Up until two weeks ago I thought I had my solar panel mount plans finalized – a single pole mount to the east of the cabin. That WAS the plan until I found out someone had gone through a lot of effort to steal from my property – more about that later. I’ve now settled on two separate locations and mounting systems for my solar panels. Phase one, last weekend, was installing a permanent roof mount for two panels where theft should not be a concern. Phase two will be a ground mount with a quick attach/detach feature so the panel(s) can be stored in the cabin when I’m away.
The roof mount I constructed this weekend was a simple Unistrut-based mount, of which there are many examples of on the Net. The only thing unique about it is that I used VersaBrackets from S-5 to attach the Unistrut to the roof. There are many different mounting brackets for roofs out there, but the VersaBracket was the only one I could find that would fit between the 1″ corrugations on my metal roof. The rest of the mount consisted of some Unistrut spring nuts and square washers, in addition to various stainless steel bolts, nuts, and washers.
The roof array consists of two Uni-Solar US-64 panels feeding into a Morningstar SunSaver 10 amp charge controller. The Uni-Solar panels are unique because they’re glass-free and virtually unbreakable. They’re also designed so that even if a single cell is damaged, let’s say from an errant bullet, the rest of the cells in the panel will continue to function and provide power. While these two panels alone are not a lot of power, they will easily keep my batteries charged while I’m not there. While I don’t have the solar panel for the ground array yet, it will probably consist of just a single ~200 watt grid tie type panel feeding into a 15 amp MPPT controller.
All is not perfect with this new arrangement though. First off, my 4/12 roof pitch is nowhere near the best angle for solar panels, especially in the winter. The optimum fixed angle for year round use would be somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees. According to PVWATTS, I will lose about 23% of the power in December compared to a 45° angle, although I will gain about 10% in July. Second, and probably more important, is the issue of snow accumulation on the panels. Low angle solar panels obviously do not shed snow as readily compared to higher angles. This means I might need to use a roof rake in the winter if I expect to use these panels at all. In the end it’s probably not that big a deal. I don’t spend a lot of time at the cabin in the dead of winter, and I will eventually have a ground mount array at a more optimum angle to deploy when I’m actually there.
Now about the theft from my property. Several posts back I talked about the rock pile near the cabin that I had removed. In the process of removal, a half dozen or so large (by Wisconsin standards at least) boulders were found – you can see some of them in the pic to the left. I was planning to use them for some landscaping at my entrance. Can you believe someone actually stole these? One of them was large enough that I can only imagine it being moved with heavy machinery. It takes a lot of nerve to come on someone’s property with that type of equipment just to steal some rocks.
On a more pleasant note, at least I didn’t miss the peak colors this fall.