Yeah, you guessed it…the new solar array is starting to generate. Oooooh….it’s so fine……..
One of my charge controllers is a-pumping. The other awaits in eager anticipation of being juiced up, too. Much like my son-in-law, Brian, who was the monkey-on-the-frame for the installation of most of the panels. He wants to see the results of his labours as much as we do.
We are just reconnected to the old panels so far, actually – hence one controller pumping. In that sense we are just getting our old share of sunshine back workin’ for us. The new ones have yet to come online. They are 90% wired but not connected yet because we are just finishing the actual physical assembly. Two more panels to go up on the frame for a total of 14, old and new.
But the bulk of the job is over. That’s the building of it all, the fabrication, the purchasing, the cobbling, foundation work, the lifting and the assembly. NOT to mention the running back and forth to my shop for parts, tools and ‘making adjustments’ to fittings. 95% of our electrical work (out here) is really just plain physical, day-labour-type work. Some of it is kinda mechanical, actually. The bolting, welding, etc. Those two components are what takes up all the time.
The fact that we take so much time to actually make electrical things work (switches, combiner boxes, panel connections, batteries, etc.) is more a function of our fear of all things electrical than it is the time required for ‘electrical engineering’. If we knew what we were doing, the actual ‘electrician-required’ part is only minutes.
Mind you, if we knew what we were doing, the labour-mechanical components wouldn’t take so long either. I blame Brian.
So, we are slow. So sue me! (Brian might).
To be fair, we had four surprise guests yesterday and that could have proven irritating to me (given my focus at the time) until one of them expressed an interest in all things off-the-grid and was a machinist to boot! He was in his element jumping up on the array with Brian to help us put a couple of panels up. And the other three guys were really pleasant and fun to meet as well. So, it was good, all good and especially good to have another set of willing and skilled hands.
After I dropped the visitors back at the other island, I returned to continue on the job. Sal was just finishing up wiring the first set of panels. She stood about twenty feet off the ground on the top of a swaying scaffold and reconnected the old panels and ran the power to the combiner box. Before she came down from aloft she checked to see that they were producing. They weren’t.
“I dunno. Did it all to the diagram. Maybe they are broken?”
So we checked them together and came up with all sorts of weird readings. That is such a disappointing feeling when you are way up in the air and think you are 90% done. But a few misplaced wires set right and we were ‘on’. Usually a little happy ‘jig’ is in order with small work victories but, given the swayin’ location, we waited til we were back down on terra firma and then the smiles and Riverdancing began. WOOhoooo!
And that was just 20% of the array producing! Eat your heart out, George Lucas. When we get it all together, THERE WILL BE AMATEUR LIGHT AND MAGIC!!
Post script: we went all out this afternoon and the final two panels are up and Sal decided to take a shot at getting another part of the array working (goal: 40% of everything we have. 60% more at a later date – we have other things to do starting tomorrow – my son is getting married!). She took off the back of the electrical boxes on each panel and one of the boxes looked like it had been inhabited by rats and slugs. Eeeeuw. Not a single piece of it was shiny and bright and ready to accept a wire. A quick check of the gunk with the meter showed the panel was producing nothing. NOT good. A panel ‘out’ of a string renders the string virtually useless. So, the panel went into ‘refurbish’ mode (meaning: a lot of scraping, cleaning and shining) and then VOILA! The panel was producing according to the meter and it is being ushered back into the fold as I write.
OOOoooooooooooohhhhh….I love it when a plan comes together.