Piecing the Puzzle Together

By , April 12, 2015

Replacing one photovoltaic array with another might compare to disassembling an old jigsaw puzzle while assembling a new one on the same table at the same time—provided we accept that some of the pieces of the first puzzle must be used to complete the second one.

Even though I’ve hauled the panels and new charge controller to the property (see The Shipment in Transit) and the found the framing timber on the property already (see The Triumph of the Pack Rat) I still need to assemble essential materials.

Connectors present a particular challenge. The panels I got at bargain prices include cable connectors that Wikipedia describes as “obsolete.” They’re not particularly bad, but they must be addressed.

I assumed that I could just clip them off and tie the cables into our system with split nuts or other wire connectors, but if I remove the original connectors, I void the panels’ 25 year warranty. Better to accommodate the connectors in the system, obsolete or not. This requires finding and ordering extension cables with the same style of connectors. I can cut the extension cables all I want (with the added savings of being able to cut each cable in half to use both ends).

Easier said than done; each connector has a male/female designation and a negative/positive designation. Acquiring the right combinations proved rather tricky, but with luck, the proper connectors are on their way through the mail now.

I divided the installation into tasks arranged in an order that appears to make the most sense and provide the greatest safety. I’ll lay the grounding system before I install a battery shut off. After that, I’ll switch out the charge controllers, testing the new one with the current PV array before switching them for the new panels. Hopefully, the series of tasks will minimize the time we do without power from the solar array.

All along the way, each piece gets examined and evaluated for potential placement in the new power system. Those that do not find a place will need to be stored carefully against future installment elsewhere on the property. It won’t be as easy as I’d like, but I’m confident I’ll get it done in the coming weeks, hopefully before the sunny, calm days we often experience in April.

2 Responses to “Piecing the Puzzle Together”

  1. Charity says:

    Mark – any detail on how you are installing your grounding system and battery shut off? I have just received my new solar panels. I am actually using two 40A MPPT instead of one larger one. Three panels will tie into the one and four panels will tie into the other one. They came as kits and I was planning to just wire directly into the battery bank/meter BUT grounding and battery shut off sound like good additions. I don’t yet have the rack constructed, so have a couple of the panels leaning delicately against my greenhouse and temporarily wired in via one of the MPPT charge controllers. Everything seems to be working really well.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Charity, these two topics led to some slightly weird things around here that will likely become blog posts down the line. I won’t make you wait that long, though. I’ll pull together what I know and email you off site later today. Then, of course, use what I wrote you to fill out the eventual posts!

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