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Tesla Solar Install—Part 3: Installation (Day 1)

February 17, 2021 11:13 AM | Stephen Pallotta (Administrator)

Day 1: Powering Up with Tesla Solar—Installation

The installation planning is done and now it’s time for the installation of the Tesla solar panels and Powerwalls. It starts with an inspection of the existing home by an electrician. He spent a couple of hours reviewing the planned locations of the solar panels and Powerwalls.

The first part of the inspection was reviewing the existing entrance service and main service panel. He determined what would be needed in terms of making room for the added equipment and any additional structure that would be needed to accommodate the new equipment. He also reviewed the electrical sub-panel in the garage that feeds the two NEMA 14-50 outlets for the Tesla chargers.

Next, the inspector moved on to the area for mounting the two Powerwalls in the garage. It appeared that we would have plenty of room for them. We discussed the town requirements for fire protection, in this case, fire resistant drywall behind the Powerwalls. Finally, the inspector went into the attic to check on the roof structure to which the solar panels would be mounted. As the roof had been replaced about four years ago and a few sections of sheeting had been replaced, the roof structure was deemed ready to accept the solar panels.

Now that the inspection was complete, Tesla called to setup a date to begin installation. They estimated for our system that it would take two full days and, indeed, it did. They scheduled it for a Wednesday and Thursday. I prepared for the installation by borrowing the TOCNYS club’s traffic cones and flag. On the Wednesday morning, I moved our Tesla cars to the street and blocked off the area in front of the house with the traffic cones. I also displayed the club flag in front of the house for all to see.

About 8:30 Wednesday morning, four trucks showed up and pulled into the driveway with their crews to begin unloading. The crew lead met with us to go over the plan and review the installation details. Particular attention was paid to the Powerwall installation as that would require running control and power lines the length of the house. In addition, we discussed how the two different sets of solar panels would be connected. It was decided the small set of panels would connect over the back roof to the main set so that the conduit between them (shown in red) could not be seen from the street.

The crew of about six split into two teams. One team worked on the solar panels while the other worked on the Powerwall installation. The panels were unloaded from the trucks and interconnections were prepared. Meanwhile, the second team was preparing the electrical installation. This would eventually involve installing the Entrance Gateway, the Gateway Sub-Panel, and the Inverter. In addition, modifications to the existing main electrical panel would be made to convert it to a sub-panel by separating the ground and neutral connections. As shown in the picture, the Gateway is on the left, the Gateway Sub-Panel below it, the existing panel in the middle, and the Inverter on a new support structure on the right.


At 9:30, the utility company, Rochester Gas & Electric, arrived and pulled the meter disconnecting all power from the house. Now the Powerwall team could get to work making all of the connections. The entrance service would now go to the Gateway, rather than the existing panel, and the Main Breaker would be in the Gateway. Conduit and wiring installation continued throughout the day until the installation was complete. At 3:30 in the afternoon, the utility company returned and reinstalled the meter. The house power was brought back online.

The Powerwall team now moved to the garage to begin the Powerwall installation. The first job was to install the drywall sections behind the Powerwall locations. Next the Powerwalls were themselves installed. Then the conduit that would connect the Powerwalls to the Gateway was installed. Finally, bollards as required by building code were installed as to prevent someone hitting the Powerwalls with a vehicle.

 

While the Powerwall was working, the Solar Panels team was on the roof preparing for the installation of the panels. This was a significant effort that started with installing plates on the roof to which the team could attach their safety and rappelling lines as they began they work.



The Panels team installed the solar panel mounts and edge pieces which transitioned the panels to the roof. In addition, they installed the conduit that would contain the connections between the small set of panels on the east roof to the large set of panels on the south roof. The panel mounts themselves were devices about the size and shape of an inverted coffee cup. These were filled with sealant before being screwed through the sealant to the roof structure. These can bee seen in the following pictures.


It was determined during the installation that all 19 panels could not go on the south roof due to interference with a roof vent. One of the panels would have to be relocated to the east roof, leaving 18 panels on the south roof and 6 panels on the east roof. From an aesthetic standpoint, this was an unexpected improvement.

With the Powerwalls installed, the conduit nearly complete, and the solar panel mountings installed, it was getting dark and time to call it a day.

CLICK HERE FOR DAY 2


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