Power Shift: An Early Unveiling

By , May 1, 2015

We expected, and therefore were not surprised by rain delays during a PV array installation in Southeast Alaska. We did not anticipate that the weather might cause an early unveiling.

Tuesday, Michelle and I worked together in a miserable downpour to finish placing and bolting down the last two panels of the array. We try very hard not to denigrate rain—”no bad weather, just bad clothing choices” is our motto. But, I mean, really!

April is statistically our driest month. I can’t remember a wetter one than this. At times, raindrops fell so large and thick that I almost thought it had started snowing. We slogged through mud, bracing against cold wind, fumbling nuts and bolts with frigid fingers. We had to redrill several holes, breaking a couple of drill bits in the process. We wedged and cussed, readjusted and strained, despaired and rallied, eventually securing everything in its proper place.

The Power Point's new look! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The Power Point’s new look! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

 

By the time we’d finished, we were so beat we gave up on our plan to hike to town for Heather Lende’s Book Release Party at the library that evening. Instead, we dried off, changed into pajamas in the middle of the afternoon, and, fortified with hot drinks, we settled in.

The next day we returned to the job. Michelle helped reposition the entire frame, which I lifted off the ground, to get it into just the right place on the rock face before I secured it. She then wedged a flat rock under the two braces at the bottom of the frame. I spent a good several hours connecting the ground leads—a seemingly simple procedure made difficult by more rain squalls.

By mid-afternoon, I finished, checked that all was truly in place, and we flipped the breaker switch.

I’d intended the moment to be preceded by a grand unveiling. I would remove the blankets we’d used to cover the panels, as instructed by the installation manual, to ensure that they didn’t energize before we’d made all the connections. However, Tuesday’s wind, which turned into a southerly gale, had pulled the sodden, heavy wool coverings off their fastenings, and clear of the panels. Nature unveiled our new PV array a day before we intended!

Nevertheless, we found the moment very satisfying. I guess I have steadily played down the amount of power we’d get from these panels in my mind in the last few weeks in order not to disappoint myself. To my surprise, power began flowing to the batteries! The sun came out, casting a low rainbow over our project, and the watts poured in. Even after the ridge shaded the array deeply, we continued to pull in more amps than we did on many days with the old array. The time, effort, and trouble, it seems, proved well worthwhile!

(Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

(Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

As if to make up for the preceding days, on Thursday the sun shone brightly on the array, while the wind stayed well below the minimum speed needed to drive the wind generator. We know full well that eventually, the darker months will reduce our power, but for now, we’re doing fine.

(Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

(Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

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