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Monday, July 26, 2010

Redneck Solar Electric

A regular solar electric contractor approaches an installation job in a certain way. Once the size of the system has been determined, he gathers together the materials needed. When the installer arrives on the job site, he knows the design and has the materials he needs to complete the work.

My buddy and I are doing his solar installation the redneck way. We wander around his land to see what he's got lying around. Then we try to do as much of the job with materials he already has.

He decided on a solar shed. That's a small separate building that contains everything needed for the alternative energy system. Instead of building a new shed, the ice fishing shack was re-purposed. He only used it once, so it'd be more useful as a power shed. There were some nice cement pads left over from when he jacked up an old house last year. That became the foundation base for the fishing shack.

For the battery bank rack we reused the heavy duty pallet that the solar panels came on. It was a bit wide so I cut it down to size. Also used some 2x6s salvaged from a previous construction project. Insulated the battery box with salvaged rigid foam insulation.

The rack for the solar array was originally the steel frame for an ATV crate. My buddy cleaned it up and gave it a good coat of paint. We also used some galvanized pipe he found at the dump. The pivot points are a couple of huge hinges that came off an old basement door.

Even some of the electrical components are salvaged. He found a heavy duty, high amperage electrical disconnect. I've no idea where he came across that gem and he had no idea what it was. Found a grounding rod in his metal pile. He thought it was just round stock rod. Salvaged some heavy gage wire for the battery interconnects.

There are some things we don't skimp on. Stainless steel nuts, bolts and washers had to be purchased. Using stainless steel connectors prevents the corrosion that can happen when bolting together dissimilar metals. The solar panels cost enough money that you don't want them blowing off in the wind.

Of course, most of the solar electric components had to be purchased. Also, it's not worth skimping on safety equipment.

Tomorrow, with any luck, we'll mount the array on the shack's roof. While I'm wiring the components, my buddy will be moving the batteries and generator from their temporary location. They'd been housed in what once was an addition to an old house. It's been salvaged whole and dragged to its current location by my friend using his tractor. The open side was boarded up and a woodstove installed. He'd used it as a warming hut while working on his house last winter.
No telling how the "warming hut," will be reused. I'm sure sooner or later another redneck project will come along.



  1. Now that's the kinda stuff I like! Real "recycling"! Or as we like to call it down here, "southern engineering". How 'bout some pics?

  2. Pics coming. Left camera in the truck and too tired to go get it. Long day, but a successful one.