Part 3: Installation

Photograph of a man installing photovoltaic panels on a roof

Our installation was planned for the 6th April. It did not go altogether smoothly. A few days before, Solarsense contacted us to arrange for the scaffolding to be erected. The scaffolding company they used (Castle Scaffolding) were not very domestic customer focussed. When they arrived, they started to treat our lovely flower and shrub border as a building site and were quite rude when asked to walk round a path instead of through the flower bed. Additionally the scaffolders also managed to break several tiles on the roof as they put the scaffold up. After complaining to Solarsense, Solarsense now say they won't be using Castle Scaffolding again, and as a gesture they have sent us some garden gift vouchers and will repair the damaged roof.

The second blip was just before Solarsense were due to install, when they advised us that they were short 5 panels (out of 22). They said their panel supplier, Romag, was very busy and had let them down. They wanted to delay until all 22 were in stock or alternatively put up 22 other panels of Taiwanese origin (Solarcentury make). However we had specifically ordered UK produced panels with a black frame to match our slate tiled roof and reduce the carbon footprint of our installation. Solarsense came on the contracted date and put up 17 panels and all the electrics within 8 hours using 2 electricians and 2 pv installers. It was very efficient and there were no problems. The other 5 panels were due to be installed two weeks later. As our system is two parallel strings of 11 panels, if they are not balanced electrically apparently the output is reduced, so it was only possible to have one string of 11 switched on. The 11 panels worked brilliantly during the lovely sunny weather and then on the 20th April the fitters came to attach the remaining 5 panels to the roof and they switched on all 22 panels.

The electrical equipment installed comprises an inverter, a total generation meter and an export meter. The inverter is in the roof space, the total generation meter is neatly placed in the house beside our fuse system and the export meter is outside in our electricity meter cupboard. With all 22 panels working we have been producing around 25 units a day during this current spell of sunny weather. 

We are not yet signed up to receive the feed-in tariff as we have some paperwork to complete and send to our electricity supplier Ecotricity. We are unsure about how the combination of export meter, total generation meter and mains meter are working as our analogue electricity import meter which is over 20 years old is running backwards as we produce! Ecotricity have told us that they will get a digital import meter fitted in due course which will correct the situation.