Building the Tower

tower for solar panelsI built this tower to hold my solar panels because I wanted them to face due south and be optimized for winter (about a 42 degree angle). The roof faced south-east and had about a 15 degree slope.

The tower is help in place by cement pillars that extend about 4 feet into the ground. They are connected by cross sections that are also underground, and a 4″ thick slab on the surface. The entire mess is tied together with rebar. There is rebar in each pillar that is tied to the bolts that attach the steel tower. The subterranean cross members have rebar that ties into the rebar in the pillars, and the slab also has rebar that is tied to the pillars.

The steel tower has 4 vertical legs that are made from 2″ square steel tubing with 1/8″ walls. The diagonals are 1″ square steel tubing. Everything is welded, and the 4 legs are welded to 1/4″ plates that are bolted to the concrete base.

The deck on top of the tower is constructed of salt treated pine. I just wanted a platform to which I could screw or bolt all of the panels. The closely spaced 2x4s also provide some protection for the back of the solar water heating panel, which is backed by a somewhat flimsy insulation board.

Unfinished deck on solar tower

The beginnings of the wooden deck on the steel tower. I assembled this much of the deck on the ground and hoisted it onto the tower. That was one heavy assembly!

installing PV panels

Here, I am installing the PV (photovoltaic) panels on the tower.

This is me, working on the back side of the tower, after the utility box was mostly completed.

solar tower with water heating panel

An image of the tower after the solar hot water heater was mounted, but not yet plumbed. I had an old water heater there for some testing, but it is not part of the final configuration.

All panels installed and wired

Here is the tower after all of the solar panels were mounted and the utility box was nearly completed.

A more recent view of the tower, with a rain retention system, added.

A more recent view of the tower, with a rain retention system, added.

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