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DIY grid tie solar install- Montana solar top of pole mount

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  • DIY grid tie solar install- Montana solar top of pole mount

    Ive found a lot of good information and ideas posted on solar forums so I thought I would share my set up.

    In December 2021 my Wife and I decided we wanted to find out if getting solar panels would be worth while for us so I began doing research.
    After a TON of YouTube, forums, and finding any info on it I could get we decided to go for it.
    Our goal was to reduce our electric bill and offset our electrical usage. Our utility does not have net metering so completely offsetting our bill was not really feasible.
    My FIL also had been wondering about getting them so when he heard I was looking at it he pulled the trigger too.

    I began ordering in April of 22 and after the snow melted and the ground softened by May (in the snowy UP of Michigan) I started work. Working on it after work and some weekends when I wasnt being a part of my family I got work complete early July. Waiting for inspections it took about until mid July

    16 Enphase IQ8PLUS-72-2-US micro inverters- 4.8KW peak power total
    15 Q Cells Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G10+ 360W solar panels
    1 LG380N1C-A6 solar panel (bought one of these for science. This one is not a half split cell panel so I was curious)
    1 Montana Solar 20 panel ground mount for 60C panels (went with the 20 panel mount for any future expansion and it was a few hundred more dollars than a 16 panel mount)
    1 Enphase Envoy

    Complete costs and current ROI further down.

    I got the panels, inverters, Envoy, and the wiring that plugs into the micro inverts all online from Tandem Solar. It was a pretty good experience and they had good customer service. Including getting a new panel sent when one of mine was damaged in shipping.
    I ordered the mount thru a co-worker who happened to be signed up to be a reseller for Montana Solar. I got a bit of a discount from ordering direct.
    I ordered the 10inch pole the mount goes on thru a local well drilling company.
    Wiring, conduit, random other things were ordered off ebay or purchased at local hardware stores.

    First thing was to dig a hole for the pole the mount sits on.
    I used the Top of Pole Mount Calculator on the mtsolar website to calculate the dimensions needed for the hole. The pole I bought came in a 21' length so I tried to optimize the hole to use the full length. That meant about 3ft square and 9ft deep
    I got a few quotes to have someone use an excavator but they were expensive and the hole would be a lot wider. That would mean using a sono tube or having a shallower hole and use a bunch more concrete and having to cut the pole.
    So I decided to dig it by hand which did take quite some time but I managed. Potato internet = uploading potato pictures:/

    It got deep

    Next challenge was getting the 21' pole in. I had to dig a short trench angled down into the hole that we rolled the pipe into and then lifted with the tractor bucket.

    Before and after concrete was poured.
    I used scrap boards screwed together and a ratchet strap to hold the pole centered in the hole.
    Got some free rebar that I put in too. One piece of conduit went into the footing. The concrete truck was able to drive right up to it so it was nice not having to wheel it all in. Took 3 yards.
    The pour knocked the pole off perfectly level slightly so in the end it was a quarter inch off level from ground to top.
    Screenshot 2022-10-21 215701.png

    100' or so trench running to the house

    Picture of the mount before it was unpacked

    Setting up the mount on the pole. You do most of the setup at ground level and then use a chain hoist to lift it up after you get most of the panels installed. This was super awesome and made it easy to do most of the work by myself.

    Lifting the entire mount to the top was a little tricky since the balance wasnt quite right since I only had 16 panels on a 20 panel mount and it kept on binding up. Managed to get it and my FIL once again came to help getting the last 2 panels in. They definitely were tough to get in so I am glad to not have had to put them all up when the mount was in the sky.

    Array complete!

    Trench ran next to the electric meter. I used a bag on a rope and a vacuum to pull the rope thru and then pull the wire thru with the rope. I used 1 inch conduit and 6awg wire. 8 gauge for the ground wire.

    Outdoor shutoff

    Connection from the Q cable that connects on the panels to the wire going thru the conduit. I just used waterproof wire nuts inside the box.

    Inside the conduit runs down into a box with the Envoy and then out the side right into the electrical panel. Blue and white wires are from the CTs that measure inflow and outflow from the utility.

    After install was complete it took a few days for the electrical inspector to come look and everything was in order. After that it took the utility a few days to do their own inspection. Then another few days for them to come replace my meter and I was able to turn it on!
    So far I am quite pleased with it all.

    Cost break down
    $4208: 16 Panels themselves
    $2822- 16 Micro inverters
    $499: 1 Enphase IQ Envoy
    $48:2 consumption CTs
    $287: Q cable
    $945: Shipping on above items plus panels and inverters for FIL. He paid half even tho he was getting 10 panels of his own only-
    $4698: Montana solar mount
    $1680: 10 inch dia 21’ pipe

    $125: Solar Application to utility company
    $271: 1 inch electric conduit and fittings

    $411: Wiring
    $446: Concrete
    $70: Outdoor disconnect
    $160: County electric permit and inspection-
    $273: Random other bits and pieces

    Grand total: $16,523.39

    So far my electric bills have been $5, $4, and $60. 60 dollar one is when we got a lot more clouds and started to use some electric heat while our wood stove was still out of commission.

    Random pictures of consumption/ production

    Picture of lifetime production. Red square is the LG panel.
    Not a lot of difference so far. The lower panels have been getting a bit of shade this fall as the sun is a lot lower.
    August production and Past month included as well

    Thanks for reading!