Off-Grid Paradise Monitored by SMA Sunny Portal

From on 10/01/2012 in Category Solar Spotlight with 7 Comments

The Hakai Beach Institute(HBI), a former fishing lodge, is now a teaching, conference and science research facility located on a remote island halfway between the northern and southern borders of British Columbia, Canada.

Photo credit: Sean Fenzl

The HBI is a place for scientists, archaeologists, students and artists to come and work within the incredible biodiversity located within its 215 acres. The HBI lives completely off-grid, producing its own electricity, treating its own water and managing its own waste.  The HBI is an extremely sophisticated off-grid site that is dedicated to finding innovative solutions to sustainable living and leaving a minimal impact on the beautiful nature that surrounds it.

Choosing SMA Products and Service

When looking for a reliable source of energy, solar integrator Jason Jackson of Hakai Energy Solutions chose an SMA solution. The SMA Multicluster Box was chosen because it provides 24 hours of power in remote settings.  The system consists of nine Sunny Island 5048-US, five Sunny Boy 6000-US inverters, one Multicluster Box and the Sunny WebBoxfor communication. HBI is also in the process of installing three more Sunny Boy inverters. It has been quite a pleasure to support the HBI system while working on the SMA Service Line. The WebBox connected to this system enables the SMA Service Line to analyze the

Photo credit: Sean Fenzl

HBI system while being on the phone with Jason 1,500 miles away.

Access to Real Data

The HBI is willing to share information and has therefore made all of its Sunny Portal pages public. Any customer with the Sunny WebBox and Sunny Portal can also opt to make their pages public. This can be an extremely useful tool when monitoring a customer’s site or selling a system in their neighborhood. Using the publicly available plants also gives designers and installers access to real market data.  To view the Hakai Beach Institute Sunny Portal page click here. For more information on installed systems similar to the Hakai Beach Institute:  AC vs. DC coupling  For more information on SMA Off-Grid Solutions click here.


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  • avatar

    Greg Smith

    10/01/2012 at 12:29 pm

    Bill had a really good write up in the Solar Industry magazine starting on page 48 that goes into more detail about the Hakai Institute. Bravo Zulu, Bill!

    Reply »
  • avatar


    02/22/2014 at 7:40 pm

    The Sunny Island AC Coupled system is a great product and this is a great install !

    Reply »
  • avatar


    10/05/2014 at 12:51 am

    Just learning about this and trying to get my head around some concepts, so please bear with me.

    I can understand how an AC-Coupled system is advantageous due to the fact that you can add an input anywhere on the mini-grid. My question is, how do you deal with loss? If for instance you add PV to the roof of an outlying building that is half a mile from the battery bank. The current system (DC -Coupled) that I am familiar with uses step up and step down transformers to bridge these distances. If an AC-Coupled system was considered for this scenario how would it work?

    Second question; if one of the power inputs was micro-hydro, could it contribute just like PV (if generated in DC), if it were connected thru a Sunny Boy?

    Thanks, I’m learning a lot here!


    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      10/06/2014 at 9:43 am

      Ron – Glad to hear that you are interested in learning about AC coupling.

      For the scenario you described about the PV array being far away from the battery bank, in an AC coupled scenario there are two common design choices. You could have the PV inverter near the array and then you would have 240V AC on the conductors going back to the Sunny Island battery inverter/protected loads panel, or you could have the array DC voltage (likely higher than 240 V) going on conductors back to the PV inverter near the Sunny Island battery inverter/PLP. However, 2,800 or so feet is a long distance and would require serious up-sizing of wires to avoid excessive voltage drop, even with higher DC voltages and lower current. Were you using a buck/boost DC transformer configuration?

      In regards to the second question, SMA used to produce a small wind inverter – the Windy Boy – that would output AC that could be directly coupled into an AC coupled micro grid. We have discontinued this product, but if you had something similar for you micro hydro system, you certainly could tie that output into the micro grid.

      Please note that the Sunny Island input and output are 120V AC, not 240V, so use of one Sunny Island and one Sunny Boy would require an autotransformer to take the 120 V AC output of the Island and create the 240V waveform the Sunny Boy requires. SMA makes the Smartformer that does just this. If your micro grid had high enough power requirements to warrant two Sunny Islands, they are smart enough to create a 240 V AC signal, and no autotransformer is needed.

      Reply »
      • avatar


        11/08/2015 at 5:00 pm

        Thank you for the reply Justin.

        I should clarify, the system I’m referring to (DC Coupled) has exhausted all non-shaded rooftops nearest the building containing batteries/inverters. I was wondering about A/C Coupling as a means of using outlying buildings at the far edges of the mini grid. Hence my question.

        In the original design of our system, there were no renewable inputs, only a diesel generator & battery bank as a sort of poorly-designed hybrid system. The generator building was situated as far as possible from the program & accommodation areas so as to not disturb people with the noise. It generates power at 600V and there are step-down transformers when it reaches the battery/inverter room. The site is on an island with no utility grid nearby.

        As I say, the original system was poorly designed and we’ve made improvements over the past 5 years which include 15kW rooftop solar and a larger battery bank. Now we’re looking at Micro hydro from a seasonal creek on the property and musing about tying it all together.

        I am only a Board Member of a non-profit Society that runs all this, but I’m keenly interested in making things better. It’s easy to quantify the value of improvements, one needs only to look at the diesel bill!

        If the right people could talk to the right people, this site would be an ideal real-world demonstration model only 20 minutes by boat from Vancouver, Canada.

        Thanks again,


      • avatar

        Justin Dyke

        11/09/2015 at 2:17 pm

        Hi Ron,

        Glad you wrote back. This site does seem like a good fit for AC coupling given the presumably long distances between the outer buildings and the inverter rooms. The other thing that would push it in favor of AC coupling would be time of use for the loads. If it’s during the day, then avoiding having the power run through the batteries, like what happens in DC coupled systems, would be beneficial as the AC from the inverter could go directly to the loads.

        It sounds like the best next step is to find an off-grid specialty installer and contact them for a deeper look at what is possible for the system. We have a case study on a system fairly close to you here in hopes this gives you a step in the right direction.


  • avatar


    11/08/2015 at 5:27 pm

    One last thing if you don’t mind…

    Are there any case studies available that show AC-Coupling and it’s effects on charging batteries? ie, less cycling and longer battery life.

    Reply »

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