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Snipes Farm Installs New Solar System

Snipes Farm and Education Center is run by 11th-generation Bucks County farmers who are the 7th generation to farm on the land that Snipes Farm currently sits on. They’ve been a Morrisville institution since 1808 and a non-profit since 2008. It’s safe to say that we’re proud to have them in our portfolio. 

In the early 2000s, Snipes Farm’s owners decided to invest in a solar system. They were friends with Exact Solar’s original owners, Mark and Dara Bortman, but at that time, Exact Solar only installed solar water heaters. So, Snipes Farm’s owners decided to go with an out-of-state company. 

That’s when their problems began. 

Among other errors, the company that installed her first system wired her panels in series, not in parallel. To understand why that’s problematic, imagine a string of old-fashioned Christmas lights. Whenever one panel/piece went out in her system, the whole string stopped producing power. This wouldn’t have been a huge problem, except when she would call her installer to try to get her system serviced, she could never get them to send anyone out to fix it (that company is now out of business). 

An aerial view of our finished project on Snipes Farm

Choosing Exact Solar

Some of our design specs for the Snipes Farm project

When she was finally fed up with the troubles of her first solar system, she reached out to us. We got to work designing the kind of high-quality, low-maintenance solar system that someone who runs a non-profit centered around educating their community deserves. 

The farm’s owners wanted to reduce their electricity bills drastically. There’s a private golf course on the Snipes Farm complex with giant floodlights that run through most of the summer, and they wanted to offset most of that usage. We designed a 108-panel, 58 kW PV system that offsets 85% of their peak energy usage in the summertime. 

We spoke to the utility company on behalf of Snipes Farm and got project approval for our designs.

Because Snipes Farm is in a rural area and its solar system was built in a field, we didn’t need to ground-mount it with racking as we did with West Rockhill Township. For this project, we built a ballasted system using EcoFoot2+ components

Ballasted systems are used on flat roofs and level ground. Rather than using racking, solar panels are clamped in place on “feet” that are weighted down with bricks. Ballasted systems are advantageous in areas that don’t have high wind. Engineers triple-check the numbers before using these systems, if wind is too much of a threat in your area, it may be necessary to use racking and ballast. 

The Installation Process

Before installing the new system, we had to disassemble the old one. Here’s how the old system was set up. We’d like you to notice a few things in the system below and keep them in mind as we show you the system we built.

Snipes Farms’ original solar system.
  1. Notice the wiring on the bricks at the forefront of the picture. It’s running through intermittent plastic tubes, meaning that large sections are just exposed to the elements, waiting to be chewed on by critters and short-circuited by water. 
  2. The bricks used for ballast were eroding and falling apart because they were made of cheap materials. Over time, these bricks could have eroded, leaving nothing to weigh the system down. 

After we pulled most of the old system apart, we stacked the old panels neatly out of the way and started cleaning the ground to make way for the new system. 

The Snipes Farms job site after we completed our prep work.

Once that was out of the way, it was time to work on the new system! Ballasted systems are straightforward and much easier to build than most other systems. After disassembling the previous system, we got to work leveling the ground. Below, you can see the “feet” that we used as the foundation of our system. 

The new “feet” that will hold down the solar panels.

Next, we started attaching panels. Notice how the bricks fit perfectly into the feet in the image below. They’re not just sitting in an open trough, like in the first picture. They’re much higher quality so that they won’t erode over time. 

Snipes Farms’ new system taking shape.

At Exact Solar, durability is important to us. We build our systems to stand the test of time. Notice in the picture below how all wiring inside the metal conduit is protected from the elements. Though you can’t see it, every conduit junction has a small hole drilled in the bottom so that any water that gets in can drain out without harming the wiring. Compare that to the first picture with the wiring partially uncovered and laid out on bricks. 

All wiring on the system is completely protected.

Isn’t it beautiful watching something come together? 

Snipes Farms’ new solar system is almost finished!

Once we finished putting it together and rewiring the junction box, it was time to clean up, close everything up, and turn the system on. We finished building the system in April 2023, but it wasn’t until July 2023 that the Snipes started to see the benefits on their PECO bill. That’s one of the realities of investing in a solar system—things take time!

Now that the system’s fully functional, however, the Snipes are loving it. 

Are You Ready to Join the Exact Solar Family?

Susan Snipes has become a solar evangelist. Since the system was installed, she and her family have given a few prospective customers tours of their solar system as a favor to Exact Solar since it was installed. We hope to feature them on the ASES national solar tour this year! 

That’s what leveraging 19 years of experience gets you! A pain-free experience going solar with a company that’s built thousands of systems in almost two decades of operation. The comfort of that your installer will still be around to service your system when you need them.

Are you ready to invest in a solar system built right? Contact us to set up a free, low-pressure consultation. We are your local solar experts!

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