far as planning this install, if you know anything about how Powerwall works, whatever Enphase comes out with is going to have to follow the same basic design principles. There will be some kind of getaway/automatic disconnect, and the solar, battery, and backed up loads will have to be all on one side of it. Plan your install so that can be easily inserted later, or at least so you're not making it harder.
Look a little more into Enphase IQ8. The technology is absolutely insane. It is what is called "grid agnostic" in that the solar and batteries can operate independently of the gridwithout a transfer switch. Even just the microinverters will be able to run offgrid without battery storage. What they are going to be doing is sampling the consumption of the home hundreds or maybe even thousands of times per second, and matching the potential solar power to supply just this amount, effectively not backfeeding the grid. Previously solar is either on or off, and any excess would be sent back through the meter and be a hazard for anyone working on the lines.

All that being said, Enphase has delayed this IQ8 over and over, so clearly there are some details that are difficult here.

With all the delays I am leaning towards doing a standard battery backup later this year if the client wants it sooner rather than later, but I do believe my client's best option is replacing their old micros with IQ8 and installing IQ8 batteries.

You make a good point with the price, Enphase's battery is stupidly expensive compared to other battery technology on a $ / kWh basis, but they have a better DOD so in terms of usable kWh they are only slightly more expensive.

-Alex
 

ggunn

PE (Electrical), NABCEP certified
Location
Austin, TX, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer - Photovoltaic Systems
Look a little more into Enphase IQ8. The technology is absolutely insane. It is what is called "grid agnostic" in that the solar and batteries can operate independently of the gridwithout a transfer switch. Even just the microinverters will be able to run offgrid without battery storage. What they are going to be doing is sampling the consumption of the home hundreds or maybe even thousands of times per second, and matching the potential solar power to supply just this amount, effectively not backfeeding the grid. Previously solar is either on or off, and any excess would be sent back through the meter and be a hazard for anyone working on the lines.
I haven't looked into this tech yet, but it seems to me that some sort of isolation from the grid is necessary, else the grid would appear to be pretty much a dead short to the inverters. In a parallel circuit without isolation I don't see how you could power the local loads without trying to energize the grid.
 

jaggedben

Senior Member
Ggunn is absolutely right. The IQ8 will be multi-mode but you still have to disconnect from the grid to operate ... off grid. Not fundamentally different from Powerwall.

I'm curious what you're using for 'standard battery backup'.
 

ggunn

PE (Electrical), NABCEP certified
Location
Austin, TX, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer - Photovoltaic Systems
Ggunn is absolutely right. The IQ8 will be multi-mode but you still have to disconnect from the grid to operate ... off grid. Not fundamentally different from Powerwall.

I'm curious what you're using for 'standard battery backup'.
I'll just add this: In my experience (I have designed more than 500 residential PV systems) most solar customers are looking for a "set it and forget it" solution. Off grid solar isn't like that. It is incumbent on the customer to learn enough about off grid operation and hardware to be able to maintain and administer his own system and loads, otherwise you may be looking at what could be years of service calls. Be careful out there.
 
I haven't looked into this tech yet, but it seems to me that some sort of isolation from the grid is necessary, else the grid would appear to be pretty much a dead short to the inverters. In a parallel circuit without isolation I don't see how you could power the local loads without trying to energize the grid.
If you're sampling the consumption of the home in real time then all the power produced by the solar array will be used by the loads in the house, Enphase will lower the microinverter production to match the house demand if there is more solar energy available than what the house is drawing. I am not as sure what will happen in the opposite scenario, where you're trying to draw more energy than is available. I think they may end up using smart breakers which can toggle on and off. I haven't looked that much into the smart breaker technology but have heard about it a bit.

I am interested to see some installation documentation for IQ8 but my reps at Enphase still don't have it available. IQ8 was supposed to be released Q1 or Q2 2019 but now got delayed until Q4 2019 earliest and I believe it may be at least a year away.

At least Enphase isn't as slimy on unveiling then delaying products like TESLA (solar roof, etc).

Ggunn is absolutely right. The IQ8 will be multi-mode but you still have to disconnect from the grid to operate ... off grid. Not fundamentally different from Powerwall.

I'm curious what you're using for 'standard battery backup'.

I consider standard battery backup to be what is readily available today. Usually it involves a transfer switch, critical loads panel, and a battery inverter with a battery off the inverter. There are a few different widely used ones. SolarEdge's Storedge inverter can function as both the PV inverter and battery inverter, but I personally don't like the SolarEdge PV technology. The DC to DC optimizers are points of failure and the central inverter is a single point of failure.

None the less, a SolarEdge Storedge can be AC coupled with a Powerwall or LG Chem. Other inverter options are out there, as well as other battery options. I am a big fan of the Sonnen product line for batteries, but they are pretty expensive ($20,000 for the ECO 16 kWh unit).

I'll just add this: In my experience (I have designed more than 500 residential PV systems) most solar customers are looking for a "set it and forget it" solution. Off grid solar isn't like that. It is incumbent on the customer to learn enough about off grid operation and hardware to be able to maintain and administer his own system and loads, otherwise you may be looking at what could be years of service calls. Be careful out there.
Very true. I am sort of on the customer's side here, as the end goal of offgrid backup would be to continue living your normal life. This, as you mention, is not that practical in reality. The Sonnen units do allow a lot of set it and forget it features (set points for DOD, standby generator add ons), but they are limited to 30 amps continual draw and thus can't really back up much of a home. I am waiting for something that can take a massive residential solar system and actually power a large percentage of the home. I am hoping Enphase's IQ8 makes a lot of this possible.

The service calls don't really bother me too much. I offer a short but sweet warranty, and sell my clients on becoming their own DIY service techs down the road like you mention. They won't want me or anyone on my team driving 4 hours to setup a new SSID and PW for the Enphase Envoy once my warranty expires. Like you mention it will behoove the client to learn about the offgrid solar as to not incur service costs down the road.
 

ggunn

PE (Electrical), NABCEP certified
Location
Austin, TX, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer - Photovoltaic Systems
If you're sampling the consumption of the home in real time then all the power produced by the solar array will be used by the loads in the house, Enphase will lower the microinverter production to match the house demand if there is more solar energy available than what the house is drawing.
All that may be true but it doesn't address the fact that if the house system is still connected to the grid when it is down, the grid will appear as a virtual dead short in parallel with the house loads. I don't see how it could operate without being isolated.

UL1741 is often touted as protection for line workers, which is a valid concern if your feed from the transformer is isolated from the rest of the grid, but if it's not it's more a matter of physics. Your puny little 10kW inverter is not going to light up your town.
 
All that may be true but it doesn't address the fact that if the house system is still connected to the grid when it is down, the grid will appear as a virtual dead short in parallel with the house loads. I don't see how it could operate without being isolated.
Ahhh I see what you're saying. This is one of the reasons I wanted to be behind the main breaker, if it's just as simple as switching the breaker manually. Enphase must have something up their sleeve but like you and others have said it is likely a transfer switch which the other battery manufacturers rely on as well.

I've seen the smart breakers, maybe there will be a SMART main that toggles off when there's no voltage. This wouldn't really help all my other clients who have taps above the main because of the 20% rule (can only backfeed 40 amps of solar on 200 amp service). Now that I think of it this may be an inhibitor for this system as well. We will have a total of 80 amps for the solar circuits. I may have to tap it in above the main breaker.

Back to the drawing board...
 

GoldDigger

Moderator
Staff member
Ahhh I see what you're saying. This is one of the reasons I wanted to be behind the main breaker, if it's just as simple as switching the breaker manually. Enphase must have something up their sleeve but like you and others have said it is likely a transfer switch which the other battery manufacturers rely on as well.

I've seen the smart breakers, maybe there will be a SMART main that toggles off when there's no voltage. This wouldn't really help all my other clients who have taps above the main because of the 20% rule (can only backfeed 40 amps of solar on 200 amp service). Now that I think of it this may be an inhibitor for this system as well. We will have a total of 80 amps for the solar circuits. I may have to tap it in above the main breaker.

Back to the drawing board...
The NEC would never accept any hybrid system which could produce power with no grid input in which safe operation required manual operation of a main breaker for isolation! Unless maybe there were some automatic interlock which disabled island operation when the main breaker was not known to be open.
 

jaggedben

Senior Member
... This wouldn't really help all my other clients who have taps above the main because of the 20% rule (can only backfeed 40 amps of solar on 200 amp service). Now that I think of it this may be an inhibitor for this system as well. We will have a total of 80 amps for the solar circuits. I may have to tap it in above the main breaker.

Back to the drawing board...
One strategy is to move enough loads out of the MSP (to the critical loads panel) to qualify the MSP under 705.12(B)(2)(3)(c).
 
One strategy is to move enough loads out of the MSP (to the critical loads panel) to qualify the MSP under 705.12(B)(2)(3)(c).
Thanks for rolling onwards with this design. So I google searched this and came back across another posting on this forum which discussed this. Some of you are on that thread as well :)

https://forums.mikeholt.com/showthread.php?t=188070

The details of that are getting a bit over my head. I do have some experience with the NEC, code complaince, etc. But my background is Mechanical Engineering, and my electrical work and code knowledge has all been learned in the field and doing research. I worked on commercial solar design for a year before starting my own company, so residential electrical design was never studied or practiced. I converse with my master electrician, but a lot of this design work is above his skill level. I generate all the 1 and 3 lines for my projects. I think this forum is going to be invaluable as well, so I thank you all tremendously for helping me out. I will definitely post pictures and the finished installation when we get to that point.

I did some research on feed thru lugs, and came across this schematic by Schneider.

SF lugs, FT lugs, SF Breaker.jpg

Is this what you would be referring to? The last two options seem like it would be the same scenario as the 120% rule, basically being able to send 200 amps to the bus from the main breaker, and the 60 or 80 amps from the backfeed solar as well. But the first option, the Sub Feed Lug, seems like it may work in that you would still be protected by 200 amps for the main breaker?


That being said, I am not really following what simply moving enough loads out of the MSP would accomplish? Is the idea to downsize the main breaker to then be able to backfeed? I thought the 120% rule was based off the main breaker size only, not necessarily the ampacity rating of the bus. (If you downsize to 100 amp main breaker you would be limited to 20 amp backfeed). That wouldn't really make sense from a physics standpoint, as the bus can definitely handle 100 amps + 80 amps solar, but I thought the code was simply 120% main breaker rating, which is 40 amp backfeed for 200 amp main breaker, 20 amp backfeed for 100 amp main breaker.
 

jaggedben

Senior Member
Read the section I quoted again. The 120% rule isn't the only rule anymore. I quoted the 2017 reference since you appear to be in MA.

As far as the subfeed lugs and breakers, those are all options with their own conderations. But what I had in mind was breakers such as the Homeline 2200BB or the Eaton BJ2200.
 
Read the section I quoted again. The 120% rule isn't the only rule anymore. I quoted the 2017 reference since you appear to be in MA.

As far as the subfeed lugs and breakers, those are all options with their own conderations. But what I had in mind was breakers such as the Homeline 2200BB or the Eaton BJ2200.
Well that explains it, haven't opened my code book since NEC 2014.

Looked it up more in depth and thank you for the extra nudge. Here's a link I found explaining the section.

https://www.jadelearning.com/2014-nec-705-12d2-understanding-pv-interconnections/image3-2/

I think I understand that code change. Basically move enough loads to the subpanel, and keep the OCPD of the subpanel + remaining loads in the MSP below 200 amps and it is in code.

What exactly do those breakers you referenced accomplish? I looked them up but am not really following.

They are also referenced in this thread from this forum, which is pretty much exactly what I am trying to do, install a second 200 amp panel. They also mention going up to a 400 amp meter socket with double lugs. This may be a more cost effective route if I were the electrician, but since I am not I have to consider his time on site. It may be more cost effective for my bottom line to use an expensive breaker and keep it simpler than replacing the meter socket and re-pulling feeders.

https://forums.mikeholt.com/showthread.php?t=134839

Hopefully I can understand those breakers a bit more tomorrow after some sleep :)
 

Whalepod

Member
Location
CA
At least Enphase isn't as slimy on unveiling then delaying products like TESLA (solar roof, etc).

Oh no, they're slimy in all kinds of different ways.

I have PO's open since mid '18 for lots of equipment that haven't been fulfilled. I was forced to move to SolarEdge for all my resi installs because I just couldn't get equipment even on the open market, and there is a very SLIM chance I'll ever go back unless a very narrow set of conditions are met.

But don't worry, they will offer customers an upgrade program to the same equipment that they can't even fulfill current orders for to fix all the problems they had with M190's.
 

jaggedben

Senior Member
Oh no, they're slimy in all kinds of different ways.

I have PO's open since mid '18 for lots of equipment that haven't been fulfilled. I was forced to move to SolarEdge for all my resi installs because I just couldn't get equipment even on the open market, and there is a very SLIM chance I'll ever go back unless a very narrow set of conditions are met.

But don't worry, they will offer customers an upgrade program to the same equipment that they can't even fulfill current orders for to fix all the problems they had with M190's.
Having business problems isn't the same as being slimy. Enphase has been open with distributors about what's going on in a way that Tesla never would be. They've been hit with tariffs like many. Also, how is it slimy to offer past customers below-cost replacement of an inferior product 8 years later? What company in any industry have you ever heard of being that generous?
SolarEdge has its own problems, you'll find out. But there are reasons these companies are at the top of the market right now.
 
Oh no, they're slimy in all kinds of different ways.

I have PO's open since mid '18 for lots of equipment that haven't been fulfilled. I was forced to move to SolarEdge for all my resi installs because I just couldn't get equipment even on the open market, and there is a very SLIM chance I'll ever go back unless a very narrow set of conditions are met.

But don't worry, they will offer customers an upgrade program to the same equipment that they can't even fulfill current orders for to fix all the problems they had with M190's.
I ran into a similar issue late in 2018 where the AC combiner boxes and IQ7+ were hard to find. I purchase through the distribution network, not from Enphase directly. My distributors were able to quickly get more supply, and I purchased a couple jobs worth of IQ7+.

The upgrade program is useless IMO because IQ8 is going to be such a gamechanger that I wouldn't advise someone upgrade to anything before. But the IQ series are a lot more reliable than the older units which my legacy clients have from other installers.

SolarEdge is a vastly inferior product. The DC to DC optimizers fail just as much, if not more than the microinverters, and you have a central inverter as a single point of failure. There are a couple advantages, you can fit a larger DC system size on a 10 kW AC inverter and remain a simplified interconnection here in MA and receive full net metering credits.

The StorEdge inverter is also pretty sweet, and allows a much simpler seamless storage solution by pairing the PV and Storage inverter with a Powerwall or LG Chem, etc.

The extra service of SolarEdge optimizers and single point of failure of a central inverter are why I am die hard Enphase. AC wiring is simpler as well. Now that the EGC and GEC is not part of the trunk cable like it was with the M250 and S280 versions, we have to pull up a #6 THWN for grounding so that kind of blows.

Having business problems isn't the same as being slimy. Enphase has been open with distributors about what's going on in a way that Tesla never would be. They've been hit with tariffs like many. Also, how is it slimy to offer past customers below-cost replacement of an inferior product 8 years later? What company in any industry have you ever heard of being that generous?
SolarEdge has its own problems, you'll find out. But there are reasons these companies are at the top of the market right now.
The only correlation between Enphase and TESLA is how Enphase is delaying IQ8. TESLA has unveiled and delayed pretty much every single one of their products. The Solar Roof was the worst of the worst, as I have literally lost multiple clients who are "waiting for the TESLA roof". In the time period they have been waiting, the lucrative SREC program has ended in MA, and soon the 30% tax credit will start stepping down. Instead of buying traditional roof mounted panels, receiving all incentives, paying off within 4-6 years, and then exploring the solar roof in 7-10 years when more economical and ACTUALLY AVAILABLE, these potential clients are now waiting for a product that likely won't be offered in 2014 or 2017 code compliant states for another few years.

The whole solar roof has been a freaking farce and a joke. I am so disappointed that Elon Musk literally hurt so many of the long tail of installers by promising a product he likely knew would NEVER be able to make it to the market like he promised (Summer of 2017). The fact that he is taking $1000 deposits from homeowners is another farce, as a lot of these people actually need roof replacements. What happens when they desperately need to do have the roof done, but have left a deposit for the solar roof which won't be offered in their state for 2-4 years down the road? What happens is these people then need traditional roofing solution, and have missed out on solar incentives and tax credits they would have had if they didn't "wait for the TESLA roof".

Anyways, rant over. Will update on this design as we continue through the process.

Thanks for all your help.

-Alex
 
Why would you need specialized AC combiners? We just use regular MLO panels for AC combination.

The IQ Envoy itself costs like $425-$450, and a MLO panel another $80 or so. The Enphase AC Box ($490-$500) comes with the Envoy pre-wired and space for (4) branch circuits of solar / batteries. It is NEMA 3R rated, and looks pretty sweet as well. It is a plastic enclosure so you have to use grounding lugs for EMT conduit coming in and out but other than that my electrician really likes the panel. They used to only hold (3) 20 amp branch circuits, but I bitched on LinkedIn and they came out with a larger version with an additional branch circuit.

They basically started advertising that you can install the Enphase batteries right off their AC panel and I informed them they were glossing over the fact that you would drop down to only (2) branch circuits of solar if you used the third circuit for batteries. A couple months later the AC Combiner + was unveiled and now they are on the Combiner 3 which is a smaller unit but still has the (4) branch circuits.

For this shipping container project I will have (5) branch circuits of solar, and additional circuits for the critical loads and battery backup (Enphase or traditional battery inverter), so I am looking to install a second 200 amp panel for this application. Which led to this thread of how to install a code compliant 200 amp subpanel for the purpose of solar + storage + critical loads.
 
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