Monday, February 8, 2010

Give Me Sunshine!

As previously reported, we got 'hooked' on solar panels last year.

Having decided to go for a 3kW installation (the sweet spot under current taxation rules) we found (hopefully) a good, small, local, specialist to do the installing.
There followed an anxious time while we waited for the mini-planning-permission you need for solar panels here.
Basically it is just a declaration of what you intend to do, with illustrations, which you submit to the Mairie.
If nobody says "no" in a month – you are OK.
Except we are within 500 metres of an ancient monument, so our declaration also has to not get a "no" from the ABF (Architecte des Batiments de France) which is more problematic.
As expected, part-way through the month, the ABF sent a standard letter saying they were giving themselves an extra month to think about it…
But after 2 months, taking us just into 2010, no news = good news & we were off!

Next hurdle was getting a quote from ES-R (Electricit̩ de Strasbourg РR̩seau) for the actual grid connection.
It was only about then that I realized we were not actually connected to the famous EDF but to a local offshoot.
That turned out to be significant, as ES-R have stricter safety rules than EDF.
Our electricity comes in (& will go out) via a cable through the roof, across the road & from pole to pole until it meets the underground bit at the end of the road.
But ES-R insists on being able to cut any power I generate, without needing to come onto my property…
This is understandable, in that they need to be able to neutralize the grid to work on it, but EDF will accept fuses on the pole or maybe switches outside the house.
ES-R makes me run all my 3kW out to the front gate & back again, so they can switch it off from the road.

After that, the installation started on 25th January & finished (except for the grid connection) on 2nd Feb with light snow & temperatures down to -8°C.
Installation included:
Taking off a spare chimney which would have shaded the panels
Removing 345 tiles
Covering that space with special ribbed high-density-polyethylene sheet which is now our only waterproofing…
Fixing aluminium rails to the rafters, through the waterproof plastic sheeting (er…).
Fitting the 15 solar panels to the rails
Running the DC cables across the loft, down part of the roof, through 2 concrete floors, down a wall in the pantry, along the ceiling in the basement & to the new inverter.
Installing an inverter, a main junction box, DC circuit breaker & surge protection, AC circuit breaker & surge protection, and a board for 2 of our 3 future new meters.
Running AC cables all round the basement & garage, through the wall, under the mint bed, under the driveway paving stones and up to ES-R's circuit breaker at the gate, and back.
A short test run showing 40 Watts near dusk.

So what's left?
Mainly waiting for ES-R to come & install their meters & throw their switch.
That could take who-knows-how-long but best estimate is a month.
Also, disposing of 4 probably-asbestos-cement panels from around the fallen chimney…

Parting thot: "I'm not a doctor and I don't know the technical terminology, but I do know that sunshine activates our happiness glands." - Jessi Lane Adams

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