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Tag: Suniva

Go Solar While You Still Can: Trade Dispute Casts a Shadow on The Industry’s Bright Future

Go Solar While You Still Can: Trade Dispute Casts a Shadow on The Industry’s Bright Future

Business Tactics Dimming Solar Prospects At Home and Abroad

Go solar while you still can: 2017 may see the end of solar’s rapid growth period – at least, for the moment. Recent trade disputes between Suniva and overseas solar manufacturers are set to spark a significant increase in the price of solar panels before the year is out, which could spell doom for the already-struggling American solar industry. This dispute comes hot on the heals of SolarWorld’s insolvency in Germany – the company currently survives only in its Portland, Oregon-based offices (with manufacturing in nearby Hillsboro, Oregon).

In 2011, SolarWorld was right there alongside Suniva – alleging that Chinese manufacturers used unfair practices through government subsidies to finance the manufacture of solar products at a much cheaper cost than American competitors could manage – in some cases allowing those manufacturers to sell their product for lower prices than were even required to build them. Essentially, the case alleged that Chinese manufacturers were undercutting their overseas counterparts illegally. The American manufacturers (six in all, including Suniva and SolarWorld) won that case, and now 2017 sees a new battle in the ongoing trade war.

Suniva has requested that the International Trade Commission look into the impact that imported solar cells and modules (and their lower pricing) has on domestic solar manufacturers – alleging that the competition has dissuaded the development of American solar products in favor of cheaper, less regulated foreign products. At Suniva’s urging, the ITC is taking a thorough look at the case – but if they decide to act on the company’s proposed tariffs and pricing increases, industry experts are worried it could put solar power in a downward slump for the foreseeable future.

The Price of Trade War

With the proposed price increases, solar power would reportedly be set back to pre-2012 levels in terms of pricing for equipment and 2015 levels for installation – a nearly 40% increase, which would be disastrous for many solar projects – including California’s recently-announced renewable energy initiative. Some sources suggest even greater increases – predicting solar cells and modules could rise nearly 70% in costs!

Suniva tariff price increase predictions

Industry experts estimate, should Suniva’s proposed tariffs and price increases be approved, 47 Gigawatts (GW) of planned photovoltaic projects currently in the works could be canceled – to give some indication of how much 47GW is, that’s enough power to keep the lights on for over 4,000 American homes for an entire year. And that’s just the basic wattage of the proposed systems – they would provide continuous power for residential and industrial projects for years to come if installed.

Buy Solar While it’s Still Affordable!

The only good news in this potential trade deal is that you, the DIY customer, will be largely unaffected. Low prices are a market expectation that customers have come to know and love, so most retailers are locked in. The trade war and its looming price increases largely effect industrial and municipal solar projects, which while bad for the country as a whole, have little effect on retail. Utility projects will be worst hit, and many planned projects may well be abandoned, so if you’re a residential customer whose on-the-grid power is currently or will in the future be provided by solar – now might be the time to look into a DIY system. Save yourself money and spare the politics by switching to a grid-tied or off-grid solar system to cut costs and avoid the hassle that comes with being a utility company customer. But act fast, as this trade war shows, the market can change on a dime, and you may not have long before prices skyrocket! Many manufacturers who sell to utility projects also provide solar installation for residential customers, so they may raise prices there to compensate for the difference, so don’t wait.

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Install of the Month – May 2017

Install of the Month – May 2017

“Racking Up The Challenges” with Eddy K.

A Tough DIY Solar Project in LA County

We love Eddy K’s install because, even though it wasn’t a walk in the park, he did it all for mom. And with Mother’s Day coming up, everyone knows that mom is the most important person in the world! What everyone may not know however, is just how difficult it is to install a solar power system in LA county. With some of the strictest permitting and fire codes in the country, it’s a real challenge to install new systems that meet regulation standards. These codes are very good for safety, but can be exacting for someone who is new to solar, wants to DIY, and wants everything to be 100% perfect for the system they’re planning to install on their mom’s roof! But Eddy stuck with it because he wanted to make sure his mom never had to worry about a steep power bill again.

And guess what? With a lot of hard work and some guidance from the DIY solar experts, he ended up with a flawless system and aced those LA safety inspections.

Racking like Eddy’s is free this month during our IronRidge racking sale! Click to learn more.

For overcoming these seemingly overwhelming obstacles, Eddy more than earns our May Install of the Month!

“I passed the DWP and Building and Safety Inspections with flying colors. And they were highly impressed that I had never done a PV system installation before!” Eddy shared.

Eddy had more than just the LA fire codes to overcome, however: the house in question had a hipped roof, making placement of solar panels and the IronRidge racking a real challenge.

But not to worry, Alden S., one of our resident design techs here at Wholesale Solar, was up to the task. Alden helped him get the perfect code-compliant system that would work on his mom’s hipped roof, all the way from the initial planning phase up to his system passing inspection.

“Eddy really did an amazing job with his install. It’s really impressive that he accomplished this by himself and with such accuracy,” Alden shared. “Working with him, it was very apparent he wanted to cover every little detail before drilling a hole.”

“This was Eddy’s first solar installation, so naturally he had a lot of questions,” Alden continued. “The way I see it, that’s one of the big values in working with us; our customers know they can ask us a question, and, even if it’s an unknown at the time, we’ll find the answer. But it was Eddy’s persistence that lead him to this success story. If he hadn’t called me to check in and get each of his questions answered, this process would have taken much longer and would not have looked this great!”

It was Eddy’s persistence that lead him to this success story. If he hadn’t called me to check in and get his questions answered, this process would have taken much long and would not have looked this great!
– Design Tech Alden S.

The first challenge was helping Eddy design a system that would be as efficient as possible on this style of roof. As you can see in the gallery above, there aren’t a lot of large flat spaces on his mom’s roof, so this involved making four code-compliant subarrays, each with their own measurements and specifications. And to add to that, one of the codes required the conduit connecting the four subarrays be on the outside of the roof, a certain number of inches above it. Usually you don’t see this conduit at all; it’s generally installed under the roof in the attic. For our purposes, it’s actually a really great visual example of how subarrays connect in one string, but for Eddy and Alden, it added to the difficulty of getting this system right.

It took some intense calculations and careful measuring to get the most out of the space available, and Alden even remarked “You know your job is great when you use the Pythagorean Theorem during a day of work!”

Working together, they decided on an IronRidge XR100 racking system. This racking system allowed for easy installation with durable mounting that was flexible enough to adjust to the limited space available.

After all this planning and learning, Eddy was finally ready to start the install itself! He worked 7 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for four weeks to get this system up and running. The very first step was drilling holes for the QuickMount flashings that would attach to the roof and support the IronRidge rails the solar panels were mounted on. Eddy cites this as hands down the most difficult part of the installation, since he had to find the center on every rafter for each QuickMount penetration, and every single rafter had different measurements by an inch or more. The next challenge was making sure the setback on his panels was between 18” and 36” from the edges of the roof, which wasn’t as difficult as finding the center of the rafters, but took some time and close attention to detail.

Eddy also chose not to hire an electrician, opting to go the full DIY route. You can learn a lot about electrical by wiring your own solar system, an opportunity he wasn’t going to give up. But figuring out how his particular system had to be grounded wasn’t easy, and was what the building inspectors were going to be looking at the closest.

But in the end, after every piece of hardware was attached, every rail cut to size, every nut torqued, all components properly wired, every conduit in place, and every panel mounted, it was worth it. The challenge was real, but seeing the price difference between DIY and working with a large solar company made it a no-brainer. Not to mention knowing his system was perfectly installed according to the strictest codes out there, and knowing that his mom no longer had to worry about a steep power bill.

The racking he used in his system that was able to accommodate the demands of this project was an IronRidge roof mounted racking system. We recommend IronRidge for most installations, and now through May 26th, IronRidge roof mounted racking like Eddy used is free as part of our biggest deal of the year. Click here to learn more about IronRidge, racking in general, and talk to a solar expert like Alden now. And if you have the space in your yard, you might consider our IronRidge ground mounting options, which are half off right now.

Read on to learn about this project from Eddy’s point of view.

Interview with Eddy

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

When I received the equipment I was still in the permitting process and schooling myself on a few things, so it took a little extra time to get started with the actual physical install. Once I did start, it took four weeks from the first hole drilled for the very first QuickMount flashing to flipping the switch. That was working 7 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and I did the work 100% on my own.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

Yes, but nothing even close to this! I’ve done a lot of carpentry and structural-type builds, and I built a race engine for my ’69 Mustang years ago. The extent of my electrical knowledge was basic in-home stuff, the most complex of which was having custom-built and wired a wooden chandelier.

What was the most difficult or confusing part of the installation?

The most confusing part by far was learning how my specific system had to be grounded. From the technical aspects like how it had to be routed and grounded through conduit, to making sure it was code compliant with all the strict Los Angeles building codes. All I can say is… wow! The most difficult part was hands down finding center on every rafter for the QuickMount penetrations. Every single rafter had its own measurement, and all of them were different by an inch or more. Very Fun.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Nope, everyone was awesome about knowing my project and everything it was going to take to complete.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

To save heaps of money! Because of the four separate subarrays and needing to de-rate the main panel, this system would have cost $22,000.00 to $24,000 if I went with Solar City. I did it for just under $11,000.00 with you guys.

Because of the four separate subarrays and needing to de-rate the main panel, this system would have cost $22,000.00 to $24,000 if I went with Solar City. I did it for just under $11,000.00 with you guys.
– Eddy K.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

To offset my mom’s power bill by as close to 100% as possible.

Components in Eddy’s 4.56 kW Grid-Tied System

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Install of the Month – March 2017

Install of the Month – March 2017

“Beginning to See the Light” with Tom D.

Welcome solar friends! It’s that time of year again: as winter begins to melt away into spring and the sun pokes its head out from behind the clouds, we welcome in the prime months for solar. The extra spark of energy in the air makes us feel like anything’s possible!

To celebrate, we’re sharing our March Install of the Month. It goes to Tom D., who installed his own grid-tied system. This is a great one, since Tom is an example of someone who didn’t even know DIY solar was an option. But after he talked to us, he saw the light.

In his own words…

After I talked to Brent on the phone, I felt confident that I could readily do the installation myself while getting a better system with an optimized ground mount, and save a bunch of money too.
– Tom D.

A better, optimized system that saves you a bunch of money? That’s what DIY solar with Wholesale Solar is all about! Right on, Tom!

Like Tom’s installation? Right now we’re having a sale on systems just like it! Systems with Suniva solar panels and SolarEdge inverters ship free in the month of March. Check out systems with Suniva and SolarEdge, or see all systems that qualify for free shipping here. Free shipping can mean you save 10% off the total cost of your system, so make sure you at least call us and get your free quote to see how much you’d save on your system. We want to help you see the light too!

Interview with Tom

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

When I received my system I actually didn’t get started right away. Instead I took my time to plan things out (find the perfect location, etc.), get my documentation and plot plan together for permit, and purchase the additional materials I would need.

After receiving my equipment, it was six weeks before I finally visited my county building department to apply for my permit. I walked out with my permit, which only took 35 minutes, and three days later I had the foundation holes dug for my ground mount piers.

I was working on the installation in my spare time, so it took roughly four weeks from getting my permit to turning the system on. I was surprised how easy the permit and inspection process was here in California, in my county anyway, and how easy it is to complete the PG&E online interconnection application.

How many people did it take?

Four people including myself. My neighbor who owns a small excavator dug my pier foundation holes and the 200 foot trench. Another friend who owns a small tractor with a front-end loader backfilled the trench and also helped me place the horizontal 3” pipe rails onto the vertical piers. My wife helped with feeding the wire into the conduit as I pulled it through from the other end. Everything else I was able to easily do myself.

Brent and his associates at Wholesale Solar were fantastic in providing any assistance I needed via telephone and email, as well as providing informative online videos.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

No, not really. I have had very little construction experience and absolutely no electrical experience.

[A solar install company] did a very nice presentation, but when I was shown the price breakdown in the quote, I was quite surprised. The cost of the installation represented 2/3 of the overall cost of the complete system. That was when I got online and found Wholesale Solar.
– Tom D.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

There were a few unknowns up front, especially the mystery of the permit and inspection process. If only I would have known it would go so smoothly!

Another mystery for me, as a non-electrical person, was understanding how the electrical connections would be made at the inverter site and getting another breaker in my heavily populated electrical panel as I was already maxed out. But once I had a clear perspective on these things, it all came together nicely.

Another challenge was trying to come up with a suitable support structure for holding the 3” diameter steel pipe posts in place prior to filling the foundation with concrete. Once I came up with a viable solution for my particular setup, it was a piece of cake. (See the wooden braces in Tom’s install gallery above! – Ed.)

Also, the soil where I live is both rocky and hardpan, making for poor soil conditions to dig into. When I got my first IronRidge project report that specified a 60” hole depth for my foundation and piers, I called Brent and shared my concerns regarding what I expected with my horrible soil. In minutes, Brent produced a revised plan to allow me to dig only 36 inches deep, and the holes would have a wider diameter.

As expected, it was very hard work digging down to 36 inches, so I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had to go to 60 inches! This quick revision on the specification was one of the big advantages of working with Wholesale Solar.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

It was the communication component of the system that I forgot to address up front. This is the feature that allows me to monitor the output of each individual PV Module via phone app or computer. I probably should have ran CAT 5 cable in my trench out to the inverter from my house but now I am ordering the SolarEdge Wi-Fi kit instead and that should do the trick nicely anyway.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I had solicited a quote from a company that had a kiosk setup in Costco. They did a very nice presentation, but when I was shown the price breakdown in the quote, I was quite surprised. The cost of the installation represented 2/3 of the overall cost of the complete system. That was when I got online and found Wholesale Solar.

When I talked to Brent on the phone, I felt confident that I could readily do the installation myself while getting a better system with an optimized ground mount, and save a bunch of money too. It turns out that there is quite a bit of satisfaction in doing a D.I.Y. project like this; my friends and family are all impressed … but I know that it really wasn’t all that hard to do.

It turns out that there is quite a bit of satisfaction in doing a D.I.Y. project like this: my friends and family are all impressed… but I know that it really wasn’t all that hard to do.
– Tom D.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

It’s really easily justified when you do the math. Based on my average monthly electric bills for the last twelve months and adding up all equipment and installation costs (then subtract the tax credit), the payback should be only about 48 months. Purchasing solar is also a sure hedge against the future hikes in utility company electric rates.

Components in Tom’s System

Questions about Tom’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

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Tiny House on the Road goes solar!

Tiny House on the Road goes solar!

Tiny homes blogger Neil B. of Tiny House on the Road recently stopped by to pick up his solar system from us and made this great video showing his story!

Read more about his journey on his blog here.

You can also learn all about how solar works with tiny homes, and check out our systems designed just for tiny homes here.

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Install of the Month – December 2016

Install of the Month – December 2016

 

“Best Decision Ever!” with Martin S.

Can you believe it’s already time for our December Install of the Month? To cap off the year, we chose a really great DIY installation: Martin S.’s grid-tied solar system that he mounted on his roof. Martin’s project is really special because it took some doing. He had quite a few curveballs along the way to deciding to go the DIY route, but once he did his homework, the decision became obvious.

Martin became interested in adding solar to his suburban California home simply because it made sense. His roof space, combined with all of California’s sunny days and the allure of not having to pay the utility company their ever-rising rates, had him asking himself why he hadn’t gone solar yet.

Like many people, Martin’s first instinct was to contact a local contractor to install his system. Despite having some home improvement-related DIY experience under his belt, he considered the project too risky to do himself because of the scope of the project. It seemed like a lot to tackle, considering he wanted four solar arrays to get the most out of his roof space!

But when he contacted a local installer, he learned that before he could add solar, his roof was due for a lot of work. In fact, if he added solar now, he’d end up just having to uninstall it within a year. And so replacing the roof became a prerequisite for solar. After the cost of the roof work, he was over budget for his solar project. Martin was considering what to do next when a friend suggested he go the DIY route with a company he recommended called Wholesale Solar.

Still unsure of whether or not DIY was even possible for his goals, he decided to take his friend’s advice and did a little research. “After watching the videos and reading the reviews on their website, it didn’t seem so daunting anymore,” Martin said. So he decided to take the next step, and called us up for a free quote. And once he saw the quote, he was convinced: DIY was the way to go. “I never looked back,” Martin revealed. “Best decision ever!”

“I never looked back. Best decision ever!”
– Martin S.

The upsides to going the DIY route soon became very clear. Not only would it be a much lower cost to install his system himself, Martin says “I honestly think we ended up with a better system than what professional installers would have been willing to provide, just because we took the time to maximize the use of south-facing roof slopes and unshaded areas of our roof.” Not only was the layout optimized under sales tech Jeremy A’s expert guidance, but since it took four separate panel arrays, Martin suspected that “The professional installers probably would have balked at that effort.” Even Jeremy admitted, “There was a learning curve for everyone involved.” But working together, they figured out a great layout. “Jeremy went the extra mile, answering countless emails before I was ready to place my order,” said Martin.

After the planning phase was complete and all of Martin’s equipment was shipped to him, it was time to actually install the system. And although Martin was doing it himself, he wasn’t alone. “Jeremy continued to provide invaluable advice every step of the way throughout the whole process,” Martin shared. Martin worked on weekends to get the initial prep work done, but when he was finally ready to install all 37 panels, he had a little help from his wife and a friend. Together, they got the four panel arrays installed in just four days!

So, was going DIY worth it? Just ask Martin:

“There is nothing more satisfying than powering up a system that you completely installed yourself and then watch as your electric meter runs backwards for the first time!”
– Martin S.

Interview with Martin S.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

The progress was slow on my installation since I was only able to work weekends. It took me eight weeks from the time I took delivery of the parts to flipping the switch on our system. Of those eight weeks, the final two were mainly jumping through hoops for the building department and the power company. This was because my install included a utility service change that required some adjustments and reinspection.

Aside from that, most of the time went into the nitty-gritty prep work. Before my system could go in, I had to install the mounts. That included finding rafters, separating shingles, and pulling nails. I had to do conduit penetrations, run the conduit inside the attic, and make structural provisions to hang the 88 pound inverter, and so on. The 37 panels went up within just four days because I had two helpers: my wife and a friend of mine. The rest I did by myself with Jeremy’s invaluable remote assistance.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I’ve done several DIY projects in the past: my kitchen and bathrooms, flooring, radiant heat, building fences. I’m also pretty comfortable with electrical work. But I was new to solar and Jeremy’s advice was definitely much needed and appreciated!

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

I’d say the most difficult part was the planning process, before I ever even placed the order. It took several revisions of our panel layout before we settled on the final design. Our ranch-style house is oriented in a north-south direction with limited south-facing roof space. Since south-facing is the most energy efficient, I definitely wanted to pack that roof area with as many panels as possible. On top of planning that, to be able to get sign-off on my setbacks from the fire department, I had to use two different panel sizes.

Once that was done and I got my building permit, I placed the order and Wholesale Solar made sure all the required parts were included: the brackets, screws, fittings, end caps, and so on. I only had to order two minor additional things during the project: some conduit penetration flashings since I had misplaced mine, and one additional MC4 cable since I had changed the panel grouping from our initial design.

In terms of labor, I think the hardest work was preparing my roof for the installation of about 65 PV mounts. We had just recently gotten our roof redone, and those new shingles really stuck together like they never wanted to come apart! I found that it actually went easier the hotter it was. But of course, working on the roof in the heat of the day does take its toll on the installer!

Lastly, I think I had the most fun with the cabling and electrical connections. Luckily, or maybe due to thorough planning, everything worked as planned. After we had the green light from the building inspector, all we had to do to activate the system was follow the SolarEdge manual. And a half hour later we were watching the meter run backwards. Fun!

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I did buy a high-end wall scanner, a Bosch D-Tect150. Street price is around seven or eight hundred dollars, but I found one for about half that on eBay. It really came in handy for locating the position of the rafters through the roof shingles and sheathing. I just didn’t feel comfortable with the proposed test drilling that some of the installation videos mentioned. Especially not in a brand new roof. Sure, the flashing would cover them up, but it felt better to avoid guesswork. With the help of the D-Tect150, I only missed one rafter on all 65 PV mounts!

Of course, there were other parts, like conduit, caulking, and everything to get the solar power from the inverter to my breaker box. But none of that was a surprise.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

It all started with a brief conversation with a sales rep from a large solar company at our local hardware store. After having them over at our house and listening to their pitch, I did some more research and quickly realized that their “low price per kilowatt hour” proposal, a proposal in which I would not actually own the system, was not for us. I got four more quotes for an installed system and arranged for a second mortgage to pay for it. We were ready to pull the trigger with a local installer, when a roofer explained to me that we have maybe one more year left, at most, in the life of our shingles before they’d start leaking. That would mean I’d end up removing my solar system to redo the roof. That’s how the roof became a prerequisite for the solar installation.

During the re-roofing project, we discovered significant damage to the sheathing perimeter and about half of the rafter tails. And just like that, we blew right through the initial roofing estimate by several thousand dollars. Now we didn’t have enough line of credit on my HELOC and couldn’t afford buying the solar system from the chosen installer. And that’s when the idea of DIY became very interesting. Knowing what I know now, I would still do it myself even if we didn’t have to replace the roof.

“Knowing what I know now, I would still do it myself even if we didn’t have to replace the roof.”
– Martin S.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

It just makes sense. Especially with as many sunny days as we get here in California. Why continue to pay the utility company with their ever-rising rates, if you can use the same money to pay off a solar system in about a quarter or a third of the expected life span of the system?

Components in Martin’s Grid-Tied Solar System

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Install of the Month – November 2016

Install of the Month – November 2016

 

DIY Not? with Bill L.

Hello friends, it’s that time again for Wholesale Solar’s Install of the Month!

Each day, we get to see our customers go from solar beginners with basic questions to solar aficionados who are capable of installing their own systems. For us, seeing this transformation is one of the best parts of the job. We are all about empowering regular folks to take the DIY solar route, so when we get to see our customers’ plans go from an idea to a completed installation, it makes us very happy indeed. Not only are these installations cool for us to see, we think they’re also valuable to share here on our blog. We want to show you that solar is for everyone, that anyone can do it, and that everyone should do it!

That’s why we’re happy to announce that Bill L. is our Install of the Month recipient for November. Bill’s home is in upstate New York and features plenty of beautiful, wide open land to put toward his goal of using solar to eliminate his power bill. Bill came to us after every installer he talked to told him homeowners can’t install solar themselves, especially a large 50 panel system like the one he had planned. But Bill, like most of our customers, is not your average homeowner: he’s a DIYer who’s not afraid of a challenge. So when Bill talked to Sales Tech Brent H. and was told our homeowner customers install their own systems with our guidance all the time, and in fact that Brent had done so himself, Bill knew who he wanted to work with.

“Bill had questions along the way like all of my customers, but we worked through each one of them to ensure everything was done properly.  “
– Sales Tech Brent H.

The installers didn’t deter Bill, and they weren’t his only obstacle. He has a full-time job and a new kid and he STILL found time to do the installation himself (okay, with help from his father in law!). He excavated the ground for the pipes in his ground mount. He backfilled the cement. He built wooden forms for the pipes and a wooden box for his inverters. Then, finally, he installed every panel on his array. It was all Bill! That is no small feat.

All of his hard work, research, and planning paid off in a big way. “I would call this project a complete success,” says Brent. “The end result is a perfectly constructed ground mount that will provide Bill and his family with clean power for at least the next 25 years, not to mention accomplishing his goal of eliminating his power bill.”

Bill’s system is tied into his local electrical grid. This is called a grid-tied system, and it’s one of the most popular solar options. Having a grid-tied system covers his entire home’s energy needs and saves him money. You can read more about how grid-tied solar works here, and about the advantages of putting your solar panel array in your yard versus on your roof here.

 

Components in Bill’s System

 

Interview with Bill L.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

I received all of my equipment in May. However, due to the fact that I have a newborn at home, I didn’t get to work on this on all of my days off from work. That said, I did end up tracking my hours: my father-in-law and myself had about 45 hours invested each. That includes the excavating, building forms, backfilling, and the solar installation itself.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

Some. I’m an avid DIYer and I’ll attempt to do anything I can on my own. I’ve wired my entire home for electrical. I also spent eight years doing underground utility work and rewiring apartment buildings with coax and data.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

The wiring diagram. It’s quite vague because it needs to fit so many customers’ applications, but I think it could be more specific to state code.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I needed to install a five minute time delay fuse to be up to code, and I was required to use red PV wire for my DC positive connections. No tools were needed, other than your common hand tools.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I’m an avid DIYer and I was looking for a different type of challenge. Working as a corrections officer is one of the least rewarding jobs. I look forward to a good challenge, and this definitely met my needs. The cost savings from having solar installed was also a strong factor. Every solar installer that came to my home to give me a quote said it’s impossible for a homeowner to install solar themselves. Well… folks who shop at wholesalesolar.com are not your ordinary homeowners. Never tell me I can’t do something!

“Never tell me I can’t do something!”
– Bill L.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

My home has a geothermal pump that provides heat, air conditioning, and domestic hot water. Geothermal pumps run off electricity to circulate a glycol and water mixture through the ground. We have full sun all day long and no trees surrounding our house, so it’s a no-brainer for me: when I can produce my own electricity that gives me free heat, AC, and domestic hot water, it’s a win-win.

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Community Project: Going 100% Solar with the BBCRC

Community Project: Going 100% Solar with the BBCRC

 

From Steam Engines to Solar Power

We got the chance to do one of our favorite things this past week: help bring solar to our own community!

The Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture is a local non-profit that celebrates locally historic rail cars and the hobo culture that sprung up around them. The Center features several restored cabooses and cars, an extensive library on railroad history and culture, an outdoor communal kitchen, a small music venue, and even a blacksmithing shop. With its soon to be completed solar project, the whole site will be powered by the sun.

They got in touch with sales tech Jeremy A. who helped size the system to cover all of their usage needs, and after the non-profit started a crowd-funding campaign, the project took off. When we heard it was time to install the panels, the Wholesale Solar crew stopped by to lend a hand along with the volunteers from the BBCRC to get the 30 solar panels ready to go on their ground mounted array! The BBCRC had plenty of room to position the array just right, and they plan to install the rest of the system in the next couple of weeks to get it up and running.

Check out the gallery above for shots of everything that will be solar powered and to see how the installation went.

Components in the BBCRC’s Grid-tied System

SolarEdge Grid-tied System including:

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Install of the Month – September 2016

Install of the Month – September 2016

 

Rolling the Meter Back with Joe P.

This month’s Install of the Month honor goes to Joe P., who we think completely embodies the DIY solar spirit. The self-described “tool guy,” who’s also a retired builder, aerospace engineer, and boilermaker, has always loved to build his own stuff and has been doing so since junior high. A solar ground mount array that would cover his home’s energy needs and roll his meter backwards was just the kind of project Joe was looking for.

Helping him take his project from idea to reality was sales tech Jeff B., who gives us his perspective on Joe’s install. “Joe called in May with a desire to cover his household load with a solar electric system. After discussing his household needs, which were around 1000 kilowatt hours per month, we settled on a 20 panel ground mounted system with the SMA Sunny Boy 7000 inverter.” Jeff said that to ensure all of Joe’s usage needs were covered, “A couple of extra panels would need to be added on as well.” Working together, they fleshed out the rest of the build. Jeff explains, “The SMA inverter was selected because of its high quality construction, and the fact that in the future it can be coupled with a battery based inverter so he can add battery backup in the future.”

Two months from the date of his purchase, Joe had an inspected and fully functioning PV system providing power to his house! – Sales tech Jeff B.

“Joe has plenty of construction experience,” Jeff added, “So building the ground mount was no big deal. When it came to the electrical side of the installation, Joe had a lot of questions.” But Jeff was there for him. “Through a series of phone calls and emails, we got to a place where he had everything installed and was ready for inspection. The inspector showed up at his place and could find nothing wrong with his system. Two months from the date of his purchase, Joe had an inspected and fully functioning PV system providing power to his house!”

 

Components in Joe’s System

 

Interview with Joe

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

Electricity and all power isn’t getting any cheaper. I had the cash sitting in the the bank drawing low interest, and this investment pays way better than savings. And after the initial ROI where it pays for itself, it basically starts paying me.

After the initial ROI where it pays for itself, it basically starts paying me. – Joe P.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

I talked with you for three to four weeks about various scenarios using different inverters and the advantages of each. My purchase was delayed due to lots of rain and bad weather. I sent payment on June 17th and the system shipped the following week. By the time it arrived the following Friday, I had the posts set for the ground mount and the inverter and disconnect mount installed. The rack and panels were installed by Saturday afternoon, as I didn’t want them sitting on the ground. I installed the conduit and wiring between the ground mount and inverter mount at my leisure.

I had one minor setback in the form of a 1965 breaker box that was in bad shape and had to be replaced in order to tie in the PV system. The rest of the work was completed over the next few weeks and actually finished by the middle of July. I contacted the co-op and they did final inspection and installed the NetMeter on August 1st. Even with the overcast and rainy weather here the last few days, the system is running right on the prediction to cover 90-95 percent of my electric bill in its first two weeks of operation.

All of the work was done by myself and my son who is on summer break from college. I had one master electrician and his apprentice available for advice, but did the actual work myself.

 Did you have any previous construction experience?

I have worked as a boilermaker working on power plants for a few years. I also built custom houses for a short while, then transitioned into aerospace engineering and retired after 29 years there.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

The actual install and hands-on part of the project was very easy and straightforward. That’s one of the advantages of dealing with a professional company: the parts are all there, they work in unison, and there is no guesswork. The site plan for the ground mount and the wiring harness diagrams spelled everything out. The most confusing part, believe it or not, was the labeling requirements and placement. There are many, many examples and I had to pick and choose between which part of which document I used.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I’m a tool guy. I had everything tool-wise except a crimper for  the MC4 connectors… and I probably have over a dozen different crimpers. I didn’t really need one and could have done without it, but wanted bulkhead plugs at my junction box. So I bought some connectors and a crimper to make it prettier. After having so much fun with this one, I know I will be doing more so it will come in handy down the road.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I’ve always built my toys since I learned to in junior high! I have been studying solar and wind for a long, long time. The ROI finally shifted in my favor and I could make it happen quicker by doing all the work myself.  I did a lot of research and even checked with your competition before I settled on Wholesale Solar. Most of the other places wanted your whole life history before they even discuss prices, and none of their prices are listed. Most of the information I wanted was listed on your site with prices and a list, so you knew what you were getting up front. Any and all questions were answered quickly and intelligently.

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Install of the Month – July 2016

Install of the Month – July 2016

 

RC Car Charging Station with Jeremy A

This fun and unique Install of the Month features our very own Jeremy A! Jeremy is one of our go-to guys for technical design and sales here at Wholesale Solar. Recently he and his son took two of their RC cars to the Camp and Crawl 2016 racing event hosted by the Jefferson State Scaler RC Club. He came up with the brilliant idea of creating a fully portable solar system to provide power for the several days they were going to be off the grid, camping and enjoying the event at the Siskiyou Bowmen range. The two RC aficionados competed against 52 other cars in a three hour battle royale, managing to come in 2nd in the hill climb event.

After many trips to our local crawl course and courses where they host other multiple-day events, it became obvious that there was a way to incorporate solar to fill a void that may have been overlooked for years.

“The idea of the RC Car Charging Station started in the beginning of the year when I first joined our local Jefferson State Scaler RC Club,” Jeremy shared. “All of our RC crawlers are running on battery power, and so are the drones that videotape them. These batteries can be charged with an AC source, or by plugging the charger into your full-size 12v car battery. I’d pull up to RC events and see a line of full size vehicles with their hoods up and their RC car battery chargers plugged in. I knew of a better way, so I got to work putting my idea together.”

“To create the charging station I tested my own RC Battery Chargers to see what the actual draw was,” Jeremy stated. “Knowing that we could have more than 20 people using this charger at the same time I started designing the system with options for both AC and DC Charging with multiple areas to plug in. Being that most chargers are more efficient working directly with DC, I concentrated on a large DC charging spot and only a minimal AC Charge with a 300w Inverter. This inverter was enough to run a fluorescent shop light that illuminated our full camp, a number of phone and laptop chargers along with a number of AC Powered RC Battery Chargers.”

-Jeremy A

This system consists of 670 watts of Suniva American Made Solar Panels, a Midnite Classic, 150 vDC Charge Controller, Morningstar SureSine Inverter, Crown AGM 390ah Batteries and a IronRidge Racking System. This all fit perfectly on an inexpensive garden trailer that I purchased from my local Tractor Supply.

 

System Components in Jeremy A’s Solar Install:

Crown AGM 390ah Batteries Midnite Solar Classic 150 MPPT Charge Controller and Morningstar SureSine 300 Inverter suniva 335 solar panels

 

Even though the event took place entirely outdoors over a few days, Jeremy and fellow campers were able to power their lights and recharge phones and computers. He was even able to power his amp and guitar for some late night off-grid rockin’?! The system was built with approximately 4.68 kWs capacity, and pulling at maximum draw he could power his electrical equipment for about 7.8 hours. The panels themselves are generating 700 watts an hour of electricity from the sun. The solar equipment is inside a NEMA-rated box with the solar panels bolted down to the trailer, with the whole system costing about $2500. As you can see from our Appliance Wattage Table, if he wanted to bring a microwave or air conditioner on his next RC and camping adventure, he would have to upgrade to a larger inverter to draw more power from the batteries or solar panels.

If DIY isn’t your thing, you could achieve a similar portable solar setup simply by combining one of our complete portable battery backup systems, that we call the Rolling Thunder series, with a few solar panels. Just call us and find out how! 800-472-1142

 

Watch The Wraith in Action

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