Tesla Solar Install - Part 4: Powering Up
By: Harry C. Burch
With the installation of the Tesla Solar Panels and Powerwalls complete, the process of powering up the system could begin. This involved inspections, tests, and utility company installations before Tesla Energy could allow us to turn on the system.
The previous blog described the inspection process and the town's approval of the installation. There was one final inspection that occurred and a system test by Tesla. The final inspection and electrical approval checked from the Tesla Entrance Gateway to the entrance service and meter. This met all of the requirements and final approval was given and conveyed to the utility company.
In addition to the final electrical inspection, Tesla had to perform a system commissioning and test. The Tesla installation team leader and a Tesla electrician arrived to perform a system commissioning. The first task was to do a system software update. Once updated, the team connected the system to the home network and tested the software gateway. They next ensured the solar panels were connected to the network and could communicate status and failures.
Now it was time to test whether the solar panels and Powerwalls would work properly. First, was to turn on the solar panels by turning the switch on the inverter.
[Inverter switch] Then, the Tesla Gateway was opened and the main breaker switch controlling power flow from the power grid was turned off. There was hardly any perceptible change. We saw a quick blink of the lights in the basement, but no one could see any lights on the first floor change. The only thing observable was the TV in the family room turned off and had to be turned on again with the remote.
[Inside of gateway]
Next, the main breaker was turned on. The system does not immediately restore power from the grid as it could be a temporary situation. Rather, the gateway waits for five minutes of uninterrupted grid power before switching back to normal operation. This time there was no perceptible fluctuations.
Once the testing was completed and the system was considered commissioned, the inverter was turned off. The team had completed their work and was going to submit a report so that the utility company could take the next steps.
It was at this time that we encountered problems. The next step was to replace the existing electric meter with a digital networked meter. We waited a few weeks with no action, so we contacted the utility company to find out why nothing had happened. They referred us to the utility's engineer. He checked out the work order and found no need for engineering work and indicated the team would be out to replace the meter.
Weeks went by with no action, so a complaint was filed with the Public Service Commission. The utility responded promptly and said they had not received the Final Commissioning Test Report from Tesla. Many calls were made to Tesla with reassurances from them that we were a "high priority and on the expedited list." I then contacted our lawyer and the Tesla installation team leader. Our lawyer wrote to Tesla Energy as directed in the contract. We contacted the Tesla team leader also and he was surprised that the system was still not active. He said he would contact his manager and ensure the paperwork was sent by Tesla to the utility.
I have no way of knowing which tactic worked, but within a week the utility company was out replacing the old meter with a new digital meter. They were then to notify Tesla of the changeover.
[New digital entrance meter] I kept checking my Tesla account and within a few days the account showed that it was time for me to turn on our system! With a great deal of excitement, I checked the Tesla website to be sure I had everything ready, then went to the basement and flipped on the inverter. The solar panels came on and the Powerwalls began charging.
[Inverter switch on] By the next day, the Powerwalls were charged and we were able to see the solar panels providing power to the house, to the Powerwalls, and even to the grid!
[Screenshot of power to house]
[Screenshot of power to grid]
The week beginning July 22, 2021 was a mix of rainy and sunny days. Nonetheless, over that one week period, our house, with the usual usage including air conditioning, averaged 64.7% self-powered (solar panels plus Powerwalls).
[Screenshot of daily usage]
The excitement of a system using the sun to power our house and to have plenty of power in case the electric grid goes off is just phenomenal. We feel like we're on the cusp of a major revolution in energy generation and usage.
1. Review the contract closely. Consider consulting an attorney about the contract, especially the arbitration option.
2. Be on location with the survey electrician and the installation team to answer any questions and make final decisions.
3. Be sure to have the installation team leader's contact information.
4. Make contact with your utility company and stay in contact.
5. If your electric meter has to be replaced, contact Tesla frequently. If you don't get a satisfactory response, contact the Tesla installation team leader.
6. Check your Tesla account often, even daily, for the latest information.
7. Don't rely on Tesla to contact you by phone or email, despite what they may say. The information will, however, appear on your account page if there's a change.