Twelve Months With Solar Panels

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the completion date for my solar panel installation so I thought that I ought to make a quick post to signify the fact!

I remember the weather being a little cold during the fitting but when I reflect today on how awful it would have been if the solar installation was during weather like we have had in Devon over the last week. I really can’t remember a more wetter time than what we have been experiencing.

I always like to add a few solar generation statistics to my posts and today I have really have an off-putting stat to leave you with – Marking 12-months to the day yesterday from when my solar array panels were commissioned and switched on, I generated my worst ever day’s yield of just 0.13kWh. Putting a more worrying statistic on that – at this rate it would take hundreds of years to pay-off the solar panel investment!

But don’t worry – I’ve been there before – things get a whole lot better…


New Solar Installation Risk!

As warned yesterday, the government’s Chris Huhne today released a statement indicating that an appeal would be sought. The following paragraph from his statement highlights the uncertainties and risks of a solar installation after the December 12th 2011 cut off date.

“Yesterday, the Court of Appeal handed down a negative judgment on the Government’s appeal against an earlier decision by the High Court. We respectfully disagree with the judgment and are seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. In the light of that, we cannot rule out the possibility that lower tariffs could be applied to installations which became eligible for FITs on or after the proposed reference date. It is important that consumers are aware of this.”

The Energy Secretary of State’s full statement by can be read here.

Loose Solar Panels

An email was sent off to the installers reporting the damaged panels on the 27/12/11. But due to the Christmas and New Year holidays an auto out of office reply email was received saying that they were closed until January 3rd. There was an emergency telephone number if required.

Further problems were to be experienced on the 29/12/11. From this date the weather conditions changed to high winds which seemed to caused all sorts of rattles above my fathers bedroom under the east solar array. An additional email was subsequently sent off on the 30th reporting these new issues and requesting an experienced installer to visit as soon as possible and investigate the noises.

Over the weekend of 31st December and 1st January while visiting my parents I found my father looking very tired and apprehensive. He said that he had not been getting very much sleep due to the the noise on the roof. He also said that on occasions he was now also hearing banging sounds which were very disruptive. Although it was not quite as windy now as it had been on the previous couple of evenings, I had a look up at the east facing panels from the end of the garden. I could see nothing alarming or untoward from this distance. However, I could see some loose cabling under the right hand panel, maybe this was flapping around and causing the noises!

On Tuesday 3rd January, the installation company was back in touch and were arranging for their installations supervisor to visit and check the reported problems. He arrived mid-afternoon today, 4th January and started by investigating the noises coming from the roof on the east side. On inspection of both the east and west arrays, he found that 3 of the east facing solar panels were loose and not clamped tightly which was causing them to lift and bang down in the wind. This was immediately rectified together with the securing of loose wires under the panels with cable ties. One of the solar panels had to be removed completely to allow access to a roof tile that had not been refitted correctly at the time of installation. Finally, the scratched solar panels were found to be only surface marks and cleaned accordingly.

Repairs and Further Issues

We started the repair to ridge tiles today and whilst on the top of the scaffolding we were also able to look at other areas that we were unable to look at when previously inspecting the installation.

The top hanging wall tile that had not been re-fitted correctly dropped away at the slightest touch. The wood batten beneath had not been put back and fixed firmly against wall to enable the tile to lay flat or indeed securely. Whilst fixing this we also tied in the loose wires and filled the unused hole drilled in the fascia board.

As the house has dormer windows with a flat roof and apex above, we agreed that this was also a great opportunity to look at the solar panels fixed on both sides of the East-West split. With the benefit of the added scaffolding it was just a case of walking around onto the flat roof. I can’t understand why on earth they didn’t do this originally when putting the scaffolding up – It would of made the installation a lot easier! From the roof we were a little dismayed to find that 4 of the panels appeared to be scratched next to the clamps and also the East array of five divided by the soil stack in the middle were not level. Although you would never notice from ground level, we also found a multitude of nuts, bolts, nails, wire strips and even some bracketing parts left sprawled around on top of the asphalt. Slightly annoying but at least we were able to clear-up.

We continued with the ridge tile repairs and finished off by re-fixing the dry verge tiles.

The next job will be reporting these new issues.
Merry Christmas

SolarEdge Monitoring

An email was received this week with details regarding the monitoring of the East-West split SolarEdge power optimised solar system installed at my fathers property. This would enable him to log-on to the SolarEdge monitoring portal and view the solar system’s performance. You can also, if required, view public sites around the world and compare.

And today also saw the scaffolding arrive to enable repair work to begin on the loose ridge tiles. This was caused at the time of installation by the installers drilling incorrectly and dislodging the tiles.

Solar Installation Complaint

Over the weekend the complaint was submitted regarding all the problems and faults discovered upon the inspection of the solar panel installation. Most of which has already been mentioned within my previous blog.

Yesterday the fitters returned to rectify the loose ridge tiles. They wanted to do this by climbing up to the top of the apex and also on the end of a fully extended ladder, which even then would not give sufficient reach to work safely let alone complete an adequate job. My father deemed this as unsafe and impractical to complete to an acceptable finish. He stopped them from attempting this and offered, with my help, to do the ridge tile repairs himself providing that  the correct scaffolding was erected. The original scaffolding should have been put around this area as per initial quotation and instructions. If they can arrange this it would enable us to remove the top dry verge tiles and give access to remove and re-bed the ridge tiles and complete the work correctly.

One of the fitters also looked in the loft to check the rafter screws. He wanted to redo the screws by undoing and straightening them up. My father was not prepared to have this done due to the weather conditions and poor lighting – Not to mention the mess made last time. Later, it was decided that this would probably further weaken the rafters and that bracing over would be a better option.

Solar Panel Installation Report

The FIT application was submitted by email on Thursday evening without any problems. As the December 12th deadline was now approaching, my father also phone the supplier to confirm its receipt. I won’t go into too much more detail on this process as my previous blog on the 1st December can be read ( here ), this goes into a little more about the FIT application and submission procedure experienced with my own installation towards the end of November.

Today, my entry is really concentrating on providing a report and details of my father’s actual installation. As mentioned on my previous entry that an inspection would be required due to noticing and hearing a few disconcerting sounds. Also I have provided some photographs to show the finished East-West solar panel installation.

We first checked the loft area as this was an area where my father had heard a rather abrupt command of ‘stop’ by one of the fitters. On inspection we found that the top corner of the gable end internal wall where it joins the rafters and roof supports was showing a large hole. On closer inspection we found that the fitter must have been drilling upwards towards the ridge tiles. This had caused some of the masonry and block work to come away just underneath. He had then re-drilled horizontally some 150mm lower.

Next, while still in the loft, we found holes in the felt where the fitter must have stabbed at the felt with either a screwdriver or drill. Nearby he had used another hole to feed the solar array’s cabling through. Why he did not use the lap of the felt located just above to do this is just one of the questions we will be asking. Also we were horrified to see screws splitting down the sides of the rafters. Others were coming out at all sorts of angles with more that fifty percent of the screw not in the joist. Instead of using a pilot hole first, he must have just screwed-in causing several more instances of this on each side of the loft.

This stomach churning experience then continued on the outside. While looking up under the gable end we could see that a hole was drilled and then left unused in the fascia board. A tile was also hanging precariously just above, and the dry verge cap was no longer straight. Coming around the back of the house looking up at the ridge we could see that the end ridge-tile was longer sitting fixed to its bed of mortar.

A complaint will now be made detailing some of our findings. I will also try to borrow a long enough ladder to get up on the roof and see what else has been going on.

West side of East-West solar splitEast side of East-West solar split