For Marty and his wife Leslie, living and working off-grid doesn’t mean making sacrifices. In fact, it hasn’t seemed to slow them down one bit.
Despite being tucked between the mountains in rural Montana, their expanding off-grid power installation has allowed them to pursue their many passion projects such as growing tender plants in a heated greenhouse, soft fruit in an irrigated orchard while running three-phase machinery for Marty’s timber equipment business. And it’s all powered by the sun.
When the couple bought the property just two years ago, the cost of bringing in public utilities was quoted at $35K. They decided to invest that money in an off-grid system which they’ve expanded over time, adding batteries, inverters, charge controllers and solar panels.
“When Marty first contacted us, he had done his research and had a good idea of what he wanted,” says Aaron Hanson, owner of Intelligent Controls, a technical distributor for Victron Energy. “We helped him choose the right equipment and answered his questions along the way, but Marty fully owns his system. He’s installed it himself. He’s hungry to learn all he can. He monitors his system performance data on VRM and is always looking out for ways to optimise his system.”
During a second phase of his installation, Marty doubled the capacity of his battery bank, which now offers 84kWh of usable power. “My SOC (state of charge) now stays at around 90%. When it does drop down, it’s back to full capacity by 9AM the next morning,” says Marty.
The roof of the house, now covered with solar panels, yields 24kWp, and this summer Marty will add 46kWp to the ridge of his roof and another 40kWp on the south-facing side of his greenhouse. This oversizing of the battery bank and PV arrays allow for a significant increase in Marty’s loads and ensures his batteries stay charged on cloudy and snowy winter days without using propane or relying on the backup generator.
His system generates enough power to cover day-to-day domestic needs, pump water for orchard irrigation, and supply the workshop’s three-phase power tools with plenty of surplus energy for long, hot showers and soon – horticulture.
Surplus solar energy will be stored in a large insulated hot-water tank fitted with immersion heaters. Hot water circulated through underfloor pipes will provide heating for the greenhouse, allowing year-round cultivation of vegetables and fruit.
“There is a perception that living ‘off-grid’ means limiting your power consumption to the bare minimum and not being able to run the types of loads you ran when living on-grid“, says Laura Hanson, Head of Marketing at Intelligent Controls. “Marty’s system is ambitious, but it shows what’s possible with quality equipment and good technical support. He’s a capable person with a vision, and we get to help make it happen.”
Marty’s power installation comprises:
- 6 x 48V 10kVA Quattro inverter chargers configured for three-phase power supply
- Solar panels totalling over 100kWp when the present and planned installation is complete.
- 3 x SmartSolar MPPT 250/100 Tr VE.Can Solar Charge Controllers harvest the solar energy for storage into Pylontech Lithium iron phosphate batteries
- 2 x SmartSolar MPPT RS 450/200 solar charge controllers allow series connected panels installed a thousand feet (three hundred metres) away from the system to provide energy with minimum cable losses.
- 24 x Pylontech US3000 batteries with a total capacity of 84kWh
- Lynx Power-In DC distribution units provide bus bars with monitored fuses
- A Cerbo GX coordinates all installed devices and provides system power data to a GX Touch 50 touch-screen user interface – and also to the free-to-use Victron Remote Management (VRM) platform – so that Intelligent Controls can remotely monitor the system to offer advice or take action if necessary.
Intelligent Controls provides the products, training, and technical support their customers need to resolve their energy challenge. “We like to describe our business as a problem-solving business,” says Aaron Hanson. “The technology has changed, but our approach of digging in and identifying the best possible solution together – has not.”
Marty is pleased to have achieved independence in every area of his life – including energy independence, thanks to his reliable power installation: “It’s been so flawless that when the power went out in town, I didn’t know it,” says Marty. “If you buy Victron and you do it right…You won’t even know that you’re off-grid.”
Let’s take a look at Marty’s set up: