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Solar Panels!

It has been a long day at Roger Williams Airstream but a rewarding one. I am more impressed than ever with these guys. David and Denver work hard and do great stuff.

RWA Vista hole.jpg

Yesterday afternoon they weren’t able to install a solar panel, but the hard work on the Vista View window was done and it was a real pleasure to wake up to all the cheery morning light coming in through it. Because we need to get going on Saturday, I asked them to get on the solar panel install rather than doing the second Vista View.

In case you are wondering how it works, having guys tear up our home while we are living in it, I’ll explain the process. Eleanor and I have been getting up around 7 a.m. this week, and getting ourselves ready for the day. When we’ve finished with showers and dressing, we open the door and let Denver know we are ready to go. They hitch the trailer to their forklift and slowly tow it into the shop. Emma sleeps right through this process and wakes up later to the sound of air tools.

RWA panel lift.jpg

Today the guys got right on the solar panel job, but it took a long time. David likes to fabricate a mounting for each panel that will survive the hurricane-force winds it will encounter during towing. The aluminum mounting frames he made are riveted and screwed, as well as thoroughly caulked. These mountings get the solar panels off the roof for better cooling, which improves their efficiency.

One of the reasons it took all day was that there was a snafu involving the solar pre-wiring installed by Airstream. The wires weren’t where we expected them to be (in the refrigerator cabinet). David, Denver, and Bob were tearing out their hair trying to deduce where those wires were, when Eleanor suddenly volunteered that she’d seen them buried in a lower cabinet during one of her periodic searches for more storage space. That saved the day, because we were about to concede defeat and start running new wires, which would have made it impossible to complete the job today.

RWA solar panel.jpg
In the midst of installation

So the solar system is now operational. It was 7:30 by the time we wheeled the trailer back out into the parking lot, too late for good testing, but the system seems to be working. Even with the sun nearly set, it generated 0.4 amps.

For the record, we installed two Evergreen Solar 115 watt panels, each measuring about 63″ long. The rear one had to be installed sideways, which looks a bit odd, but it will work just the same. With the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Blue Sky controller we installed previously, we are hoping for up to 20 amps of power in ideal conditions. This ties into the four Optima batteries and the Tri-Metric. The next step is to take it out west and test it in a National Park!

RWA Rich window.jpg

Rich C got a bit of service today too. His rear window was leaking, and in between tasks on our solar panels David got over there to replace the seal. Rich also got a power hitch jack and some accessories. He’s a happy camper now. We just have to throw a gadget his way every once in a while.

RWA hula hoop.jpg

If you’re wondering what Emma does while all this is going on, here’s an example.

So we’ve completed almost everything we came for. The second Vista View will have to wait until we come back again, but otherwise we have completed quite a list: disc brakes, two windows, two solar panels. David will come back to the shop tomorrow to tie up a few loose ends and then we plan to head off to west Texas. We’re going to meet Rich C at Caprock Canyon State Park. There won’t be any Internet service there — probably no phone either — so I may have to catch up on the blog from the highway later.

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