Solar Sign-off

This morning someone from the city came over to inspect the electrical work that Kenny Broadwell and his team did in preparation for the solar system installation. Since they arranged the inspection, Dakota and Keith from Renovus Energy took the opportunity to stop by and give us a final walkthrough of the solar system.

Dakota congratulates me for our system generating over 20 kWh yesterday
Dakota congratulates me for our system generating over 20 kWh yesterday

They presented us with a binder full of information: all the documents I signed, schematics of our system, the spec sheets and promotional materials for all the equipment, warranty information, and the manual for our inverter. Dakota pointed out that besides providing a record of all the work done, the binder is great for showing off the system to friends and family.

The cover features a photo of the system from the roof, much closer than I'll ever get to them.
The cover features a photo of the system from the roof, much closer than I’ll ever get to them.
Schematic of the system
Schematic of the system

Dakota then walked us through all the information displayed on the inverter’s small LCD. I had already browsed through the manual online to learn the meaning of most of the data displayed, but some things, like the individual power output of the two arrays (two arrays of six panels each) was new to me. He noted, for example, that a big discrepancy in output between the two panels might indicate a problem with one of the panels. He went over a couple scenarios in which we might need to power cycle the inverter or monitoring system to resolve small issues. He noted too that the inverter’s measurements could be ±5 kWh from the actual while the mechanical meter could be around ±3 kWh (if I’m remembering that right).

Of course, we don’t expect to spend much time in the basement looking at the equipment given that the monitoring equipment lets us check most of that data in easier-to-read, prettier output on the SunPower website or via their iOS app. We briefly discussed my fear that SunPower will go out of business and make our monitoring data inaccessible (since all data is uploaded to their servers before being made available to clients). There’s not much we can do in that scenario besides a.) reverse engineer the protocol to build our own replacement server, b.) replace the monitoring equipment with a third party option, or c.) understand that remote monitoring is a luxury we can do without. I get “c” pretty well, but damn I love looking at the data. More on monitoring in a future post.

So… that’s pretty much it. Apparently the city inspector has some things to go over with the electrician and NYSEG still has to put in a new meter to enable net metering. But since we’re already generating power and feeding electricity into the grid, most of that stuff is gravy.

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