PV system :: the panels II

6.19.2010-Saturday

I woke up at 7:00 a.m. and got a move on. First some work needed to be done in the garage attic. Dad climbed up through the access door and guided my drill bit as I punched two holes in the garage. I put one in from the outside for the power lines from the solar panels. The other was put inside the garage through the ceiling for pulley no. 1 of the deer hoist. Dad then secured the pulley to a chain looped on a 2 x 4 in the attic and pulled it snug to the ceiling. The hand winch (1000 pound capacity) was mounted to the wall below pulley no. 1, from which the cable was strung through and over to pulley no. 2 closer to the center of the garage; pulley no. 2 then supports what ever it is we are winching up – with any luck a large antlered critter of the Northwoods this fall.

With the attic work done, and two continuous #2 AWG all weather/UV shielded wires strung from the solar charge controller to the outside of the garage I was free to began my work. I secured the large wires to the pole and then climbed the scaffolding to begin wiring everything in.

After burning through dozens of zip ties and searing some shrink tube onto my two large splices (and also using silicone caulk on the splice) everything was set. I climbed down and tested the whole rig. It worked! I finished securing all of the solar wires to the frame of the rack while we produced our very first solar energy. When I finished we took down the top scaffolding and then set the tilt angle to 45°.

We then removed the scaffolding and tidied up. At one point during the clean up I saw 650+ watts read out on the solar charger controller monitor. Dad reported shortly after that he saw 808 watts for a short bit before it dropped back down to 700 then 600. Our whole rig is rated for a maximum output of 810 watts. If the report of 808 was not a glitch this means that we have very little loss in current through the use of heavy hardware and tight connections.

It’s not the most elegant wiring job, but everything is organized and well secured.

The garage wiring is quite organized. Everything is in its place and clean and clear of debris. A notable addition to the system, installed with the charge controller, is a new 350 Amp class T fuse and fuse block located on the positive main line. In my research I’ve found that the fuse is intended to protect the wires, not the inverter or other downstream appliances. Since our cables easily exceed the current that the batteries are capable of discharging, the 350 Amp fuse may be protecting the batteries more than anything in the event of a short.

I never managed to capture a 600+ Watts load.

At day’s end we pulled in over 90 amp-hours despite overcast skies for most of the day. The system also began operation right around midday.

We concluded our day a little before 2:30 p.m. With the remainder of the day Dad and I spent our time in and out of the cabin and about the land. Our trucks were loaded for tomorrow – a trailer on each. We took a seat on the porch and had iced tea while we went over the accomplishments of the day as well as the good fortune that has been had in the construction of the cabin and all of its systems. It seams that every time we get dealt a setback we change our course just enough so that we exceed our initial expectations. For instance :: the economy and building supplies were at a low when we constructed the cabin – today the dollar spent would have to be spent on a lessor structure. Another example is how the PV rack order was never fulfilled, resulting in the eventual purchase of a rack with a variable tilt (which greatly improved the ease of installation – working at a 45° would have been near impossible for securing our panels that high up).

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