Life at the end of the road

June 14, 2013

All I need now are the panels :-)

A far better day than was predicted arrived on Thursday, which was a bit of a downer for we’d chose it to go shopping on account of the rain that was forecast. When I say say ‘shopping’ it was more a case of food for the flock, herd and lead for the pigeons than stores for us, but it had to be done. There was also the matter of oil for the stove, paint for the roof and flowers for the garden so it seemed prudent to get it all out of the way at once. I really hate leaving home at the best of times but on a good day it’s especially onerous.


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So, at ‘the crack of dawn’, with the wife still in bed and the hydro turbine whirring away nicely on the recent rain I walked over the hill to give it it’s six monthly greasing. Not a great picture but the one on the left shows the black hose of the grease gun, just above the white power cable. The Powerspout hydro turbine comes with a two year warranty but it is conditional on regular maintenance. As with all my machinery, generators, quads and vehicle, I keep detailed service records, something completely out of character but instilled in me by years of filling in log books, diaries, planned maintenance sheets and blogs Smile


You should see the ones for the Land Rover Smile



All this was well before 7:00am and breakfast, after which it was feeding time,


a hilarious event involving piglets, hen and wee dug. The wee spotties squeezed under the fence and Molly started to wash them whilst the hen got into a fluster and attacked one.


Sometime after eight I set off with the old girl, trailer and an IBC to meet the oil tanker that was arriving off the 8:25 from Sconser. leaving that on the car park I joined wifey in the car for the trip to Skye,



meeting my builder Lachie Gillies on the way Smile 



As is usual these days, it was pure chaos at Sconser with a 40’ container being loaded or unloaded, I’m not sure which, onto one of DR Macleod’s lorries.

Dunvegan was our first ‘port of call’ for shotgun cartridges from Ben at the ‘Highland Ordnance Company’ 


I just love this shop Smile Ben is a wealth of knowledge and advice on all things in the huntin’ shootin’ an’ fishin’ department and I love an excuse to go and visit.

Loaded up with 100, 32grain, 70mm number 5’s for the pigeons we headed for Portree and some lunch.


Actually it was just to call on Catherine Baillie  at Relish on Wentworth street on ‘egg business’


but having seen what she had on offer we couldn’t resist. me I had a smoked salmon and cream cheese wholemeal roll whilst wifey went for red onion and venison pate, truly amazing fresh local fare Smile



Of course after me dragging wifey around the ‘redneck gun store’ it was her turn to take me to her favourite shop Skye Shrubs. Here she managed to overload the poor Nissan even more, sagging as it already was with 100Kg of sow rolls, 80Kg of hen food, 25Kg of wood shavings, 20Kg of wild bird food, 20lts of paint and a weeks shopping.



The camel managed to get back to Sconser without breaking its back despite all the plants she’d squeezed in, and whilst we waited for the ferry the contractors were busy pulling out the temporary piling.



Home for just after 16:00 we found the smallest egg that I’ve ever seen Smile



After which I pumped out the 800lts of gas oil into our storage tank, before screwing my newly arrived TriStar TS 45 solar controller to the wall Smile



Diversion load control

Another early start today and covered in Smidge before venturing forth as I wanted to get some serious painting done prior to the rain that XCWeather – Forecast for IV40 8PF (Postal Code) said would arrive at 16:00.



As it was the second coat I managed to do almost all of it from the ground using a long pole with a roller on the end, far, far easier than all this climbing ladders nonsense.

Sorry peeps, gotta go to bed, I’ll finish this tomorrow, maybe Smile

Well, that’s it then, a full six hours in bed, no wonder I’m permanently tired. It’s grey midgie and damp outside, we’re going to visit the parents  so not worth getting stuck into anything so I’ll finish my waffling. Not that it’s going to be of great interest to the majority of readers but it’s good for the records Smile 

Anyway, I managed to get plenty of paint on the ‘sunny side’ of the roof, especially at the north western end, the end I’m working on there. That’s where the four 235w panels will be going, they probably would have looked better in a line mounted portrait fashion, two either side of the window but there’s a shading issue at the other end of the house from some trees and the chimney. The old ‘tin roof’ has to be just about the easiest one there is to mount the panels on for the metal sheets are actually just a covering, the roof is actually thick wooded boards and horse felt under that so solid and waterproof in its own right. The plan is to screw wooden battens through the corrugated iron and into the wooden sarking boards beneath, this should give a very strong and watertight anchorage for the 19.5kg solar modules.


After cutting and painting some of the wooden battens I ran the 25mm square cable discretely up the concrete skoo where I’ll terminate it in a waterproof junction box.



The mail brought with it everything bar the four panels that I was waiting for, an enclosure for the fuses, the junction box, some MC4 connectors, fuses and the 125mm decking screws for the battens.

The TriStar TS 45 controller is a versatile little box of tricks that can be used as a ‘solar charge controller’ or ‘diversion charge controller’, which is how I will be using it.


The difference being that in ‘solar control’ mode it reduces panel output when the batteries are fully charged and in ‘diversion mode’ it keeps the panels producing maximum power and diverts the excess into a resistive load. It does this not like a simple on/off switch but gradually and smoothly using ‘pulsed width modulation’ or PWM a method of extremely fast switching on and off at different intervals to vary the power output.

Output waveform of the PWM section of the variable-frequency drive. Notice all of the points where the transistor is switched on & off inside each half-wave.

It’s main use is normally associated with motor control in ‘variable frequency drives’ similar to what will be on our new ferry but it works very efficiently for this purpose too.

In my application the controller is actually a bit of ‘overkill’ for the panels are in effect connected directly to the batteries and my current Proven wind turbine controller would have coped just fine with the extra loads. However all my current loads are AC and fed via the Trace SW4548e inverter so in the unlikely event of its failure the batteries would cook. Using this DC resistive load provides extra protection and could at some point be replaced with a water heating element.

The controller is configurable by 8 ‘dip switches’ inside


which are used to set operating voltage, mode and system voltage, all explained very simply in the manual that comes with it. However there’s a great description of the use of ‘diversion load control’ on Hugh’s blog . He can also supply them and their accessories as cheap as anyone 


So that was it really, all that I need to do now is clear up the mess, connect the batteries and fit my panels, oh and order a battery temperature sensor off Hugh.


  1. Bed, , what’s that! Here’s me stuck on nights all weekend. .and left in the lurch .. again! !

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — June 14, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

  2. Hi Paul,

    What’s the choccy block in the bottom of the controller for? Looks a bit out of place with everything else done tidily.

    What are the fuses/CBs in the box on the right? Did you get them from Hugh? Presumably they’re a bit odd DC rated whatevers. Two are for the lines from the battery and to the diversion load, I imagine; is the third on the line from the panels?


    Comment by Ed Davies — June 15, 2013 @ 11:05 am

    • Hi Ed, yes that choccy block has to come out, simple case of not having enough wire, not like I can nip to the local shop or anything. The fuses are 10x38mm in a DIN rail holder and yes, just as you figured, though I have to confess I’d have normally fused both + and – on the array as I’ve no dedicated DC disconnect. Again too far from the shops, and yes you’re right Hugh put me onto them. Which reminds me, when I finally do get them up and running I’ll write a bit more about controllers, or should I say I’ll ‘cut and paste’ some stuff from your blog that I seem to remember reading about MPPT and the like.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — June 15, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

      • Thanks Paul. Bookmarked those fuses.

        Hope your panels arrive soon. When I got my solar thermal I said they could deliver them any time convenient to them – just to let me know a day or so before to make sure I was in. Next I heard was a call from the Navivan driver about 10 km away asking for directions so hope you don’t have a rushed trip to Sconser or wherever.

        Comment by Ed Davies — June 15, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

      • Morning Ed, back on the Hebrides tomorrow so having the panels delivered to my parents. I have to thank you for that link to them too at 51p per watt they have to be the bargain of century, sure you can get cheaper panels but not much and certainly not ones that weigh 19.5kg. Not only that but the delivery was very very reasonable, £46 if I recall. The last 3 250w panels that came to Sconser cost almost £200 for delivery, though time was an issue on that job Remember that ‘heated’ thread 🙂 Well just for the record the system is working fantastically almost one year on thanks to Hugh’s design and Ohms law.

        PS, you must email me some pictures of the new spot, saw a couple on your blog any progress on the house.

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — June 16, 2013 @ 7:45 am

  3. Loved your shopping trip. Such a lot of new places since I lived in Skye.

    Comment by eileen1929 — June 16, 2013 @ 6:38 am

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