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A small group of journalists and bloggers get a hands-on demonstration of how to install a solar panel system at SunPower's Richmond, California training facility.

Clean Power

How I Installed a Rooftop Solar System in Less than an Hour (with a little help from my friends)

A small group of journalists and bloggers get a hands-on demonstration of how to install a solar panel system at SunPower’s Richmond, California training facility.

A crew of journalists and bloggers get a hands-on demonstration of installing solar panelsThe day before the official start of the Intersolar North American Conference in San Francisco, I joined a small group of journalists and bloggers for a hands-on demonstration of how to install a solar panel system at the SunPower training facility in Richmond. We were met by Senior Technical Trainer Chris Sommerfeld who gave us greenhorn solar installers a brief explanation of the equipment and task at hand.

The facility is designed as a real-world simulation of a typical rooftop installation, Sommerfeld explained. In our case, most of the harder stuff was already done: installing the mounting hardware, wiring the panels, running conduit, installing the inverter, etc. In other words, we were left with the easiest — and most gratifying — part: installing the actual solar panels, connecting the cables (literally a snap), and throwing the switch — making our own power!

Okay, so I admit I didn’t really install a solar panel system in less than an hour. But my colleagues and I saw firsthand the components of a solar power system, even got our hands a little dirty. It was a fun and informative morning. Emmie Lam, Community Development Manager for Sierra Green Home, got to throw the switch.

For more details of our installation, check out Chris Meehan’s article in Clean Energy Authority and check out this video I created:


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is an online publisher, editor, and freelance writer. He is the founder of and the History Blog Project, as well as publisher and site director for the Tom also contributes to numerous environmental blogs, including TriplePundit, Ecopolitology, Sustainablog, and Planetsave.   Tom's work has led him to Europe, Africa, Latin America, Canada, the South Pacific, and across the United States. His home base is San Francisco, California.


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