It was the first week of December 2013. Unusual cold temperatures had settled in while the installation crew worked. Attention to detail required more finesse in the cold weather as wind gusts presented their own challenges. Yet...
Bright and Shiny would best describe the solar panels as the installation crew removed the packaging and carried each of the 16 panels onto our roof. Serial numbers were recorded on a placement map as this information would be used for product warranty registration and for configuring the production monitor. Interconnecting electrical whips between the panels and the new house wiring were prepared as the crew confirmed the location and orientation for each solar panel.
The sun-facing front side of each panel is a dark blue with a white grid. The backside is just as white as printer paper. It surprised me that the panels are translucent allowing sunlight to pass though the while grid regions. The backside of each panel houses the panel connections, the microinverter and a product sheet with individual serial numbers.
The crew placed the first panel at the east edge of the roof. Starting at the edge provides an alignment reference point for the other panels. Working as a team, they positioned the sequent panels; finger-tightened the hold-down screws; adjusted the alignment; and torqued the hold-down bolts to specification. After all the panels were secured, the final step was to snap together the electrical whip connectors with an interlock that prevents separation. The work would take most of the day.
At this point in the process, the system installation was complete except for a back-ordered production monitor and PG&E commissioning.
The monitor provides the data collection and communications over the internet to SunPower Hqs. This data collection allows Sunpower and our installer Provoltz to watch the health of the system. In theory, I (the customer) should never be concerned with system problems as they are watching for us. OK, with that said, I view system performance daily. I also enjoy watching our utility meter run backwards as we bank/sell excess production to PG&E. The picture at right is a view of our PG&E Smart Meter running backwards - Untaxable Pennies from Heaven.
SunPower has various monitoring options on their website. Additionally, PG&E provides usage information on their website for homes with smart meters. Using both the data from SunPower and PG&E, I can separately monitor consumption and usage. However, PG&E is typically two days behind in posting consumption data, while SunPower provides near-real time information. I am considering upgrading my SunPower monitor with a option to display real-time production and consumption data in one easy to read graphic display. Yes, I do over-engineer, why do you ask?!?
PG&E commissioning is the utility companyís process of inspection and coordination with their accounting and solar business units. The whole process seems slow as it requires at least one billing period, if not more. PG&E is good about communications; just donít be in a hurry. Technically, your system should not be turned on for safety reasons until they complete their inspection and approve the grid tie-in. Once they finish, its rewarding to watch your meter run backwards during the sunny days. Ca-CHING!
Next - We become our own utility company....