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PostPosted: Sep 28th, '12, 16:18 
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to all whom can help or learn,

i have decided to build a fully autonomous solar powered greenhouse aquaponics system. i am completely new to AP and this will be my first system, so needless to say i will be grateful for any and all help. there seems to be a lot of threads trying, or at least thinking about a solar powered system, but very little in the way of actual success (if you know of any please provide links). i am hoping to change that, and with the help of this forum try to keep from making to many costly mistakes as this system is already quite expensive.


criterion for the build:

- autonomous...it has to have no outside sources of power, water, fish (except original stocking and the introduction of genetic diversity) or food (explanation in a later post). my house is on solar power with rain catch water, so the residence will not be much help.

- year round production...i want this system to function continuously with only minor modifications between summer and winter.

- production capacity...it needs to produce as much food as possible, hopefully enough to sustain a man, woman, small child,dog and nutritive sustenance for the rabbitry (20-60 rabbits, bulk feed will come from pasture grass on property).

- greenhouse...framing of the greenhouse has already begun it is 30' X 20' (~9 x 6 m for people who use the better system) which is limited in size by various structures (pictures will come soon). the gh is intended to house fish tanks and all winter growbeds with potential dwarf citrus trees in the future. i might expand outside of the gh during the summer - but this is a long way off for now. i am in central california - fairly mild climate with light occasional frost so the growing season is in my favor. it will be an insulated studded knee wall bottom (this is to even out unlevel ground and while also sealing the gh below any frost line - it is 12" into the ground) with a hoop house - 6ml UV resistant polyethylene cover. the north end wall be solid and insulated and the south end will be poly (drawings will come soon).

- power...i have elected to go with solar for now but am open to all suggestions aiding in expansion, improvement or cool factor. the system i currently own, but have not yet installed is as follows: 4 - helios 250 W panels (http://www.wholesalesolar.com/products. ... T-250.html); outback charge controller 80 amp (http://www.wholesalesolar.com/products. ... Max80.html); 4 - 6V surrett deepcycle batteries wired for 12V (http://www.wholesalesolar.com/products. ... atteryBank); panel installation and wiring are also purchased - reply if interested. this should be enough battery power to run one pump (see below) for 2-3 days with no sun. i also have a trickle charger that can be used as a very limited supplement (http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Tender-02 ... ry++tender).

- pumps...12V pumps are hard to come by and expensive when you do. i currently own but have not installed 2 - Oase 12V pumps (http://store.oase-usa.com/OASE-AquaMax- ... B006KT5OXI).

- aeration...i would like to think i can get enough DO via water movement but have hedged my bets and purchased 2 - 12V baitfish tank aerators (http://www.castawaytackleshop.com/Marin ... -70815.htm).

- fish tanks...these have not yet been purchased. i plan on buying 2 - 300 gallon, and 2 - 100 gallon rubbermaid stocktanks. the 300 gallon tanks will be for growing out fish that are at different stages of maturation, a 100 gallon for breeding (this can be bigger if need be) and the other as a sump and duckweed tank. this is all still being planned - help is definitely welcomed. the tank supports will still need to be built, substantially i might add, so the tank format needs to be decided within the few weeks.

- growbeds...i plan on using a combination of things but again i am still planing so suggestions are welcomed. toughboxes (http://www.homedepot.com/buy/tough-box- ... GVQXVHQOuI) and 4'' pvc (not sure what you call flowing water growbeds - sort of a dwc). all growbed supports will still need to be built so the tank format will need to be decided on within the next few weeks.

- grow media...will be mostly expanded clay and dwc.

- fish...i want tilapia but i live in a bankrupt state with way to many rules, so they come with a $10K per fish fine - so tilapia are out. thinking of combining largemouth bass or bluegill and catfish with some crayfish for good measure. i want to be able to breed my own fish so i need species that breed well in tanks - i don't know if the ones listed do or not, i am still tenaciously researching and so far they seen feasible. as always help and suggestions are welcomed.

- timeline...i want this system cycled and running by or before december.


if you made it this far i hope you decide help and or pay attention to the build. i will continuously update and include drawings and picture when possible.

thanks


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PostPosted: Sep 28th, '12, 18:41 
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Sounds like a very interesting project. Sounds like you are considering going CF or constant flow. If this is so, you will need to figure the current draw of your pumps and all other 12V equipment that will be running to determine if you have enough battery backup and solar. I would say that you may need to boost your levels some on you battery backup and solar. On your fish, largemouth bass do not do well in tank culture because they are game fish and do not adapt well to processed feed. Channel catfish and bream will do well on processed feed. You may want to raise your crayfish in another container since both catfish and bream love to eat them!! I have started a greenhouse on a private island off the coast of Georgia that belongs to a friend of mine. We would like to do something similar in the future so i'll be interested to see how this turns out.


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PostPosted: Sep 28th, '12, 18:47 
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OK
1. You need to do some maths and get research on the maximum number of no-sun days in your area throughout the year.
2, You need to work out the power consumption of the aerators and pumps - without this, you do not know how many KWH of power you use daily.
3. You need to multiply the KWH daily usage and the maximum number of no-sun days to work out the absolute minimum battery storage you need (in KWH).
4. NOTE: with Lead - Acid batteries it is unwise to discharge more than 50% capacity otherwise battery life is shortened significantly. If you want maximum battery life, multiply KWH by 2.

5. How long do you want to take to recharge the batteries after you experience the maximum no-sun days? Divide the KWH of the battery by the number of days to recharge from a max no-sun event. Add this KWH to the Daily KWH from point 2. This is the Daily KWH of Solar generation which you need to supply the system plus recover in that number of days.

6. Size the Battery. Take the KWH from point 4. and divide by battery voltage. This gives the battery AH capacity to provide you with uninterrupted, no external input, solar powered system (Aquaponics or other)

7. Cost considerations. By now you have worked out that this is not going to be a cheap project so you may decide to see how costs can be saved. (every KWH you do not use does not need to be included in the costings.)
7a. Can you use a timer to run the pump(s)?
7b. Ditto for air pumps?
7c. What can be done to reduce the load on no-sun days?
7d. Can I obtain power elsewhere (small hydro, wind, methane powered generator - once you have built the methane digester, etc, etc)
7e. How much would I save by Down-sizing the project?
.
.
.
7z, Can I afford to do this in keeping with the original Scope of Work ?

That is just a quick "off the cuff" appraisal of the issues solely in relation to the solar power side of the question.

Regards,
Tony


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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 08:40 
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I am sure there are other calculators around as well but the one below is OK. Just tried putting in California and it did have the climate data needed.
http://www.energymatters.com.au/climate-data/

Does it have to be 100% solar? Can save a bit by adding a DC power supply putting out the battery voltage minimum. ie 11.8v-12v so that when you do get some low solar days it takes up the load. Saves the batteries as well and extends their life.


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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 11:19 
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Only thing is that you need to have something going into the system if you are going to take minerals and nutrient out of the loop for your own food.

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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 13:56 
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Papaz,

I have 4 – 250 watt of solar panels and 800 Amp*H of battery storage running one or two 12V pond pumps.

The pump is 55 watt (or Amp*V) x 1/12V = 4.6 Amp (if only running single pump).

Assuming optimum pump performance -
4.6 A x 24 H/Day = 111 A*H/Day

Assuming 40% discharge (not 50%) -
800 Amp*H x 60% = 320 Amp*H

Time allotted -
320 Amp*H x 1/111 Day/(A*H) = 2.8 Day

Assuming any sun during those 2.8 days more charge and thus more time will be added. I also have a trickle charger which I can run off my gas generator or house solar to further extend the 2.8 days.


If I need extra aeration, which is very possible, then I will need (for one aerator) -
0.25 Amp x 24 H/Day =6 Amp*H/Day
111 Amp*H + 6 Amp*H/Day = 117 Amp*H/Day
320 Amp*H x 1/117 Day/(Amp*H) = 2.7 Day (Two aerators – 2.5 Day)

If I run two pumps and two aerators then –
320 Amp*H x 1/(111 + 111 + 6 + 6) Day/(Amp*H) = 1.3 Day

*all values were rounded down so as to underestimate optimum power storage


I also run a rabbitry (~45 head at a given time). Using their waste and kitchen scaps I raise/grow red worms – quite a few. Also I generate more pelts then I need or want. If I let the skins sit outside in a bowl, 3 days later that bowl is over flowing with maggots. Both should be excellent sources for food for bass. I don't know if this will help bass breed, but it will be one means of feeding omi/carnivorous fish.

Good luck on your island gh project, share any pointers you have.

Cheers,


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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 14:11 
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Tony,

See post to papaz, the math you requested should all be there. Please check for accuracy.

I should not go for more then three days without any sun, it is possible but rare. As a contingency, I also plan on purchasing two 120 V AC pumps that I can run off the house generator (as the house solar will be cashed at this point too) which can be plumbed parallel to the 12V DC pumps. They are mainly just going to be used as a redundancy in case if I have to replace my main pumps

I have already purchased all of the solar equipment (it was expensive, but now it can be looked at as free). I believe my battery storage (greater than a day for peak use) should be enough to adequately run the system; but again, please highlight any problems you see. I figure the less mistakes the better.

Your other suggestions are good, but I need to get a system up and running before I look into alternative, alternative energy sources.

Can’t down size now - that would be like leaving the party early, and I like to close it down.

Cheers,


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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 14:14 
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privatteer,

i should have enough power please see post below.

cheers,


Last edited by dcoady on Sep 29th, '12, 14:21, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 14:20 
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earthbound wrote:
Only thing is that you need to have something going into the system if you are going to take minerals and nutrient out of the loop for your own food.


earthbound,

i have read many of your posts, of course i don't know how one couldn't at 14k - kudos.

to answer your questions, there will definitely be inputs into the system. if you look at my prior post you will see: red worms, maggots, and i am also looking into purchasing my own pellet press. i know a guy who has been having good success pelletizing dried rabbit offal, along with other ingredients, to make his own chicken feed. i am considering this as well.

to start will have commercial feed, and slowing try to close the loop down. i would rather not set my self up to fail by biting more than i can chew.

thanks for the post.

cheers,


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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 15:01 
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We have a family doing almost that here in Phoenix.

http://gardenpool.org/

They do have inputs of food to some extent, but they didn't say what extent. They said they spend about $100 per month on food for their family and supplemental food for fishies and chickens.

The only problem I see is that you're not really running a closed system unless all of your waste goes back into the system. You'll eventually run into nutrient deficiencies as EB said since you're taking the nutrients out of the loop. The pellets would work as long as you're not feeding the rabbits from the greenhouse. If you are, then they are not an input. They'd simply go back into the system. But the nutrient replacement is super easy... Just drop some Maxicrop in there periodically, maybe some iron and you're good to go.

I think what you're talking about is absolutely doable. It sounds like you've done a lot of research and are off on the right path. I look forward to seeing your progress!


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PostPosted: Sep 29th, '12, 15:21 
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slowRider wrote:
We have a family doing almost that here in Phoenix.

http://gardenpool.org/

They do have inputs of food to some extent, but they didn't say what extent. They said they spend about $100 per month on food for their family and supplemental food for fishies and chickens.

The only problem I see is that you're not really running a closed system unless all of your waste goes back into the system. You'll eventually run into nutrient deficiencies as EB said since you're taking the nutrients out of the loop. The pellets would work as long as you're not feeding the rabbits from the greenhouse. If you are, then they are not an input. They'd simply go back into the system. But the nutrient replacement is super easy... Just drop some Maxicrop in there periodically, maybe some iron and you're good to go.

I think what you're talking about is absolutely doable. It sounds like you've done a lot of research and are off on the right path. I look forward to seeing your progress!


thanks for the post. you are absolutely right, i will not be running a completely closed loop system. the rabbits will be fed mostly hay off the property, i will use gh plants for the additional nutrition. maggots and other insects should also provide outside inputs. the worms mostly feed on rabbit manure but also kitchen scraps - which hopefully come from the gh in the future.

i like the link, i have seen the family doing this once before, but never their website.

i will look into maxicrop, as it is the first time i have heard of it.

cheers,


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PostPosted: Jan 2nd, '13, 02:23 
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i have made some changes from the original plan.

- did not use tough boxes but instead built the grow beds myself and used polyethylene pond liner
- needed two 150 gallon sump tank.


here are some pictures of the solar panels and sytem. the hoops for the gh were put up yesterday with purling going on today - those pictures later. please keep in mind the water is now flowing but it is hardly finished so there is still temporary bracing. also the pipe coming from the pump in the sumptank is also only temporary until the back wall is built - hopefully next weekend.

cheers,


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PostPosted: Jan 2nd, '13, 11:04 
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I wish I could offer advice but my solar system was based on availability of components and built with technical ignorance - but it works well.
Perth is one of if not the most remote capital city in the world so we are resourceful and known to jury rig things - that's my excuse. :oops:

I have 6 panels of 60w each split into three systems with two panels (120w) charging their own 24amp/hr sealed lead acid battery. Not planned for but it does give me some contingency as it is unlikely all three supplies will fail at the same time. eg I can survive one dead battery and still pump and aerate.
Back up is a 12v switchmode power supply and two way switching to enable it. There are more elegant solutions to backup supply using electronics but that is above my head.

A photo of the panels and the control box is on the right hand post.

Attachment:
DCP_1382.JPG
DCP_1382.JPG [ 338.81 KiB | Viewed 3745 times ]


One way you can extend your battery life is to install timers. I use 12 volt timers I purchased off ebay for under $20 each. They only have 16 on/off cycles so I have them set for 15 mins running every hour 7am to 7pm and three hour interval with longer pumping times overnight. It is working well like this.

Ebay listing here:

http://www.ebay.com.au/sch/i.html?_trks ... &_from=R40

Attachment:
DCP_1379.JPG
DCP_1379.JPG [ 152.95 KiB | Viewed 3745 times ]


and rear view shows DIN mount

Attachment:
DCP_1380.JPG
DCP_1380.JPG [ 117.93 KiB | Viewed 3745 times ]



I look forward to seeing your progress.


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PostPosted: Jan 3rd, '13, 01:13 
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Rodm wrote:
I wish I could offer advice but my solar system was based on availability of components and built with technical ignorance - but it works well.
Perth is one of if not the most remote capital city in the world so we are resourceful and known to jury rig things - that's my excuse. :oops:

I have 6 panels of 60w each split into three systems with two panels (120w) charging their own 24amp/hr sealed lead acid battery. Not planned for but it does give me some contingency as it is unlikely all three supplies will fail at the same time. eg I can survive one dead battery and still pump and aerate.
Back up is a 12v switchmode power supply and two way switching to enable it. There are more elegant solutions to backup supply using electronics but that is above my head.

A photo of the panels and the control box is on the right hand post.

Attachment:
DCP_1382.JPG


One way you can extend your battery life is to install timers. I use 12 volt timers I purchased off ebay for under $20 each. They only have 16 on/off cycles so I have them set for 15 mins running every hour 7am to 7pm and three hour interval with longer pumping times overnight. It is working well like this.

Ebay listing here:

http://www.ebay.com.au/sch/i.html?_trks ... &_from=R40

Attachment:
DCP_1379.JPG


and rear view shows DIN mount

Attachment:
DCP_1380.JPG



I look forward to seeing your progress.


how do you post pictures....mine are all too high quality and won't load. any help would be most appreciated.

cheers,
dan


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PostPosted: Jan 3rd, '13, 01:46 
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If you are using microsloth, just right click on the photo, select edit. Microsloth paint will load. In the edit menu you have the option to resize. Make sure the maintain aspect ratio is checked, and select the pixels option. Then type 800 in the width field. Double check to make sure the height is 600 or under. If it is more just edit that field to 600 and the other field will be reduced accordingly. If there is any cropping you want to do, do that first. Save your file with a new name and upload the newly edited file.

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