Wednesday, December 31, 2008


We have reached a point of completion where inspections are done. The City of Derby electrical inspection was done last week and everyone was satisfied. Today a Proffessional Engineer looked at our truss work and that was satisfied. So the system has reached a completion point, but due to some weather issues (today is a snow storm) we have had to hold off on flipping the switch until after the holiday.

I have focused on the hi-tech side of our installation, but the building structure itself had to be reinforced to satisfy the design engineer and building dept. It was a very difficult to access area that required some special rigging of ladders and safety harnesses, and the work was done by one of our employees who is a certified welder from Local 580 Ironworkers Union in NYC.

The below photos are a closup of a truss, a view of trusses over the shop manufacturing space, and a view of the trusses over the warehouse area. The building was constructed in the late 1800's with primarily riveted steel construction, and was first used to make cannons.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pulling the cables

The conduit and junction boxes are nearly all in. Now it's time to pull some cable through them.

Below is a photo from the ridge looking north/west with the Lake Housatonic in the background. The strings are wired into collector boxes and into junction boxes and then on to the inverter.

Next is a close-up of a collector box where the strings of panels are brought to a location for combining into a bigger wire.

Once past the inverter and converted into alternating current, the electricity runs on some heavy cable that you can see here being readied for pulling through the conduit. In addition to 4 electricians in photo, there was another 3 guys on the pull wheel at the other end.

Given weather issues (snow, ice, frost, cold, wind) we have been impacted from staying on schedule, but hope to have everything in place and inspected before the holidays. Click on any photo to see it in larger format.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Beyond the solar panels - piping, cables, inverter

The electricians are hard at work dancing around the weather and supply deliveries.

After the panels generate electricity, the DC current is converted to AC and tied into the grid. The Solar panels will be generating electricity in a DC (direct current) form. This is routed by cable within heavy galvanized conduit to an inverter. You may have seen this type of a device that plugs into a car 12 volt outlet (also DC) and converts it into AC (alternating current) form for DVD players or shavers, and ipods. This inverter obviously does a bit more.

In addition to converting from DC to AC, there is synchronization needed with the utility's electricity, and this has a monitoring device that delivers a data signal showing how much electricity is being generated (which I can then format and publish live in a streaming format on the internet). Coming out of the inverter will be AC current that is carried in a similar heavy galvanized conduit, leading to a big on/off switch. This is required by the utility and the fire department. In case of an area outage, they have the ability to "throw the switch" and prevent my solar panel "power plant" from dumping live juice into the electric grid.

Below is the inside "guts" of the inverter, and the electrician installing the on/off switch. It is a very big switch!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

525th panel is installed on the 9th day

The last panel was attached to the roof today, Nov 26th, 2008

Yesterday (Tue) was a washout for weather, but today the morning frost gave way to temps in the upper 40's with cloudy skies and the crew installed 70 panels to complete the 525 panel array. There are still connections to be made with combiner boxes and working the wires carrying the clean energy toward the inverter, but that will come after the Thanksgiving Holiday.

The electrician sorted out his final permitting last night, and our permit is in place to finish off the connection from the inverter onward to an emergency shutoff switch (in AC) and into our meter. This is so the utility can shut us off from dumping live juice into the grid in case of an emergency. More on the electrical / technical side of the project next week.

You will note in the below video, at the beginning, you see a good sized area of the roof without panels. Yes, the system can be expanded even further as our business grows. We chose to size the system to match our consumption, since if we generated more than we consume, the electric utility only pays a wholesale rate for that electricity, and thus the "extra" panels do not have a feasible return on investment.

Where there are no PV panels, you can see the roof material is quite reflective. It is "Galvalume Plus" metal used in the standing seam roof. It reflects a significant amount of the radiant energy, and thus reduces the cooling load on the building (for which there are tax credits if you are considering a similar course of action). For our purposes, it also reflects back onto the panel. About 15% of the panels surface area is translucent. Of that light that passes through and hits the roof, 60% of it is reflected back based on the emissivity of the metal. Of that reflected energy hitting the back of the solar cells within the panel, there is a certain amount of electricity generating "bonus". These PV panels are a newer model, and are somewhat a "proof of concept" for their efficiency given the roof material.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Solar nearing the last panel

The Solar panel installation continued on Monday, but it looks like we have hit bad weather.

With a bit warmer weather today, we neared the end of installing the 525 panel system (still have apx 70 left to go). I had a photo-journalist from the CtPost with me taking photos for an upcoming article, so we hoisted the boomlift up pretty high for these shots.

Our building was built in the late 1800's and you can see other similar mill-buildings in the valley next to the Housatonic River. My hope is that other industrial building owners might see the potential to cast a new view on their property with an eye toward making them "greener".

The left photo shows a view of neighboring mill building factories with a glimpse of the Housatonic River and Route 8 bridge in the far background. The right photo is the panel array as of Monday afternoon (about 434 panels are in the photo, the entire system will be 525).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cold, but install continues

This morning, the temperature was in the upper teens, and there was a frost on the roof, but there was no precipitation, so we kept on installing.

I thought it would be nice to see what it is like from above, since all previous photos have been taken from the ground. At mid-day Saturday, we have 259 panels on the building, so just about halfway done. The weather doesn't look good on Mon/Tue and Thu/Fri is Thanksgiving, so thus the work this weekend to try and keep on pace.

If you look at the ridge of the 2nd photo, you can see where the strings feed to a combiner box. They then route via cable to an inverter that's located on the otherside of our building (in a sheltered courtyard - more efficient when kept cool) where it will convert from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and be tied into the electric utility grid operated by United Illuminating.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Panels over 150 mark

The good weather continues for our installation of solar panels, helping us reach 160 on the building by day #3.

The weather has been quite cold yesterday and today (upper 30's, low 40's), but yesterday's wind has subsided today, and it was quite workable. Thus, the installing crew diversified their tasks because as the mechanical attachment continues, the strings of panels need to have cables routing the electricity to combiner boxes. 7 panels attach in series to form a "string". 8 strings come together in a "combiner". The combiners then come to a junction box, and the cable runs to an inverter. The layout of the panels on the roof involves not only how many can physically be placed in the space, but how they connect electrically in the most efficient manner.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Invertor arrives

The inverter arrived today from Canada, solar panel installation continues in clear yet cold weather.

The inverter is made by SatCom and converts the DC current generated from the panels, into AC current that can be tied and synchronized into the meter and utility grid. Electrical work should begin shortly, and the panel installation progresses. The starting area is a difficult spot with some steel beams from a previous structure making access difficult. Fortunately, a large articulated boom lift is able to negotiate the swings and fit into areas where it can project the boom out to reach the install location.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Solar Panels Begin Installation

With the building permits now squared away, the solar panels started installation on Monday November 17th, under sunny blue skies.

The panels attach with a clip arrangement to the standing seam roof. Starting at the bottom of the pitch and moving up the slope, there are 13 rows of panels reaching toward the ridge. Today was spent in mobilization mode of getting lifts and equipment on site, installing safety lines and rigging harnesses and walking through the installation procedure.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Solar Panels arrive

The Solar panels finally arrived today.

We hope to have them installed and generating clean electric energy within the month. This photo was taken just after we unloaded the truck, before they were moved to be out of the elements. There are 20 panels to a pallet, 26 full pallets and 1 pallet with 5 panels = 525 panels. Quite a bit of square footage once it is laid out on the roof.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Announcement of 96kw Photo-Voltaic Electric System Installation

This is a joint press release of IDA International Inc., and The Solar Center.

New PV System to Reduce IDA-International’s Energy Consumption by Over 90% Percent and Annual Carbon Emissions by 43 Tons.

Rockaway, NJ (October 29, 2008) – The Solar Center announced today that it will be commencing installation of a 96 kilowatt solar system for IDA-International of Derby, CT, its largest solar installation to date in that state.

Company President, Shannon Whitworth Kayen, hailed the project as another big step in The Solar Center’s continuing expansion of its CT presence, especially in the commercial solar marketplace. “We’re pleased to be able to work with IDA-International and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund in advancing the cause of solar, reducing global warming gasses, furthering the goal of national energy independence, and supporting Connecticut’s congested southwestern electric grid, all while providing our customer with a project that will, ultimately, yield a substantial low-risk return on investment,” said Whitworth Kayen.

For its part, IDA, a manufacturer of facades and custom curtain-walls for commercial buildings, made a mission several years ago to bring an environmental awareness to its operations, with the vision toward becoming a green manufacturer. Many of the facades they construct are for buildings where the owner is seeking LEED status from the US Green Building Council. Thomas Harbinson, IDA's President, stated "we already use components that have a high recycled material content, and now our fabrication and assembly of those parts into a finished product will also be done in an environmentally sensitive manner." Harbinson adds, "Generating electricity from sunlight is a decision that took time to implement. Fortunately, when our 1800's era factory building was built, the designer took solar orientation into account for bringing daylight into the workplace. That orientation now works to our advantage with maximum potential for solar electrical generation. A standing seam metal roof as part of our building envelope both eases the attachment of the solar panels to our building, and reduces the heat gain on the building structure due to it's high emissivity." IDA hopes to illustrate that former under-utilized industrial buildings can be given new life with a green aspect such as solar electric generation. It's a business direction for other companies to take a serious look at.

The project was partially funded by a grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund’s On-Site Renewable Distributed Generation Program, which provides qualified projects funding that can equal as much as 50% of a project’s cost. Combined with federal investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation, solar projects in CT can realize returns in the range of 15-20%.

The Solar Center, Inc. is one of the largest designers and installers of solar energy systems in the region, serving NY’s Hudson Valley, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. For more information contact them at 973-627-7730, or visit their web site at

IDA International Inc. is a turn-key operation for curtain-wall and other building facades. IDA serves the greater metropolitan area with engineering, fabrication and installation of construction elements that create a structure's building envelope. For more information, contact them at 203-736-9249, or visit their green manufacturing page at