MX60 self-protection?

Discussion about the MX60 Charge Controller

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drstrip
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MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

My system currently has 18 x 160W panels feeding into two MX60s. The controllers never come close to their rated output capacity. Now that panels cost about 15% of what they did when I built the system I'd like to either add new panels or completely replace the existing ones to better utilize the charging capacity. Is the MX60 smart enough to not blow itself up if the max power point would exceed it's output limits? Would it seek the the power point that reaches peak capacity, or would it seek the peak power point and burn itself out if the input capacity is too high?
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Mike Curran
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- 12 Surrette/Rolls 2V x 1766Ah (2007)
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Westinghouse Solar - Barn roof: (2012)
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Outback Skybox - Barn roof: (2019)
- 14 Talesun 275W in series (DC array input to SB inverter/charger)
- 3 SimpliPhi 3.8 batteries, 48V, 225Ah total
- AC coupled input from 14 Talesun 275W, Enphase M215 microinverters

Battery systems operate in grid-tied, net metering w/backup mode
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by Mike Curran »

I saved a Q&A article from Home Power issue #104, December 2004-January 2005 for my own MX60 system commissioned in 2007. In it, Christopher Freitas, an OB power rep, stated:
The MX60 is rated at 60A continuous. There is a setting for continuous output as, which can be set as high as 70A without any problems. This is running the equipment above its listing, which may not be acceptable to your inspector.

The MX60 is also rated for 100% continuous duty, as are the OB OBDC60 and OBDC70 circuit breakers. The adjustable current limit is provided to prevent tripping the circuit breakers when the PV array is producing more than normal - such as during an edge of cloud event, or when snow reflection and cold temperatures are present.

The maximum PV array size is primarily dependent on the battery bank voltage, as follows:
- 48VDC×60A= 2880watts DC
- 48VDC×70A= 3360watts DC

The same calculations apply for a 24 volt system.

Our recommendations for maximum nameplate wattage rating is as follows:
- Colder climates - 48VDC: 3,000 watts DC
- 24 VDC: 1,500 watts DC
- Warmer locations - 48VDC: 3,500 watts DC
- 24VDC: 1,750 watts DC
There's more, but I think the key is having properly rated circuit breakers between the MX60 and your battery bank. This will prevent overcurrent that might damage your MX60s.
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https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/Hctc107221
drstrip
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

As a followup -
do the newer charge controllers (or any from non-Outback vendors) limit the output current regardless of the peak power point?
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by SandyP »

drstrip wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:19 pm As a followup -
do the newer charge controllers (or any from non-Outback vendors) limit the output current regardless of the peak power point?
With the FM charge controllers (and probably the MX) you can set the desired maximum current output of the charge controller below the maximum rated output for the unit however (as stated in the previous post) "sudden" effects such as cloud edge etc. does briefly result in the output exceeding the manually entered limit.
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MickW69
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by MickW69 »

This would have been my question, had I been smart enough to ask it.

My unit is currently sleeping/wake endless loop, have turned everything off and disconnected power and then back on, still looping. What else can I try to resurrect it?
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Mike Curran
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My RE system: Outback - Garage roof:
- 8 (2x4) Evergreen 180's into one FM80 (2007/2020 - replaced MX60)
- 6 (2×3) ALEO S79-300's into one FM80 (2017)
- 2 grid-tied VFXR3524A-01's series stacked, replaced GVFX's (2020)
- 12 Surrette/Rolls 2V x 1766Ah (2007)
- Hub10.3, Mate3s, FNDC, RTS. Tigo ES maximizers on each PV module.

Westinghouse Solar - Barn roof: (2012)
- 30 (2x15) 235W panels with Enphase M215 microinverters, grid-tied

Outback Skybox - Barn roof: (2019)
- 14 Talesun 275W in series (DC array input to SB inverter/charger)
- 3 SimpliPhi 3.8 batteries, 48V, 225Ah total
- AC coupled input from 14 Talesun 275W, Enphase M215 microinverters

Battery systems operate in grid-tied, net metering w/backup mode
All self-designed and self-installed
Location: Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by Mike Curran »

What else can I try to resurrect it?
How did it die?
https://ei.tigoenergy.com/p/pZXn7SZQyO45
https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/Hctc107221
drstrip
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

SandyP wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:48 pm
drstrip wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:19 pm As a followup -
do the newer charge controllers (or any from non-Outback vendors) limit the output current regardless of the peak power point?
With the FM charge controllers (and probably the MX) you can set the desired maximum current output of the charge controller below the maximum rated output for the unit however (as stated in the previous post) "sudden" effects such as cloud edge etc. does briefly result in the output exceeding the manually entered limit.
I'm looking at the FM100 manual and not seeing this setting. It's definitely not available on the MX60. Where should I be looking?
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by raysun »

drstrip wrote: Wed Jun 30, 2021 9:52 am
SandyP wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:48 pm
drstrip wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:19 pm As a followup -
do the newer charge controllers (or any from non-Outback vendors) limit the output current regardless of the peak power point?
With the FM charge controllers (and probably the MX) you can set the desired maximum current output of the charge controller below the maximum rated output for the unit however (as stated in the previous post) "sudden" effects such as cloud edge etc. does briefly result in the output exceeding the manually entered limit.
I'm looking at the FM100 manual and not seeing this setting. It's definitely not available on the MX60. Where should I be looking?
Screenshot_20210630-072619_Drive.jpg
On the Charger Menu:
Current Limit

I believe the minimum is 5A.

If installing a couple of large arrays and charge controllers, be aware the current limit setting on each is autonomous. Total maximum battery charge current will need to be apportioned between all charging sources that could be active simultaneously.

The Global Charger Control supported by the Mate3/3s and FNDC make those two devices worth their salt. (Add the refined charging control of Automatic Charge Termination as a bonus.)
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

Thanks. I was so focused on this being a property of the MPPT that I looked in that part of the manual and overlooking charging. So, yes, the MX60 also has a configurable charger limit.

So do this mean I can install, say, 4kW of PV into an MX60 connected to a 48V LiFePO4 battery. At STC that would be 80A, but if I interpret this correctly the MX60 will self-limit to 60A output if the array is running at Pmax for STC? In fact, I can set the MX60 to 70A (outside the listing value).
If 4kW is pushing my luck, how about 3kW of bi-facials where I'll almost certainly see 5-10% (or more) above STC on a clear cold day with snow on the ground?

I really don't want to release the magic smoke.
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by raysun »

There's three factors at play in the charge controller. Maximum input voltage, maximum input power, and maximum output current.

Input voltage is easy and fairly rigid: don't exceed it, or the power FETs can become fast-acting fuses.

Input power is malleable, and depends a good deal on output voltage. An 80A charge controller is rated at 80x12=960W at 12 volts and 80x48=3840W at 48 volts.

Output current is somewhere in-between. The maximum is dictated somewhat by the power FETs heat dissipation. Cook them long enough and they reach the magic smoke point.

Charge controllers are basically fancy buck circuits, taking high voltage/low current input and converting it to low voltage/high current output, plus heat. Heat disposal becomes a major limiting factor.

For the MX60 (overbuilt to handle 70A continuous apparently) the paper specification would permit an array of 60Ax48V=2880W nominal array. The MX60 obviously has "headroom" built in to absorb excursions outside STC, so derating the array max is not likely needed. (Extreme circumstances may cause other considerations.)

The FM60 and FM80 don't claim the same "baked in" headroom, but seem to be rugged performers in their own right. I don't panic at brief excursions over power ratings, but certainly don't design for continuous over-rating operation. I prefer "set and forget" designs, and knowing the excursions that can occur at my site, derate my arrays to 3520W (880W series strings create a large swing in power when adding/subtracting). The point being to design in headroom to permit conservative operation.

The Current Limit parameter is no real help in power handling, in fact, may add to the heat stress. Setting Current Limit to less than full rated output does not reduce power input in any way that I'm aware of. Since the full power is not being dumped to the battery, it has to be dumped as heat in the charger internals. I believe they are designed to handle the load, but I wouldn't press the issue with an oversized array.
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

raysun wrote: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:17 pm The Current Limit parameter is no real help in power handling, in fact, may add to the heat stress. Setting Current Limit to less than full rated output does not reduce power input in any way that I'm aware of. Since the full power is not being dumped to the battery, it has to be dumped as heat in the charger internals. I believe they are designed to handle the load, but I wouldn't press the issue with an oversized array.
thanks for this explanation - it really helps me wrap my head around the issue. My problem, so to speak, is that I come at this as a software/firmware guy with only modest understanding of electronics. If I were tasked with limiting the output current, I would build it into the MPPT algorithm. My impression of the algorithm, based on watching the MX60 do its sweep, is that through magic I don't understand, the controller changes the load and measures the resulting voltage, then computes power as V * A. It sweeps power stops increasing, then backs up to that peak point. So, as a software guy I'd just stop the sweep when I reached the lower of peak power or allowable current. But if I understand what you're saying, it doesn't do this. It continues to operate at peak power and dumps the power that would take output over the current limit as heat. If this is true, I'd sure like to know why my approach wouldn't work. I don't know nearly enough to claim it should work, but it seems the obvious, if perhaps naive, approach.
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

If you're wondering why someone might want to put more panels on their system than the nominal output power can sustain and thus end up clipping the output, I wrote a program that analyses this case. Using 5 years of historical insolation data from NREL for my location (northern NM, 7500' elevation), the result is that building an array that has STC output at 125% of the charge controller rated charging output that clips to the rated output in this condition, over the course of the year you collect 22% more power. Thus, the clipping effect is negligible. Assuming the controller can operate safely in this mode, this means you could increase your system output by 22% with no investment past the panels and mounts. At 150% of rated output, you increase output by 36%. The higher the excess PV input, the worse the payback becomes.
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by SandyP »

drstrip wrote: Wed Jun 30, 2021 1:31 pm
raysun wrote: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:17 pm The Current Limit parameter is no real help in power handling, in fact, may add to the heat stress. Setting Current Limit to less than full rated output does not reduce power input in any way that I'm aware of. Since the full power is not being dumped to the battery, it has to be dumped as heat in the charger internals. I believe they are designed to handle the load, but I wouldn't press the issue with an oversized array.
thanks for this explanation - it really helps me wrap my head around the issue. ../..
Yes, thanks for the excess power --> heat explanation, I had never considered that and its longer term (or even very short term) impact on the charge controllers lifespan.
I may have to bite the bullet and upgrade to an FM80 as I have over-paneled (but current output limited) my FM60 :shock:
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by sbrownian »

Hmm.. A well designed power supply wouldn't just have to dump the 'excess' as heat, it would merely limit the output current by adjusting the chopping duty cycle to only allow 'through' enough panel energy to create the max output current allowed. Since the device is already operating in a mode where it plays games with the voltage/current parameters, (by varying the duty cycle I would assume,) I wouldn't think that would be much different to reach a point where the output is 'limited' by again, varying that duty cycle... But what the heck, I was up late binge watching "Enterprise" so my thought process may also be affected by the late hour! #-o
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by raysun »

I'm only going by what seems to happen when my charge controllers get a big load of juice coming from the PV array. They may be doing something to increase their dynamic input impedance but whatever it is seems to be accompanied by a furious fan duty cycle.

I don't think all that rotational energy is being triggered to mix margaritas, but I could be wrong.

All that duty cycle chopping is done by a line of FETs standing at the steam table with Ginzu knives in hand. PWM is right out of the engineers' cookbook and is a really well-understood technique, including the amount of heat dissipated per chop.

Anyone have a lot of panels and an FM CC they don't mind frying? Let's try setting up an array 200% over the P(max) spec and see what happens. Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?


You_shall_not.jpg
MPPT charge controller magically handling excess input power.
drstrip
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

I just did a little experiment with my MX60.
Under current conditions, the panels are producing about 40A output. If I hit restart and trigger a sweep, you can see it starts at 0 power (presumably at Voc), then sweeps until it's a bit past the peak, then backs up and twiddles a bit before settling on what appears to be the peak.
I now drop the output current limit to 30A. The output drops to 30A and the input current drops correspondingly - the excess power is not being dissipated as heat (in the charge controller, that is), but rather the MPPT algorithm is picking a tracking point that sits right around the output setpoint. (It's actually about 5% over a large part of the time).

With the input current still limited to 30A, I trigger a sweep. As before the sweep starts at zero and sweeps increasing power. This time, however, it stops when the input power reaches the point where the output current is at the 30A limit, plus a little overshoot - maybe 10-15%.

So what does that tell us? At least for me it seems to say that the MPPT algorithm is smart enough not to always track at the Mpp and just dissipate the excess as heat. This is not surprising, since in float condition even the most balanced system will have input capacity in excess of the output requirement. It also tells us that when seeking the peak, it does not blast past the output current limit before backing off, so we don't see transients to the peak power condition before the charger settles on the charge point.

But does this mean it's safe to over-panel a controller? Hell if I know. There are almost certainly other factors that come into play that this experiment doesn't reveal. This is where it sure would be nice if someone from Outback engineering piped up and gave us the straight dope on whether you can over-panel a charge controller, and if so, how much excess is safe. Outback, anyone there?

And if you try this experiment with your gear, note that when you set the current limit back to whatever you started with, it will not take effect until the next time you restart the controller (or perhaps when it decides its own to sweep.)
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by sbrownian »

Edit: While I was writing this up, I see drstrip posted their results of adjusting the controller current limits...

At this point, the question then becomes: Will all the charge controller models 'behave' in the same manner?

================
What I was working on before reading drstrips' post...
=================

So I would say the underlying question to the Outback folks is basically this:

If I want to improve my >overall< photon capture stats, can I put a 5kw (or even 6kw) array on a 4kw output charger (assuming '48v' nominal, and maintaining the >same array voltage<,) and have the charger controller limit output current to protect itself..
(This is just for purposes of setting up the question, I realize that it is a poor design practice..)

I guess I'm thinking along the lines of having a water tank of say, 10,000 gallons, but tall enough to produce 80 psi at the base. The output is run through a pressure regulator dropping it to 40. (Yes, I'm ignoring the energy inefficiency of doing so.. bear with me...)

Let's further say the pressure regulator can only supply 100 gallons a minute by design.

It doesn't matter if the tank volume is upsized to 100,000 gallons, as long as the height remains the same to keep that 80psi feeding the regulator...

And I also realize the MPPT algorithms have to deal with a wildly varying 'tank height' if you will...

But the bottom line is:
Does the >software< design have built in limits to keep the charger from self destruction?
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by raysun »

Maybe we should start a betting pool with enough ante to cover the cost of damage. I have a spare FM80, and enough panel power to cause a small fire in the name of science.

We start at P=3520W and up the wattage in 880W increments until the thing blows.

Who's in? $100 / string above 3520W. Winner takes all, minus repair costs.
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by sbrownian »

I'd rather hear from Outback, than have you attempt to open another vent on the side of that pile of hot rock.... :mrgreen:
Information, you get not; if incorrect question, you ask..
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by raysun »

But the bottom line is:
Does the >software< design have built in limits to keep the charger from self destruction?
If it did, don't you think the shiny-shoe people would be marketing the hell out of it?
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by raysun »

sbrownian wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 10:39 am I'd rather hear from Outback, than have you attempt to open another vent on the side of that pile of hot rock.... :mrgreen:
Get out your nuclear powered hearing aids, you're gonna need 'em.
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by drstrip »

raysun wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 10:41 am
sbrownian wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 10:39 am I'd rather hear from Outback, than have you attempt to open another vent on the side of that pile of hot rock.... :mrgreen:
Get out your nuclear powered hearing aids, you're gonna need 'em.
and to think I got chewed out in this thread for suggesting that Outback staff didn't pay attention to these forums :eek:
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Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by raysun »

drstrip wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 12:00 pm
raysun wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 10:41 am
sbrownian wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 10:39 am I'd rather hear from Outback, than have you attempt to open another vent on the side of that pile of hot rock.... :mrgreen:
Get out your nuclear powered hearing aids, you're gonna need 'em.
and to think I got chewed out in this thread for suggesting that Outback staff didn't pay attention to these forums :eek:
🤣🤣🤣

Chewed out? If we were chewing you out, you'd be missing limbs. We are sort of a feral pack of dogs here.

🤣🤣🤣
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SandyP
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Posts: 508
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:44 am
My RE system: 8 x 190W 24V Suntech panels (4 strings of 2) July 2011
4 x 325W 24V Suntech panels (2 strings of 2) added Sept2018
Mate2
Outback FM60 MPPT (max output lowered to 55amps)
12 x 2V Hoppecke GEL 612 Ah C24 - 24V System (June 2011)
Outback VFX3024 Inverter/Charger
Victron BMV-602s
Honda 5.5kW Genset
Location: Victoria, Australia

Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by SandyP »

drstrip wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 10:19 am ../..
So what does that tell us? At least for me it seems to say that the MPPT algorithm is smart enough not to always track at the Mpp and just dissipate the excess as heat. This is not surprising, since in float condition even the most balanced system will have input capacity in excess of the output requirement. ../..
^^^ A very good point, otherwise the cooling fan would be running the most during float.
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User avatar
SandyP
Forum Czar
Posts: 508
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:44 am
My RE system: 8 x 190W 24V Suntech panels (4 strings of 2) July 2011
4 x 325W 24V Suntech panels (2 strings of 2) added Sept2018
Mate2
Outback FM60 MPPT (max output lowered to 55amps)
12 x 2V Hoppecke GEL 612 Ah C24 - 24V System (June 2011)
Outback VFX3024 Inverter/Charger
Victron BMV-602s
Honda 5.5kW Genset
Location: Victoria, Australia

Re: MX60 self-protection?

Post by SandyP »

raysun wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 8:51 am ../..
Anyone have a lot of panels and an FM CC they don't mind frying? Let's try setting up an array 200% over the P(max) spec and see what happens. Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?
../..
I think my arrays fit your experiment, 2820W feeding a single FM60 :shock:
But half of the panels are not optimally oriented and the output power setting on the FM60 throttled down to 55A.
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http://spwebcam.myddns.me/
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