Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Removing the Solar Panels

 For over a year now, we have had problems with our Solar Photo-Voltaic system.  Every now and then, for no apparent reason, the circuit breaker in the electrical panel is tripped, disconnecting the solar system from our electrical system and effectively turning off the solar system.  The only explanation I can come up with is a transient fault with the inverter.  I can find no one to confirm this, and no one to replace it with a new inverter.  So we have decided to just get a new solar system.

But to do that we have to take off the old system.  The system consists of 4 basic parts -- the panels, the inverter, and the two cut-off switches.  Everything was installed in 2006, so it's all 16 years old, but the panels still seem to be turning out electricity just fine.  So I posted on Craig's List what I have and that I would give it away to whoever would be able to use it and would help me take it off the roof.

 I got a reply from Dr. Danger who lives down in Lockhart on a cattle ranch.  He had been "studying solar" for a year or so and has a small off-grid system, so he should be able to put it to good use.

Dr. Danger and two of his friends showed up this morning.  First thing we did was to use both cut-off switches to disconnect the system from our electrical system.  Then we went up on the roof and after some experimenting, figured out how to take off the panels.

The panels are in two rows, wired in series.  They are held down onto the rails by 4 clips, two on each side, near the top and the bottom. In addition, they have a copper ground wire and a power wire running from panel to panel.  The ground wire is held in place by a set-screw, so we back that off, and the power wire from one plugs into a plug on it's neighbor.  So starting at one end, we can run down the panels, removing the clips that hold them in place, then lifting up the bottom end to get access to the wiring at the top, removing the ground wire and unplugging the power wire.  The panel can then be moved off the roof.

After removing all the panels, the framework is held in place by nuts and bolts, so removing those allows the rails to be removed.

Down at ground level, we have the switches and the inverter.

With the two cut-off switches in the OFF position, the wires can all be disconnected and the inverter and the first cut-off switch removed.  This leaves the second cut-off switch, the two City of Austin electric meters and our circuit breaker box.

Now the house looks pretty much like the solar system has been completely removed.

But there are little brackets that held the rails that are embedded into the roof.  These will need to be removed when the roof is redone, but removing them now might cause the roof to leak, so we just leave them for now.