LAST UPDATED: 17 NOVEMBER 2020
Journal of a Solar Installer: Pigeons, Pests, and Fall Arrests
In most situations installing a solar system yourself is possible with a little ingenuity and a lot of perseverance, however in certain situations it's best to call in the experts. The following lighthearted account illustrates one such example, where hazardous working conditions necessitated specialist skills.
The call came in early on a Monday morning. Pests had taken up residence in a PV system on the north side of town. It’s not uncommon for mice or squirrels to take up residence underneath a PV or thermal system, hence why it’s standard operating procedure at Simple Solar to install a critter guard. But in this case it was no simple terrestrial menace, oh no. It was pigeons!
Yes pigeons. Though often touted as being a rat-free province, Alberta is not free from that rat of the sky, the pigeon. Known for both their intelligence and cunning, pigeons are quick to seize undefended PV systems and claim them as their own. Once entrenched, only a dedicated solar installer with courage in his heart and strength in his arm can rout them. Luckily Simple Solar has just such an installer in Chris, and together with Jeff, the Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, they gathered their tools and set off to meet their foe.
Now Chris is no slouch when it comes to difficult installs; he routinely courts hardship and regards danger as an old friend. He was therefore cautiously optimistic that they could rout the pigeons, install the critter guard, and be back at Simple Solar HQ by noon. This optimism quickly evaporated as they pulled up to the infested building. One look was all it took to know this wouldn’t be easy.
The PV system was situated on a south slopping roof and occupied nigh on nine tenths of it. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The eastern and western sides had precious little space between the array and a long fall into the cavernous depths below. The south side was even worse. With the panels running right up to the edge there was no gap whatsoever between the edge of the array and eternity. Whilst normally a ladder would be used to access these areas and install the critter guard, the lay of the land prohibited such a straightforward approach. Therefore Chris and his faithful sidekick Jeff would have to flank the PV system and come at it from the rear. Resolute, they donned their fall arrest harnesses and set about their unforgiving business.
After installing their roof anchors and mounting the crest of the roof, they set about expelling the pigeons and installing the critter guard on the north side of the system. The going was easy at first, the pigeons, perhaps attempting to lure our brave installers into a false sense of confidence, and certainly aware that the north was their weakest area, quickly retreated to their stronghold on the south side of the array. With the north side secured, Chris and Jeff set about installing the critter guard on the east and west sides. Using their superior calf strength and toe dexterity, and with the protection of their fall arrest gear, they slowly but surely mounted the critter guard on the east and west sides. Now all that was left was the sinister south side.
To the untrained layman the south side may have appeared impossible to tackle. Fall arrest gear is not meant to be relied upon for support and with no roof space to stand on there’s simply no way to get in position to install the critter guard. But intrepid Chris is no layman. Summoning all the aerial skills he could muster and drawing inspiration from Cirque du Soleil, Chris donned his work positioning harness. Unlike fall arrest gear, work positioning gear is relied on for support when there's nowhere left to stand, so, feet positioned on the edge, Chris suspended himself from the rope and cautiously edged out over oblivion. Slip or fall and there’d be nothing for it; his pride would be in tatters as he swung back and forth awaiting rescue, forever being ‘the fall guy’. But his feet held true and as he shooed away the pigeons from their battlements Jeff struck forth with the critter guard. Chris fastened it in position and together they were victorious.
A day that could have ended in disaster, saved by courage and a trusty work positioning harness. The pigeons vanquished, the critter guard installed, today’s job done, for Chris and Jeff it was time to flee the coop.
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