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At the beginning of May, I wrote a diary about the problems we have had getting our solar contractor and subcontractor to fulfill their obligations. You can read it at this link. At that point, the array was complete and operational, so we thought the worst was over. Little did we know...
We had originally signed the contract at the end of September 2021, and it took until early March before construction started because the contractor had lost track of the contract. Construction then took 2 months because the workers sent by the subcontractor generally didn’t have the right tool, didn’t bring the right parts, and/or had no idea what they were doing. But, by the end of April, the array was complete and operational. The remaining steps were for the array to be inspected, and for the utility (San Diego Gas & Electric) to issue permission to operate (PTO), though we didn’t know that at the time. The County sent out an inspector on the day that the project was complete, but the array flunked because it lacked grounding rods. However, the lead guy from the subcontractor switched the array on anyway. I did not realize there would be consequences, but, given the problems we had had with the subcontractor, I should have known better.
We left for two-week trip to visit friends in Pennsylvania about a week later, all the time pleading with the subcontractor to come and install the grounding rods so that the array could pass inspection, but as usual, they were unresponsive. We left before that work was done. While we were in Pennsylvania, we both contracted COVID. We moved out of the house of the friends we were staying with so that they wouldn’t catch it, and stayed in a hotel for the rest of the trip. We had to delay our return to California by more than a week. We didn’t get home until the beginning of June. The delay lead to a number of complications, but the biggest surprise to me was when I opened my electric bill. For the previous year, our average bill was under $200/month. This one was over $800. After hyperventilating for some minutes, I called SDG&E to ask what the hell was going on. It turns out that because our array was operating without PTO, the utility was charging us for the electricity we were producing as though we were taking it off the grid! The first thing I did was to shut off the array. Next, I called our contractor to explain the situation, and how it was not our fault because we didn’t know the consequence of operating a photoelectric array without PTO. They actually reduced the amount we still owed on the array by about $800, though the person who arranged this discount disappeared from the company shortly afterward.
Not long after we returned, the subcontractor showed up again, and an inspector for the County arrived also, but since the subcontractor had not installed grounding rod, the array flunked again. The challenge now was to get the subcontractor to correct this problem. A week or so later, another worker showed up saying he was there to install the grounding rods, and then proceeded to ground the electrical box on the house. We pointed out that, as we had a ground-mounted system, the grounding rods had to be on the array, not on the house, but he paid no attention. The county inspector showed up and flunked the system for the third time for the same reason. About a week after that, they came again, finally installing the grounding rods on the array itself, and it passed inspection. At that point, either the contractor or subcontractor submitted the system for PTO from the utility. However, when all of this happened, we had already left for our trip to Oregon, and we wouldn’t be back for a week.
When we got back, the next electric bill had arrived: more than $600. You guessed it. Once the array had passed inspection, the subcontractors switched it on again. Yes, it had passed inspection, but at that point, we still didn’t have PTO, so we again got gouged by the utility. This time, there was no further discount from the contractor for this mistake. A day or two after we got back, we received the notice of PTO (which I scrutinized as I didn’t want to get gouged again), and we were finally in operation.
That left one more task: installation of production-monitoring hardware, so that we could keep track of how much electricity we made, how much we consumed, and how much we sent out to the grid. After installation, the monitoring website showed realistic production numbers, but consumption was way off (essentially a mirror-image of production; no way we use that much electricity). After nearly two months of back-and-forth with the contractor and subcontractor, the contractor finally admitted that the combiner box, where the monitoring hardware was installed, installed next to the array, was too far away from the house to allow accurate monitoring for consumption. I. e. it was a design error. It they had anticipated this problem and installed the box next to the house instead, it would be working properly. We will live with the situation as it is because (a) we’re producing electricity (finally!), (b) we can monitor consumption at the utility website (though with less detailed information), and (c) we just wanted to be done with the whole bloody affair.
I will not put the name of the contractor or subcontractor in this diary, but if you want to know who they are, send me a kosmail. If you’re planning to install a photoelectric array, it could save you money, time, and grief. Hubby and I wrote a couple of vicious Yelp reviews, and we were gratified that we were far from alone in our experience with them. Back when hubby was exploring possible solar contractors, their Yelp reviews were good. Not so a year later. If any solar contractor ever deserved to fail, it’s this one.
Comments are below the fold.
Top Comments (October 15-16, 2022):
From Paul A:
I want to bring up as a top comment rexymeteorite's observation in Friday’s Top Comments (by Chitown Kev) about the "deprovements" to the mobile version of Daily Kos. In addition to the disappearance of the Picture Quilt (only a blank screen is displayed in lieu of the pictures) that rexy notes, there are other ill effects: embedded tweets show up in two or three iterations of text-only, and some Comments show up in strange miniature text fonts. Do the tech Powers That Be even do test runs when they change things?
Highlighted by Scoots38:
This comment by IndySidesWithBlue in Dartagnan’s front page post regarding tfg’s desire for Congressional Representative to get killed on Jan. 6, 2021.
Top Mojo (October 14, 2022):
Top Mojo is courtesy of mik! Click here for more on how Top Mojo works.
Top Mojo (October 15, 2022):
Top Photos (October 14, 2022):
Thanks to jotter (RIP) for creating it and elfling for restoring it.
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