Rooftop assignment


On top of a 9 metre high slightly sloping roof of an engineering workshop is not where I would normally choose to be, but the opportunity to photograph the installation of 132 solar panels was too much to miss.

The installation in Cobram, located on the Murray River in the north of the state, took three days to complete, with commissioning and testing being carried on the fourth day. The first day was pretty uneventful, with the rails and supports being taken onto the roof and fitted. The panels started to be fitted in the middle of the third day, with their completion, including the wiring up, by early afternoon on the third day. The installation of the wiring from the panels to the switchboard including the inverters themselves was going on at the same time, with a power shut down on the third day to connect up the circuits.

Apart from the challenge of overcoming the lack of connection with solid ground, this photoshoot presented a couple of other challenges.

The first of these was the weather, with clear blue skies on the last two days. This of course meant harsh sunlight in the middle of the day made worse because we were facing north. As this resulted in high contrast and major reflections from the galvanised metal roof, I tried to avoid shooting when the sun was at its peak.

The second was the less than solid roof finishes. Unless I was standing on one of the roof purlins below the cladding, there was enough ‘give’ in the metal cladding to make balancing while taking a photograph quite disconcerting. So, I spent a lot of the time crouching or sitting!

As well as learning a bit about solar panel installations, this assignment pushed my comfort levels, which interestingly became less difficult with the number of times I climbed up and down the ladder.

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