Future-Proofed: Solar and Backup Power Installation

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Future-Proofed: Solar and Backup Power Installation

The most complex residential solar and backup power installation project installed by Freedom Solar Power was completed in northwest Austin in 2021. Our team was inspired by the homeowner’s desire to pass along a property to his family that is not only capable of producing enough power to zero-out his energy bills, but also provides peace-of-mind during grid outages and unpredictable weather.

Freedom enlisted the in-house expertise of its most senior NABCEP certified design engineers, a Master Electrician and three journeyman Electricians, a seasoned four-person solar installation crew led by another Journeyman Electrician, as well as office operational support. All work was self-performed by Freedom, except for any work requiring the involvement of vetted and certified third party professionals related to the property’s existing telecommunications networks, gas service, gutters, and irrigation systems.

We Take Pride in Quality Craftsmanship
The project was no easy feat, but Freedom Solar was determined to make the homeowners’ dream come true. “Paul was motivated by something bigger than himself; he wants this to be a place for his family to be secure for decades. Because of the intricacies involved, I couldn’t recommend anyone besides Freedom Solar to do a job like that,” said James Garbo, Energy Consultant. “He had high expectations that set the bar above our past projects, and it motivated us to reach it. We were able to rise to the occasion, check all of his boxes and get the job done better than anyone else could have.”

Freedom and the homeowner set out to accomplish three things:

  1. 100% offset of the homeowners electrical consumption via solar panel production
  2. Battery back-up for critical loads at both the garage and main house
  3. Future-proofing of the electrical capacity of the entire property

A Path to Future-Proofing
The most in-depth aspects of the project included a 200’ trench around the back of the house, a 45’ utility-grade-trench into the street, and the complete relocation of the house’s gas service. Most importantly, the upgrade of the property’s main electrical service from 200 AMPS to 320 AMPS, were all planned and managed through multiple and extensive pre-construction planning meetings with the various parties involved including the electrical and gas utility providers and city inspection officials.

The installation of the 69 premium SunPower 415 watt AC solar modules with G-Series Factory Integrated Microinverters took only a single day. The extensive trenching took five business days to complete. The electrical work, including the upgrade of the garage and main house electrical panels, required two days of prep work and a third day of primary work, during which the electrical team performed a controlled outage with the Utility to upgrade the property’s service to 320 AMPS.

There were a total of ten inspections for this project across 3 separate permits. Every inspection passed on the first attempt. Since final commissioning of the system, the homeowner reports a net credit electric bill, even though the property has three air-conditioners, an all-electric SUV, and a climate-controlled 1900 square foot garage.

Tesla Powerwalls
Two 13.5 kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries were mounted inside the garage. All critical house loads are backed up by the two Tesla Powerwalls in the event of a grid outage. Underground conduit connecting the Tesla Powerwall’s circuits to the main house electrical panel was upsized in the event that the homeowner chooses to add more battery backup in the future.

Trenching
200 feet of trenching at a depth of 12” from main electrical service at house through the backyard to garage electrical service sub-panel. Within the 200’ trench there are 3 separate utility-grade schedule 80 underground PVC conduits, “future-proofed” and upsized (both conduit diameter and wire amperage) to allow for potential solar and/or battery backup additions.

  • 1 conduit for garage sub-panel feeder wire
  • 1 conduit for solar feeder wire
  • 1 conduit for Powerwall battery backup feeder wire

Trench was covered with concrete before covered with sod, to ensure that depth and coverage met all applicable utility inspection requirements.

Another 45 feet of utility-grade trenching at a depth of 36” from the main electrical service at house panel to the Austin Energy utility pull-box at the street.

Within the 45’ trench there is one 3” utility grade schedule 80 underground PVC conduit to allow for upgrading 320 AMP service feeders from Austin Energy transformers up the street. Throughout all trenching, the sod was carefully removed, replaced and returned to original state.

Getting the Job Done, the Right Way
This project was a perfect union of high expectations on an intricate and custom job and Freedom Solar’s dedication coming to fruition. Most solar companies would have turned away from this job due to the complicated nature of it, but we had the expertise to get the job done the right way. With moving the gas service and water spigots, rerouting the gutters and replacing the soil within the trenches, the completion of this project was a major win. Not to mention it taking place during the epic winter storm of February 2021 – Freedom Solar field workers, together with our founder Adrian Buck, rallied together to work through freezing temperatures because of how much it meant to the homeowner.

“At no point did I ask for the cheapest way to get solar power. I wanted the best engineering, installation and equipment to maximize the solar benefits. I asked that they future-proof the design, so extra conduit was run underground and the cable sizes were increased to allow more amperage when needed. I installed the maximum number of solar panels allowed by the City of Austin for this house based on past power needs. The solar power installation complements my ability to charge electric vehicles from anywhere in the garage (for free). I wanted this project to be something to be proud of and by not cutting corners, I have a system that is easily expandable.”

Paul c., homeowner

Estimated Cost Offset
In September 2021 the electricity bill would have been $331.74 without solar. With solar, the bill was a $54 credit. Solar provides a true forward-looking vision and the flexibility to further enhance the home’s energy efficiency and independence well into the future.

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