NorthStar Blue 210

Discussion about the OutBack Energy Cell Batteries
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Sol Luz Mexico
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NorthStar Blue 210

Post by Sol Luz Mexico »

I don't do a lot of off-grid and now Growatt is making a push into Mexico with much less expensive components ( which I am wary of ) but I have had two clients with rapid failures of NC200 48V banks,2 banks each.

I have checked all the charging parameters and they were as spec'd.
It is a surprise to me to see they operate best when not fully charged!

Anyway, getting batteries here to Mexico is not inexpensive and batteries need to fit the IBR.

With full charging and about a 30% discharge rate with some 40% days/nights thrown in these battery banks have both failed at just over the 3 year mark.
Reading about this I find it surprising that optimal charging is at 80%.....I have to find a way to wrap my head around that but the hope for me is I never see an NC200 again unless they are being replaced with a better battery.
It kind of tosses what I thought I knew about trying to keep the DOD around 20-30% as optimal on its head.

Replacing them with SImpliPhi is a lot of pesos!

I wonder how the NorthStar Blue 210 compares? Is it a POS like the NC version?

Replacing these with traditional batteries for a few years while I fix all the other electrical and programming problems from the original installer is a big hit for my clients' wallets.

Any insight is greatly appreciated.
raysun
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My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

I used two banks of 200NC in an IBR3-48 for an off-grid system. I had monobloc failures (two of eight) at 3 years, and I replaced the battery with SimpliPhi 3.8-48 at year five. Six Phi units fit an IBR3.

I studied the 200NC literature for years, occasionally speaking with OB engineers about them. The claim of longer life at PSoC, as far as I could glean from the information, is only valid compared against other non-nanocarbon enhanced AGM battery designs. AFIK, operated as a normal AGM battery, the 200NC gives longer cycle life than operated at PSoC.

All is somewhat academic as the 200NC has been discontinued.

I do not believe the Northstar battery blocks fit the IBR racks (too tall), so they may not be an option.
Screenshot_20211221-074011_Firefox.jpg
My distributor advised not having the rack dictate choice in batteries, and in large part he was right. Trying to find a compatible battery block will narrow choices.

I'd already decided on SimpliPhi, so physically, the installation was compatible. In order to meet their requirements for 100% equal parallel connections took recabling the rack. I used Phi's dual battery bus bars and all-new cabling. It was an expensive refit. In retrospect, I might have more strongly considered sourcing twin-headed cables as are used on OB's IBR3-48li.

In the interim, I suspect your customers' batteries probably had less than four blocks fail. If so, I'd suggest reconfiguring the battery with the four healthiest blocks. It will be 1/2 capacity, but will still function. That will buy time until they can budget for a battery replacement.

As far as cheap Chinese equipment entering the market - they are cheap enough to buy two, and anyone using them should do so to have a spare when the first one fries.
Sol Luz Mexico
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Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by Sol Luz Mexico »

Thank you for your reply.

I'm still working on making the AH rate convert in my head to the kWh rate...... I'm old-school behind the curve and, until recently, going off-grid here was only a last resort, not a viable and smart move.

I can say with no doubt that my client needs those 6 3.8 batteries but she isn't going to pony up the $15,000USD and the 17% importation to get them into Mexico when I can get her through the next few years easily enough on 8 new conventional batteries.

On a personal note I would love the experience of doing that for her.
However, I am also installing a small 2.52kW array on her new house she is dumping money into so $15+k isn't going to fly.

Amazingly enough, last night I went by her house on a call out, looked at the batteries the other installer left behind in 2017 and found one battery after all these years at 11.99V and another at 12.18V.
I got lucky I am starting to hope.
It would have been nice if they had been charged somewhat regularly over the last 4 years but I'll take what I can get when it is dark and cold and my new client is ill and pissed!
Go figure.... the third was at 8.5V.

I swapped out those two most promising batteries and put a bulk charge on the system via the genset.
Today they seem to be charging and holding a charge but tonight will tell.
The bank is toast in the near term, I am certain, but if I can nurse it through while she recovers from the dismay of having twice changed out her bank in the last 6 years on those NC batteries while I research which battery to install for her for another 4-5 or longer years then life is good.

The other issue is I have finally convinced her to connect to the grid which is no longer far away and there is actually an energized meter base outside her driveway.
That way I can keep her at a 20%ish DOD and use those banked kWh credits when she needs them rather than hammering her battery.
More programming for me to learn after I had to replace her Mate3 with a Mate3S.

The battery dimensions are close and when I pulled the old ones out last night there was plenty of space available above for that extra .3" it looks like they'd need.
Also, push comes to shove, I just removed the floor the top row sits on and shim it.
It was just 4 screws ( well, 2 screws since whoever assembled only had time to drop 2 in )
Shim that floor a bit and shim the top and I'm in business.

You don't spend a career in the fire service and then a decade part time in Baja and another decade full time in mainland Mexico without learning how to modify things...... a lot!
raysun
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My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

AGMs are great for convenience - no periodic water replacement - but not so great at service life. Statistically they have the highest cost per cycle, and the shortest service life of the lead acid chemistries.

Even when meticulously maintained (and trust me, nobody is more meticulous than yours truly), 5 years would be considered a very long life in off-grid service.

I know nothing of your client, but generally find more frequent battery replacement is due, at least in part, to maintenance practices.

Were it my client, I wouldn't promise 5 years from a new set.

I wouldn't recommend the expense of lithium batteries at this point either.

In fact, I wouldn't even recommend battery formats that fit the IBR. The Northstar Blue+ is another "thin plate" AGM. Though I have no experience with this model, I do with the design. Great for performance, not so great for maintenance or durability. Sort of like buying a Porsche roadster, then driving on dirt backroads. A pickup truck is a much better choice.

I'm going to echo my distributor's sage advice: Don't let the rack dictate the battery. It was purpose-built for the EnergyCell xxxNC series, and does not play well with others. TBH, a nice-looking, and very limited, piece of equipment.

Scrapping the IBR will save your client money in the long run. There's a whole lot of AGM batteries that are much cheaper for the same capacity as the Blue+.

If your client can maintain an expensive AGM (to a certain life expectancy), she can maintain a cheap one just as well.
Sol Luz Mexico
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Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by Sol Luz Mexico »

So, what brands do you recommend?

I'm all about saving my client money and I have become her maintenance......

It's all about word of mouth here.

Yeah, like 2kWh Lithium batteries here are $1000USD..... not a bargain and I am not sure the quality is fantastic.

I have another client that just contacted me and I do not think he is afraid of maintenance.
What would a good FLA battery be?
He has zero grid access and is building a tiny house.

At night he needs lighting.... a water pump and a fridge and freezer.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
My wheelhouse is residencial up to around 13kW.
raysun
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Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

What to recommend is greatly influenced by what is available in-country. Also, some idea of the system's daily consumption and generation capability would be essential.

You gave her good advice to hook up to the grid if available. No matter what's done (short of curtailing consumption) grid power will still be cheaper.

Can you provide a complete list of the equipment in the system? Also current "nameplate" battery capacity? (Are 12 monoblocs being used, or 8?)
raysun
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Posts: 7107
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

Regarding the person building the tiny home. Forgive me for being contrarian, but I've heard many times good intentions about maintaining flooded lead acid (FLA) batteries, seeing the reality of them not being properly maintained, and having short service lives.

There is a sardonic truism in play here that affects all off grid system operators: "One will destroy one's first battery". Proper maintenance is part "art", and part dogged adherence to good operational practices. Both the art and the practice come from experience with the system.

If the user wants to start on a budget with an off grid system of modest energy capacity, fine. Start with an FLA battery. However, start with one properly sized for daily consumption needs and daily cycling. Advise against buying an expensive battery with overlarge capacity. Small or large, it will need replacing in the not-too-distant future. I can almost guarantee it.
Sol Luz Mexico
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Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by Sol Luz Mexico »

Ja! I learned that lesson years ago when I killed my first battery bank in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California!
raysun
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Posts: 7107
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

Sol Luz Mexico wrote: Wed Dec 22, 2021 10:07 am Ja! I learned that lesson years ago when I killed my first battery bank in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California!
Welcome to the club!

We should have a secret handshake or something.
Sol Luz Mexico
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Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by Sol Luz Mexico »

Yeah, the handshake with no money in it after buying real batteries!

Side note, the replacement batteries that were sitting on floor for almost 4 years not only bulked up but held a charge overnight quite well so the emergency replacement mode is now shifting to searching for a new, best alternative mode.

I think, after sleeping on it, she will be best off with AGM's this time around and my other client with Lithium since he is starting all new.

Her system is 2 VFXR 3648
2 FM 80
2 banks, 4 each NC200
Mate3S

Completely off-grid.

A little over 4kW array.
We have an amazing solar resource here at 20° latitude and 1950m elevation in central Mexico.


As another aside.... why the hell do you have to be physically onsite to install updates with internet connected systems!
raysun
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Posts: 7107
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

Sol Luz Mexico wrote: Wed Dec 22, 2021 11:36 am Yeah, the handshake with no money in it after buying real batteries!

Side note, the replacement batteries that were sitting on floor for almost 4 years not only bulked up but held a charge overnight quite well so the emergency replacement mode is now shifting to searching for a new, best alternative mode.

I think, after sleeping on it, she will be best off with AGM's this time around and my other client with Lithium since he is starting all new.

Her system is 2 VFXR 3648
2 FM 80
2 banks, 4 each NC200
Mate3S

Completely off-grid.

A little over 4kW array.
We have an amazing solar resource here at 20° latitude and 1950m elevation in central Mexico.


As another aside.... why the hell do you have to be physically onsite to install updates with internet connected systems!
I too live at 19°N @ 2700' on the south end of Hawaii Island.

I don't see a battery monitor, notably the FlexNet DC, in the equipment list. Is there not one installed? (There should be, especially for AGM.)

IME, the system needs about 3kW more solar panels.

The Outback stuff connects to the internet, but bears its off-grid legacy throughout. Unfortunately, for systems other than SkyBox (which is too new to receive blanket recommendation, from me at least), firmware updates are necessarily on-site.

However, if the system is registered on Outback's OpticsRE cloud service (free, and essential) monitoring and configuration changes can be made from anywhere with internet access.

OpticsRE status screen. Popup dialog showing battery status.
20211220_130901.jpg
My system is less than 75' away in my equipment shed. I almost never go there.
Last edited by raysun on Wed Dec 22, 2021 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
raysun
Forum Emperor
Posts: 7107
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

If recommending a lithium battery to a new off-grid user (or a 20 year veteran for that matter), PLEASE insist on a decent battery monitor.

Same advice holds for ANY battery, really.

I like the Victron SmartShunt monitor for those with a Bluetooth enabled smart phone that can run the Victron Connect monitoring app.
https://www.victronenergy.com/battery-m ... tery-shunt
Screenshot_20211220-093621_Messenger.jpg
Screenshot_20211220-094022_Messenger.jpg
Sol Luz Mexico
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Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by Sol Luz Mexico »

Screenshot (28).png
My bad..... 5.6W

I think the array and battery bank should be bigger.
raysun
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Posts: 7107
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: NorthStar Blue 210

Post by raysun »

Sol Luz Mexico wrote: Wed Dec 22, 2021 12:40 pm Screenshot (28).png

My bad..... 5.6W

I think the array and battery bank should be bigger.
OK.

Looking at Optics, I see there is an FNDC installed.

The history can be examined to determine charging effectiveness, as well as consumption patterns.

One feature available, that's especially helpful for AGM, is Auto Charge Termination Control, which uses net charging rate during Absorb to determine when charging is complete. It helps save AGMs from overcharging.
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