Off Grid Cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains

Off Grid Cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
Off Grid Cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
Off Grid Cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
Off Grid Cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
Off Grid Cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains

    Off Grid Cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains

    Somewhere near the border of Southeastern Ohio and West Virgina is an off grid cabin with all the amenities, powered by Off-Grid Power Systems. Many people think of Ohio as a relatively flat agricultural state with miles upon miles of corn and soybean fields. But lesser known is the Southeastern region of Ohio starting in the Hocking Hills and extending to the West Virginia border. This is where the Ohio River cuts through rugged hills and enters the Appalachian Mountains. It is a beautiful, if little known, area of the country known for breathtaking scenery, backcountry hiking, kayaking, boating, and hunting. Here the hills become mountains as you cross the river into the beautiful state of West Virgina. If you haven’t visited this part of the country, you owe it to yourself to rent one of the many cabins in the area and explore. If you want peace and quiet to enjoy nature but also want every comfort of home, then this off grid cabin is for you.

    The design

    Rebuffed by every other solar installer in the area, JT Properties found us. Off-Grid Power Systems (OGPS) offers solutions where mainstream solar installation companies fear to tread, pun intended. Most of the solar power solutions marketed by solar installers will not work without a connection to utility power, which is a problem for areas of sparse population in the most picturesque areas of the country. Off-grid power solves this problem.

    JT Properties has experience using grid-tied solar on other properties that have grid connectivity, so working with them on the sizing and design for an off-grid solar system was easy. They already had an idea of how much solar and battery storage they might need, but OGPS did have to modify some of their assumptions due to the fact there would be no grid connection to act as a backup on days where solar production would be insufficient. But, having designed and installed many off grid solar systems over the last three years, OGPS was able to size a system that would deliver a seamless experience for any visitors to the cabin.

    The system

    • Two Victron Energy Quattro 10,000VA inverter/chargers configured for 240V/120V
    • One Victron autotransformer to ensure both inverters would be equally loaded at all times
    • 17kWp of Hightec Solar bifacial solar panels mounted to an APA Solar Ready Rack ground mount system
    • Two Victron SmartSolar MPPT RS 450/200 solar charge controllers
    • 40kWh of Victron battery storage
    • A Victron Cerbo GX and Touch 50 GX touchscreen controller
    • One Cummins 17kW LPG generator for backup power

    Flexible by design

    Installing ground mount solar arrays over rolling terrain can be challenging. Add heavy clay and rocky soil and it can be labor intensive to modify the terrain to use pile-driven or concrete foundations. APA Solar’s Ready Rack system offers three foundation options to install ground-mount solar arrays on rolling, difficult terrain: helical, ground screw, or geoballast. We knew the soil conditions in the area and opted for a ground screw foundation. The ground screws are perfect for heavy soils with bedrock at least five feet below grade. Using ground screws also means no digging to pour concrete foundations below the frost line and once your lines are set, it’s a quick matter of driving the anchors with commonly available auger attachments for track loaders, skid steers, and farm tractors. From there, installation of the ground mount racking is fairly standard.

    Once the ground mount was installed, installation of the solar modules is quick and the built-in cable management raceways of the Ready Rack makes connecting PV strings simple. We prefer using bifacial panels on all ground-mount systems to provide extra solar production via reflected light to underside of the panels. We don’t include this backside gain in our sizing calculations, but in every instance we see at least an additional 10% production, and even more when river rock or some other reflective surface is placed under the array. River stone has the added advantage of preventing grass and weeds from ground through, making ground maintenance around the array a snap.

    In addition, the system can be easily expanded by adding up to an additional 100kWh of battery capacity or additional solar. With nearly 20kW of inverter capacity, we’re confident the owners will have enough power for the all-electric cabin and barn, but additional inverter capacity can be added easily. The Cummins generator was included to provide backup power during extended periods of low solar collection, which is only likely to occur in this region in December and January. The generator is controlled by Victron’s Cerbo GX, and only started when the battery state of charge reaches a low threshold, power demands exceed the designed inverter capacity for extended periods of time, or on a weekly basis to start the generator and verify everything is working as expected. This is to keep the generator in tip-top shape since it very rarely runs.

    Living off the grid? No problem

    Off-Grid Power Systems is an expert in off-grid power solutions; whether fixed (stationary) or mobile. If you need reliable electric power with or without a utility connection, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re located far away from Ohio or just prefer a DIY installation, OGPS has pre-engineered, off-grid kits available that anyone with suitable electrical skills or access to a licensed electrician can install on their own. These kits include everything you need to install your own electrical power plant, except for easily obtainable items available at any home or hardware store. The kits include detailed wiring diagrams, configuration settings, solar ground mounts with your choice of foundation, inverter/chargers, solar charge controllers, outside disconnects including lightening and surge arrestors, inside disconnects for maintenance or shutdown, Tier 1 bifacial solar panels made in the USA, batteries, fuses, system controller for remote monitoring, and a list of recommended supplies such as wire, cabling, connectors, etc. Stamped engineering drawings are available if your jurisdiction requires permits.

    If you prefer a solution customized for your specific needs or turn-key installation, contact Off-Grid Power Systems at 740.234.3434 or visit us at https://offgridps.com.