Monday, August 15, 2011

Solar Panel Installation

After deciding to get solar panels a few months ago we then had to wait six weeks for the Mass rebate to get approved. In that reguard signing the paperwork was a bit anti-climatic, but once it was approved work began on our roof and before long we were producing power.

Throughout the process I took photos to catalog the install.

The first day the installers mounted the beams that the panels would be attached to.
And the next day they mounted the micro inverters to the beams and ran the initial wire connecting them up. Rather than having one central inverter our system had a micro inverter attached to each panel. The big advantage is that if one panel gets some shade or goes down it doesn't take down everything it is connected to.



On following Monday morning an eighteen wheeler delivered a palette containing our 30 Schüco 185 watt solar panels to our house.





Over the course of the day they first tested each panel and then installed most of them up on our two roofs.









The last two panels were left off until the electrical work is done (the electrician was on vacation when this was happening). On the upper roof the left four beams were trimmed and got black boots. The two beams on the right of the upper roof have been trimmed, but the boots have not yet been installed. The boots really make a big difference minimizing the visual impact of the solar panels.



Before we can connect the solar one of the tasks we had to get done was to upgrade our electrical system. The existing main electrical box was only 60amps which the regulation wouldn't allow for the panels to be wired into it. While there is an extra cost in performing an electrical upgrade this was something we knew we would have to do one day when we bought the house.




The nice new electrical 200amp electrical box with the old box now as just acting as a sub panel.


Meanwhile our electric company replaced our outside meter with a net meter (so it could go backwards) and the solar electrician began running wires from the panels down to an external emergency disconnect and another new meter that will measure the solar production. From the solar meter the wiring ran into the house and attached to the new main panel.




With everything all wired the system was turned on for a few minutes to make sure all of the panels were working and we got to generate a tiny bit of electricity before it was turned back off to wait for the electrical inspection.



With the construction finished we are very pleased with how the panels ended up looking. When we first started looking into solar panels we spent a bunch of time wondering if they would end up being an eye sore. I am very happy with the results and how day to day really unless you look up you probably wont notice they are there. Our worries about our neighbors hating them were unfounded and multiple neighbors have inquired about the panels and the feedback has all been positive.


After we had the electrical inspection and approval from our electric company we finally got to turn on the panels full time. The data from all of the micro inverters is gathered and published up to the cloud via the Enphase Envoy unit (the little pill box not yet attached to the wall in the photo of the electrical box). With the data up online it has a number of fun graphs and all sorts of real time data. There is a public site for our house where much of the recent data is available. The real value of uploading the data is that they continuously analyze the production data and notify me if anything seems wrong such as if a panel stops producing.



After much debating if we should even get panels I am glad we did. The install went smooth, they look nicer than I expected and this months electric bill arrived today lower than any before.

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