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My First Solar Panels

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My first solar panels

Today was an exciting day – for me, anyway. Maybe others were excited about the election of “their” candidate on Super Tuesday. At this point, I don’t have a clue about any of that, and don’t much care. I’ve been too focused on completing the first 10-panel “string” of my solar array.

It’s been a long time comin’. The panels arrived months ago, along with the mounting hardware (uni-struts, et al).  But winter began to set in. Somewhere around December, I managed to get just three of the uni-struts mounted before the barn roof was covered in three feet of snow. Though I was itchin’ to get the panels installed, I was appreciative of the ‘down time’ to do other tasks: taxes, misc admin work, touching base with friends and family, scanning photos and, most importantly, spending quality time with Mare.  

The weather has been much more accommodating of late. The temperature is consistently in the 40’s during the day and even hit 50+ at one point. But that’s not really enough to melt the snow. Mr. Sun is the key ingredient for that process. The past few days have been absolutely beautiful. So, by yesterday morning, the roof was clear of snow and dry.

I quickly set out to install the fourth and final uni-strut needed for the first string, then proceeded to mount the panels.  It was a VERY slow process. It seems that the actual “doing” never quite goes as fast as the “thinking”. Having never done this before, there was a lot of experimentation, trial and error, reconfiguring, etc. By the time the sun was sinking behind the tree covered mountains, all ten panels were mounted. But the wiring would have to wait.

One of ten panels being installed

I found a certain satisfaction in fitting exactly 10 panels to a string. With a total of 100 panels to be installed, I’ve got my own decimal system going (but, only if I don’t break any!). Speaking of, when the panels were mounted yesterday, without any ‘mis-haps’, I was already looking forward to the bragging rights with my friend, Chris Walsh, who has already completed a similar project. Like me, he has 100 panels and broke a few during the installation process. Using a professional torque driver, I was confident I had found the “sweet spot” of being tight enough to hold the panels in place, without breaking any. End of day 1 – no broken panels.

Today was slightly cooler, but the sun was bright. Time to get these babies hooked up! Again, the wiring was tedious and seemed to take forever. But by mid-afternoon, “juice” was flowing into the batteries (for the more nerdy, 68V @ 2.7 amps). I wasn’t too confident about the outcome and proceeded to give Chris a call for his input. After a few rolls to voice mail, I decided to review what I’d done so far. Couldn’t find anything obvious. Another call to Chris. Still going to voice mail. That will hafta wait. I started to install the uni-struts for the next string.

This time it went MUCH faster. Seems that experience has its benefits. BUT, what’s this? Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a crack in the last panel installed the previous day. [Slight shoulder droop inserted here]. Apparently, the banging and pounding from installing the 2nd group of mounting hardware jarred the panel enough to crack it. Or maybe it was the expansion and contraction from the heat of the sun. Either way, the bragging rights went the way of the setting sun. (Note to self: reduce the torque on the driver).

The lack of bragging rights now set aside, I still feel pretty good that the panels are now generating electric. However, if we wanna keep using that electric coffee pot… I’m praying for more sunny days.

Ten installed. 90 more to go.

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9 responses »

  1. They LOOK AWESOME Brother…..how’s it feel ta make Edison!!!

    Congrats, big time, Lance!

    Reply
    • I know you know how it feels. But how does one convey to others how it feels? Thus is the challenge.

      Reply
      • Ridin a bike for the first time; first paycheck, first girlfriend, you know it.

        The first time that power comes to you- from you, from the sun, just KNOWING that you did it with no assistnace from the grid, the government, it smells a lot like…
        FREEDOM.

  2. This is awesome! Lance and Mary, you will be first on our list of contacts when one day we get to build/renovate our dream house and live off-the-grid.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Review and Redeux « Let's go to Idaho

  4. I showed this post to Kirk (who happens to be watching college basketball o’er my shoulder), to which he responded, “I unloaded all [100] of those off the truck by myself.” LMAO. I betcha you could use his help right about now, eh? What a great feat. I admire your innovation and frugality, my friend (but still, most of all, I admire your inner interior decorator).

    Reply
    • Having Kirk’s assistance would certainly be a plus. But it’s getting done. Mare’s been jumping in. The second string went up much faster.

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Life Is Full Of Surprises « Let's go to Idaho

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