It was a dark morning with a strong westerly wind and the rain was beginning to fall. This was the day that we had chosen to do our first installation. Maybe we should have pushed the installation date back, but for some strange reason we just kept going.
The design of our structure had been through several iterations and this version, ‘Mark I’, which really was version 6 of our design, was now ready to go. The trailer was packed at our workshop the night before and we were ready to go early on Saturday the 5th of February. Our very own ‘day zero’ and the first step on what we hope will be the transformation of solar PV installations throughout Ireland.
Gearóid Whelan from JFW renewables (https://jfwrenewables.ie/) was not only partnering with us at Solar Structures for this installation (and hopefully many future installations), but he was also offered up his lovely patio as our first demonstration site in Loughrea. He also organised for a few of his team to be with us on site for the day. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the JFW team who were onsite with us but maybe with a special mention to Gearóid and Damien for their time and hard-work through-out the day from an early start at 9am until a late and very cold and dark finish at around 6pm.
We had been preparing the various components for the structure over the previous month, with a long lead-in time for the galvanising of various steel parts. The wood itself was prepared and triple treated to ensure long-life. We had done a few test builds at our workshop over the previous day and we had marked up the various components to ensure easy on-site fitting.
On location, we had plenty of help to put up the uprights. This involved some work to ensure that that the pads were positioned correctly on the concrete foundations. With the two sides in position, we then were able to install the various purlins. As they say ‘as Gaeilge’ ‘Bíonn gach tosach lag’ and our first row of panels went up relatively slowly. That said, we came up with a number of improvements during the early stages. There really is nothing better to sharpen the creative mind than being up on a mobile scaffolding tower in a strong gale and the driving rain. The conditions gave us all the motivation to come up with process improvements, which, needless to say, were implemented straight away. Among these improvements were the fitting of the panel brackets on the ground before the purlins are installed and the importance of not tightening bolts and nuts until all the elements of the horizontal block are in position.
Overall, the pace of installation quickened throughout the day and by evening, we had all had a masterclass in the installation of PV panels in adverse weather conditions.
The structure itself took shape gradually and while we had not been focussing on taking progress photos during the day, the photos that Gearóid sent around the next morning we really heart-lifting.
All that is left for us is to wish the structure ‘Go mba fada buan é’ and that the Whelan family have many happy evenings under their new solar carport / pergola.
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