Editor's note: Solarize programs are sweeping across the country. Although this is a particular resident's expereince in a particular program, the timeline given here is a good guide to how much time and what to expect in regards to issues that might arise.
Solarize Decatur-DeKalb Participant Shares First-hand Experience
Our family is delighted by the opportunity to “go solar” with Solarize Decatur-DeKalb. It’s something we’ve talked about for years, but the pricing and support through the program really helped make it happen for us. There are plenty of testimonials from solar owners out there, so this post is not about that.
Rather, if you’re curious about the specifics of the installation process, here was our experience. There are a number of steps between making the decision to invest in solar and actually having solar power flowing:
- Engineering/permitting. This one took a while for us, as the City of Decatur hadn’t streamlined their process as they had said they had. Solarize Decatur-DeKalb and Creative Solar now have it worked out, and Decatur is turning around permits with 3 days of being submitted – our experience is your gain!
- Installing the panels on the roof. There are a couple of components to this. First, the crew of four installed the racking which holds the solar panels in place on the roof. Then, they installed the microinverters. Finally, they installed the panels. We had four guys out for a day to do this – in a fun small-world coincidence, I went to grad school with one of the guys who was part of the crew! The crew had to come back for another half day to connect the panels to each other (we have four separate arrays to accommodate the shape of our roof) and install the “Soladeck” which is where all of the wires come together and pass through the roof.
- The next step was getting the electrician to connect the panel wiring to the “combiner box”. This box has a couple of breakers where the solar panel wires connect, as well as the Enphase Envoy system that provides monitoring of panel production and whole-house consumption. From the combiner box, the wiring goes to a disconnect switch that lets public safety personnel disconnect the solar from the grid. Then the wiring goes to the electric meter box. Our meter box didn’t have the right kind of connection, so the electrician had to order a part. The electrician took his time to really think through how to run the wiring in the most aesthetic way possible, and was happy to show me what he was doing throughout the process. Total time: a day and a couple of hours + two days waiting for the part.
- Once everything was connected, we then needed to pass inspection. The City of Decatur was on it – they came out two business days after everything was all hooked up.
- Last, but not least, Georgia Power needed to come out and reprogram our electric meter. This took a bit longer than inspection did – almost a week in our case – but at last we could turn the system on and watch our meter run backwards!
I hope this is helpful for other Solarize participants in understanding the process and timing for installation. Of course, the folks at Creative Solar can give you specific information pertaining to your installation – but bottom line is that it’s quite a bit more involved than we’d initially expected.
Solarize Decatur-DeKalb is a community-based solar PV bulk-purchasing campaign that makes solar more affordable and accessible for the citizens of Decatur and DeKalb County -- the more that participate, the greater the savings! Residents, businesses, local governments, and nonprofits are encouraged to sign-up for a free solar evaluation between September 1 and December 31st. Visit www.solarizedecatur-dekalb.com to sign up and more details.