The PV rack turned out to be one of the most difficult components to rebuild. Although the bandits did not take the PV rack, in their mad dash efforts to remove and steal our valuable PV panels, they did manage to leave the rack system horribly mangled and more-or-less useless to us. Due to a lack of mechanical and structural expertise, our preliminary designs for the new rack weren’t fully functional (each panel weighs roughly 40 lbs. and must be able to safely travel down the highway at speeds of 65 mph; headwinds encountered on the highway must also be considered). In the name of safety and a long lasting system, we decided to work with local professional John Davis at Solar Racks to build the new PV rack. For John’s efforts, we traded him a couple of 60 W monocrystaline PV panels that had been lying around the CCAT house and had not been put to use in some years; because we are a worthy NGO, John also gave us a good deal on materials. By working with John we were able to give several students the opportunity to work in a metal working shop and receive hands-on experience with building solar racks (*ADD PHOTOS*).
The final design for the rack was a stationary flat-mount (i.e. 0 degree tilt) rack. This design was ultimately chosen for three reasons. The first reason is that a flat mount simplified the design and minimized materials cost. Second, we figured that a flat-mount rack would be much safer than a tilted or adjustable rack for the mobile system. The logic here was that if we were to make an adjustable rack, we would run the risk of someone accidentally leaving it 45 degrees during transport (which is likely since CCAT has a very high turn around rate of employees who don’t always know the finer details of how the systems at CCAT work). Additionally, the rope and pulley system used for the adjustable rack on the MEOW V1 was not devoid of problems: the rack required the careful attention of two people to raise and lower the panels and the rack reportedly bowed at critical points
(*ADD LINK*). The third reason we went with the flat mount is that our analysis showed we would only lose XX kWh/year ( XX%) in energy production as opposed to a tilted rack system ( 41 degrees), and would lose XX kWh/year ( XX%) with an adjustable rack. We decided the risks and costs of a tilted/adjustable rack didn’t outweigh the benefit of the additional XX%/ XX% electricity we would receive.
===Wiring the System===
2 shows the monthly and annual estimates for the amount of electricity (kWh) the MEOW V2 is capable of producing. The calculations use NREL data for the solar resource in Arcata, CA (2nd column) and the monthly shading profile in the CCAT driveway (3rd column). The calculations also consider a total system efficiency of 85% (93% for the inverter, 95% for the batteries, and 96% for wire losses and module soiling).