Too ignorant to know what I don't know???

kenabcd

New Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2021
Messages
6
I have been wanting to get a PV system for many years and have had little solar panels that have intrigued me for some time, but I am ignorant about how exactly to get a system for my home.

Recently, I saw some solar panels for sale on local craigslist, looked at them and bought a pallet of them. They are 310 watts each. I knew from reading all over that I needed an inverter so I could hook the panels up to the grid and sell the extra electricity. I found one on Ebay and bought it.

Then I contacted my local utility to see what the next step would be. They did not seem impressed that I was interested in net metering and offered to enroll me in their solar panel club where they own the panels and rent them to customers. Not interested. I got their contact and regulatory information from them and filed it.

Next I talked to the county in Mn. where the panels would be. If they go on a building roof, there are several extra hoops to jump thru and additional permits/inspections/safety features that would add cost and complexity. Several years ago, we built a shed with the long side orientated towards the south so we could get panels someday but after consideration about putting them on the roof, we decided to look at ground mount systems.

That is where I am at today with my project. I need to decide if I should cobble a ground mount for 24 panels or buy something. I think I have looked at just about every option from mono pole with trackers, driving piling systems, concrete pilings, screw down systems, to a system that you build on the ground, then drive cables into the ground to secure it. I am leaning towards getting the racks that you build on the ground and drive cable in to tie it down.

I have been reading information from this and other forums for some time, but I need to learn more before I get anything up and running. Any racking suggestions would be welcome. I have a skid steer and a post hole auger and any tools needed to get something put together but I am trying to decide which way to go with racking.

Thanks, Ken
 

Rednecktek

Solar Addict
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
771
Something else to think about is that some of those regulation issues might come into play as you may very well be required to use a licensed electrician to install and connect those to the grid. There have been a few threads trying to find an electrician that will A: install your panels and B: be willing to install used panels. Finding someone to that could be an issue.

Before you start spending more money on parts and tools, go through all the regulations and hoops and find out if you even CAN do it legally. Then find an electrician that would be willing to work with your system and ask them the best way to go since they're the ones legally responsible for the project. Have them look at your panels and inverter and make sure you're all good for regulatory requirements such as UL listing and such.

Once you've figured out what you need to do to get through all the legal loopholes, then you'll know which way to go for your mounts and wiring and such.

Sadly there's going to be a hard choice to make as to whether it's even worth it. Considering things like how much you've already spent, how much hassle the legal hoops are, how much is your utility going to pay for the power you generate, the ROI on what your total cost will be, etc. Be prepared to accept that it MIGHT just not be worth it. Or you might find that going for it would be totally worth it and you can use all the stuff you've got and it's only a little more for a large reward. The third option might be instead of a grid-tie only, going for a hybrid system where you're more focused on batteries and running off grid as much as possible where you're more focused on reducing the reliance on the grid and reducing your grid costs. Doing a system that doesn't require back feeding to the grid removes a LOT of the legal loopholes as the Utility doesn't get much say if you're not feeding the grid.

Just things to consider, scope creep is a BIG thing when you're doing a major project.
 

Johnson

Solar Addict
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
293
I chose not to bother with the regulation authorities, it would cost me more than the entire system. I made my shed a stand alone system, if you run things of 24V you will be fine. If I was going to build a new house, I would cover my roof in solar and have about 4 - 7 days worth of storage with the option to charge from the grid if needed. in that case I would go through the approval process.

But whatever you do, get an electrician to look the system over, even if it is in an unofficial capacity.
 

kenabcd

New Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2021
Messages
6
Thanks for the comments. I am planning to press on with getting some use out of these 7700 watts of panels. Maybe heat a pool of water or some other thing? Maybe pump water uphill while the sun shines? The equipment I purchased is listed and new so it seems to meet the written requirements that I have reviewed to be compliant in my area. I think I can find a way to be grid tied if that works out or do something with the power one way or another.

I am thinking of this as a fun learning project that I am doing and if I waste money and do no harm, I could have done worse. I am into the project by about $3200 for the 7750 watts of panels and a 6000 watt inverter.

I recently had some electrical work done adding a generator outlet to the house. I showed a master electrician the equipment and he said he was familiar with the work, had done it in the past and would do it for me when I get the panels mounted and I am ready.

Being ready for the electrician means figuring out how to mount these panels and getting them mounted. Pretty sure they will be on a ground mount rack. I have seen prices for ground mount racks in the $2000 range, $3000 range and $4000 range.

I am really liking the concept of a rack that is bolted together on the ground with flat feet, then cables driven thru to anchor the unit against wind. I like it because it looks like it could be moved if desired. For the 24 panels that I think I will mount, the cost would be somewhere around $4000. That seems pretty steep, although it looks like I could do it myself without any outside foundation contractors and I do like doing my own stuff....

What rack would you use that is cheap and DIY and would be building inspector OK?

I talked to the building inspector, we do not need an inspection specifically for the ground mount, but when he inspects the entire system before putting it into service he said he will need to be sure the racks are sturdy.
 

sunshine

Solar Addict
Joined
Apr 24, 2020
Messages
510
I knew from reading all over that I needed an inverter so I could hook the panels up to the grid and sell the extra electricity.
The problem is, and why the utility is not so willing to help, the price of non-contracted solar generated electricity is usually negative in most countries or at least very close to zero as more and more pv is installed. In a user pay market you may end up with a debit rather than a credit for that excess electricity.
Edit. You seem to be on the right path from seeing your last post!
 
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Kornbread

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
105
" ... a hybrid system where you're more focused on batteries and running off grid as much as possible where you're more focused on reducing the reliance on the grid and reducing your grid costs. Doing a system that doesn't require back feeding to the grid removes a LOT of the legal loopholes as the Utility doesn't get much say if you're not feeding the grid. ... "
This surely changes with the elec provider, but please enlighten me on some of the general rules and regs of a hybrid system.
 

kenabcd

New Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2021
Messages
6
I live in a net metering area so if any of my watts make it to the grid, I should get some money.

I need to get the panels mounted, but am trying to decide what to do for racks. Any suggestions on cheap, DIY, sturdy racks would be welcome. Is there a ready rack plan that is acceptable? Something from the lumberyard or hardware store that works? I have a flat area large enough to mount the 24 panels but need structure.
 
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