Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Almost there....

The electricians came on Monday to install our solar panels and inverter. It took them a good 5-6 hours, but by mid-afternoon (a sunny one), we had them all installed and I got to watch as our analog electric meter ran backwards!!! So awesome! Unfortunately, we had to turn it all off almost as soon as it was up and running, as we still need a variety of inspections to take place. Once they pass, the the electric company (Pacific Power) will come and install a new digital meter and hook us up to the grid. With the weather we've been having, I hope we can be producing electricity very soon. We're hoping by next week. Living in Eastern Oregon, I am told that the electric company only has a half dozen or so reps on this side of the state, so it could be even longer. It all depends on their schedule. I'm hoping to get a call soon for the inspections. We've been warned that this is one of the toughest parts of the whole process... knowing that you're able to power your house with solar but being unable to until it gets all signed off.

If any one's interested, I'll step you through a lay person's perspective of how it all happened. As mentioned before, we first had the roofers come and install the support system. Monday the crew unpacked the solar panels, hoisted them on top of the roof installed them to the rack and hooked all the wires together.

They then crawled inside our attic and ran all the wires through the roof to a wall in our garage, next to the circuit breaker. They installed 2 new circuits in the breaker box, and also put in an inverter and an independent meter that tells us just how much electricity the panels produce over their lifetime. The inverter converts the direct electric current (DC) that the solar panels produce to the alternating current that the grid uses (AC) It also has a screen that tells us a lot of various statistics. Here's a "before and after" picture.

The new digital meter that Pacific Power will install will be able to calculate our usage and the amount of power we generate. Any excess will be used to power our neighbors houses and the excess will be credited to our account. Unfortunately they don't have a "buy back" program, so we won't be making any money, but we'll save money, since our bills will be lower. And yes, we'll have to save over more than a few years to pay off the cost of the array too. For that reason, as well as financial and spacial concerns, we kept the array smaller than what we'd need to fully power our house. Since we're hooked up to the grid we also don't have to use batteries too. If the power goes out on the grid, our panels get shut off as well, due to safety concerns for the line workers. So it's a bit different than a stand-alone solar array, but that's not a bad thing.

I'll be sure to let you know when we start soaking up the sun!!

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