Well – I finally got my first lesson with the Solar Pathfinder. On a recent visit to the top of an undisclosed Missoula-area mountain, I was guided through the solar site assessment process using the Solar Pathfinder. It was really quite user friendly, once I got in there.
First, we did a visual assessment of the landscape for the potential array. This zone is south facing with an open area for a land-mounted array and limited tree interference form the East and West. (see photo)
Second, we set up the Solar Pathfinder toward the middle of the array. I had to level the top surface and line up the compass with North. It was much easier than I expected. (Tidbit: I’d have to be off by as much as 20-degrees on the compass to really start to affect the numbers on our read out!)
Third, we put the dome over the top of the “map” in order to see what solar interference there would be, if any. (see photo). In the old days outlines of the trees were drawn by hand on paper solar maps. Today we are able to take this photo and enter into a computer program to get the read out for the assessment.
As this photo shows, there is minimal interference by a couple trees in the far-East and -West of the sun’s path, and only at certain times of year. We do have permission to remove a couple trees. This, coupled with the use of some micro-inverters (opposed to one inverter for the entire system) will take care of the loss of energy production due to shading.
While the Solar Pathfinder wasn’t too hard to set-up, nor to photograph and read in the field, once our solar gurus started talking maximum loads, array design, racking, installation, etc… I was quickly out of my league and duly impressed with the expertise of our staff.
If you’re interested in a solar site assessment or checking out a cool solar ROI tool, check out this new solar estimator on our website.