Last time we went through my first adjustment to the original plan when we had to factor my Tesla into the needed power generation. It turns out that was the easy part as we got into the next stage of the design with Solar City.

Design dilemmas

Barn DesignI don’t claim to understand all the engineering that goes into planning for a solar installation but to the homeowner there are 3 things that really matter:

  1. How many panels will be installed and what will the configuration be? (aesthetics)
  2. Where will the inverters/ground/wall items be installed? (aesthetics & function)
  3. What will annual production be and what will I be charged for it? (value)

For each of these areas Solar City made mistakes. We were very clear when we started the process that we didn’t want partial roof coverage of the panels – i.e. right half of a single roof surface. This is our house and we want it to look good. They made this mistake multiple times as we had to adjust things and changing this each time was a month-long process.

In the end getting the layout right came down to me having to provide specific advice despite having no experience in this area and insufficient information to do that with. The communications path between the sales people you get to speak to and the mysterious engineering team back at headquarters is terrible.

Customer design input with Solar City is pretty flawed

On the farm side, they placed the inverters in front of doorways in the designs. When I pointed this out (note that they visited my property 3 times and took tons of pictures), they didn’t seem concerned and just said the installer would put them in a better location. So much for engineering design. It’s not clear what the point of the design was if they don’t end up following it.

Inverters were placed in front of doors in the design.

Design complete?

After multiple rounds with Solar City to get the designs where we wanted them to be we thought the hard part was done. It turns out that the hard part had yet to start – our power company wasn’t involved yet…

More on power company struggles in the next part of this series.