FAQ & Support

With a little help from my friends

Frequently

Asked Questions

The table on your school's Solar Data page gives information about the solar power produced by your school's solar power system.

The information is collected at the inverter. This device changes the DC electricity that the solar module produces into AC electricity that can be used by electrical appliances found in your school and home.

The inverter temperature tells us how hot the inverter is getting. This is important as the inverter works better if it is not too hot. Inverter temperature is not the temperature outside.

Input voltage is the potential difference, or number of volts, of DC electricity coming from the solar module into the inverter. This is measured in volts (V).

The DC electricity is changed into AC electricity in the inverter. The output voltage shows us the voltage from the inverter after this conversion.

Output power is a measure of the AC electricity that your school can use or feed back into the electricity supply grid. This is measured in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). One kilowatt equals 1000 watts.

You can use this information to investigate the types of appliances your solar power system can run.

Watt is a measure of power, defined as 1 joule per second. Power actually tells us how quickly something uses energy, and a joule is a unit of energy.

Some useful comparisons:

1 watt (W) = the power used by a Christmas tree light

1 kilowatt (kW) = 1000 watts, the power used by a single bar electric heater

1 megawatt (MW) = 1 000 000 watts

 

Another unit you might see is a kilowatt hour (kWh) or megawatt hour (MWh). This tells you how much energy is used if an appliance runs for one hour. For example:

1 kilowatt hour (kWh) = the energy used by a single bar heater left on for one hour

The photovoltaic system at your school produces approximately 2000 kWh of energy each year, or just over 2.0 MWh annually. Compare this to the average NSW home, which uses an average of 7.4 MWh each year.

For your school to get the maximum benefit from the Solar in Schools program, we ask that you allow us to connect the solar inverter and/or data logger to a computer. This allows the school's solar power generation to be monitored, and for others to view this data on the Solar Schools' web site.

This computer may be used for other functions as well, if desired. It is preferable, however, that the computer used is not generally accessible to students. For example, some schools have a dedicated computer left in the switch room next to the inverter, while others have the logger program installed on a staff computer in the library or in an office. As long as the computer is logged into the Windows system, the data logging software will continue to run in the background.

Once the computer is set up, you may be able to remove the monitor and keyboard, as these are not required for the program to function. Please note, however, that some computers may not run without these peripherals.

The computer that you use needs to be a PC with Windows 98, 2000 or XP operating system. The program is not compatible with Mac computers or operating systems.

The data logging program contacts the Solar Schools web site hourly during the day to upload the collected data. It is therefore essential that the computer is connected to the Internet through a network rather than via phone hook up.

The program itself requires a minimum of 32MB of RAM and 10MB of available disk space to operate. The data is automatically cleared from your computer's hard drive when it is sent to the web site, so does not consume very much memory.

If you have any further queries about the computing requirements for the Solar Logger, please contact solar@iwebsolutions.com.au

Some schools within the Solar in Schools program are yet to have a page set up for them. The administrators are working to rectify this as quickly as possible. You may need to provide us with details about your school and its environmental activities. This can be done through the feedback pages on this site.

If your school already has a page on the Solar in Schools website, but the graph is blank, then data is not being sent from the school to the web site. This may mean two things:

1. Your school has not yet set up the software required to do this. Please use our feedback pages to send a request for the software and set up instructions.

2. There is a problem with the data coming through from the inverter to your computer, or from your computer to the web site. Please see trouble shooting tips for advice on what you need to do.

If these answers do not address your problem, please advise us directly through the feedback pages.

Below I have attached some trouble shooting instructions for you to check if you seem to have problems with the data from your inverter being sent to the website.

Firsly, you will need to have downloaded and installed the software from our support pages. If you have not done this please send us a request for the software and installation instructions through the feedback pages on the website.

Check that the connection between the inverter and PC is secure. Or, it may be that the cable is plugged in to the wrong comms port. Try unplugging it at the back of the computer and switching it to another comms port (often two next to each other - they look the same). You possibly need to restart the computer after this.

If you have managed to download the software OK, and you are happy that everything is plugged in properly, we can now check to see that the details saved in the data logging program are correct. 

Go to the Solar Logger program (Start > All Programs > Solar Schools > Logger) and click the settings button to display the Logger Settings dialog box.

On the left hand side, check that you have the correct ID and password. These will have been sent to you in the email with the instructions for downloading the software. Contact us if you do not have them.

The Communications Mode should be set to Inet. The Proxy settings on the right hand side should all be blank.

If this is all OK, we need to look at the information coming through the program. There should be feedback scrolling through that looks something like this:

20/08/2004 11:13:23 AM : Received Inverter Data

20/08/2004 11:13:21 AM : Not yet upload time :5

20/08/2004 11:13:18 AM : Received Inverter Data

20/08/2004 11:13:13 AM : Received Inverter Data

20/08/2004 11:13:13 AM :

20/08/2004 11:13:12 AM : Test Response:1 Test - OK.

20/08/2004 11:13:09 AM : Sent RS232 byte stream

20/08/2004 11:13:08 AM : Received Inverter Data

If your data doesn't look like this, there is a problem. Please copy the data and any error messages and send it to us. This will help us to determine what is wrong. 

 

It is also worth checking to see that the inverter is operating properly. The instructions below are for the BP Solar Sunny Boy inverters used for Phase 3 schools. If your school is part of a different phase, plese contact us for instruction on how to check the inverter.

The inverter normally operates automatically, but turns itself off when a grid feeding is not possible (e.g. at night). It automatically starts its grid feeding the next day once the solar radiation is high enough. The inverter goes to standby mode if the radiation and the resulting electric input energy is too low and is therefore always ready for operation.

Each time the Sunny Boy starts up it runs a number of self tests and safety procedures.

The green LED "Operation" indicates the current operation.

The red LED warns the user that an "Earth Fault" has occurred.

The yellow LED "Failure" indicates an internal or external failure that keeps the inverter from feeding the grid.

If everything is working properly, only the green light should be on.

 

You could also possibly try switching off the power supply to the inverter, wait a minute for all the lights to go off, then turn back on again and restart the computer and see if there is any result.

If all this fails, we will need to help you personally. Please email us via the feedback pages. Include your school name, the contact person and a description of the problem. If possible, please include your school ID and copy any error messages you have been receiving.