Moving Solar Panels

October 27, 2013

Sunday was another cold, windy day. Days are getting shorter and soon the shadow from the house will hit the solar panels, so today was the day to start the panel move. Harvesting was finished, so our pal Curly was able to come over with the Tele-handler. This is the same machine as used to lift the trusses but with a different attachment. Attached to the lift was a fork lift onto which was placed a pallet platform.

Our plan was to lift the panels in 3 panel groups onto the roof of the shop (1 ½ story structure). We bolted the 3 panels together and installed a mounting bracket on the bottom and sides. This is as far as our planning and preparation went. The rest was winging it once Curly and the Tele-Handler arrived.

To accommodate the panels, which bolted together were 10 feet long and 4 feet wide, we screwed a couple 2×6 studs onto the pallet platform. We figured we could place the panels on the extended platform and lift them up and set them on the roof. To be on the safe side, we also strapped the panels to the platform.

Lifting first panel into place

Lifting first panel into place

setting panel down on roof

setting panel down on roof

Our next problem was how to get the panels to stay in place as we had to move them off the platform before we could screw them in place.  So we attached an eye-hook to the top of the panels and attached a rope to the eye hook. The rope attached to the panel went over the roof of the shop (high tech operation – we taped the rope to a ball and Ken threw it over the roof to the other side) and was tied to our little Kubota on the other side.

Kubota as anchor

Kubota as anchor

Using the Kubota was a stroke of genius. The first plan was to have me on the other side of the roof holding the panels while the platform was removed. On our trial run, as the panels were being lifted I kept the rope taunt by wrapping round and round my waist. But once the Tele-Handler dropped a bit the rope snapped.  We used a stronger rope next time and opted for a steadier anchor to tie them to. Was glad not to be the anchor anymore as it sort of felt like a boa constrictor squeezing the air out of you. Also was not quite sure I would be able to hold the panels for the time required. The good thing about the first test is we found out the rope was not good enough before any damage was done.

With the panels lying on the roof held in place by the rope tied to the Kubota, we removed the extended platform and substituted it for a regular pallet platform.  Ken was then lifted up to the panels. He positioned them (Curly raising and lowering the Kubota bucket) and screwed them in place.

Lifiting Ken up to panels

Lifiting Ken up to panels

Lifting Ken up to panels

Lifting Ken up to panels

The first bank of panels took some experimenting and a bit of time to get up but the second bank went up pretty smooth. Once they got the panels in place they told me to secure the rope to the Kubota. Yikes, test time. It took all day for me to learn how to tie that knot with the loop last weekend doing the trusses and I could not for the life of me remember the process. (Yes, I am a Kapoosta head) But it was either go back to the guys or give it a try. Luckily, though my head forgot how, my hands seem to remember (Devine Inspiration) and I tied the rope to the bucket. I prayed hard and the knot held. (It could only be Devine Intervention) But I still was a Kapoosta head because I wouldn’t operate the Kubota with an audience.

Six Panels in place

Six Panels in place

So now we have six new solar panels on the roof. Next step is to hook them up to the battery and make sure everything is working. Then we will disconnect the old panels and combine them into three banks of three (eight old panels and one new one), and get them up on the roof as well. The old panels are 200 watts and the new ones are 225, so this will effectively double our solar input. Not required for the summer months but we are hoping this will help get us through December and January. The old panels are Sharp and the new ones, Canadian Solar.

This will double our solar input so hopefully will help get through the winter months. We are hoping getting the snow off isn’t going to be a big problem.

Another long day at boot camp. By the time we finished getting the last panel up, I had just enough time to throw together a quick supper (stir fried veggies and kale in a pineapple peanut sauce over leftover brown rice vermicelli) and head back to Winnipeg.

Maybe a roof next week?

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About Darlene & Ken

Experiencing life off the grid, building a home, and trying to live sustainably.
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