Solar on the roof of my storage unit = Raid by police ;-0

PaulHusing Registered User
That's not where it all started, but it definitely happened.

So going back several years, I owned a small business in Virginia Beach, Va that sold, sharpened, engraved and designed knives, yes, knives. The name of the business was Fishbone Knives and later added laser engraving to add on Laser Pros Engraving service. In 2018 we added solar to our facility in Virginia Beach with the nice big array, controllers, inverters and backup batteries. Worked great until we were ousted by that Covid thing in March/April 2020. We tried to hang on as long as possible, even moved some operations to our garage, but eventually had to cease operations due to lack of sales and increasing overhead.

Fast forward to 2023, after some creative service businesses to keep afloat, we decided to revitalize the eCommerce division of the business and start selling online again. For this, we needed warehouse space, but man did that get expensive!  So, we started looking at storage units - in the 400 to 600 square foot range, very hard to find in Virginia Beach. Ultimately we found something that would work, but there was no power. We kindly asked the district manager if we could place a magnetized solar array on the roof and feed a solar generator. After lots of due diligence, they agreed and we set everything up. The system worked great. We were powering lights, laser printers, postage machine printers, laser engravers and some fans during the very hot days of summer - but good things do come to an end. We received 3 rent increases within 1 year and I had to pull the plug, literally.

We decided to leave Virginia Beach for greener pastures. We ended up in Gloucester, Virginia. Great, quiet little town with very friendly people and good infrastructure, except for large self storage units. After calling several facilities, we came across one on Rt 17 that had a good price on a 20 x 20 unit - good enough for our operation at this moment. We moved everything in over a weekend, placed the solar on the roof and were back in business in no time. The solar in Gloucester was amazing. 3 panels at 330W each was producing more power than we needed. But again, good things come to an end.

Early one Monday morning, we got a call from the facilities manager informing us that the local police executed a warrant and raided our unit. Apparently they thought we were running a drug operation, meth lab or some crazy thing. Thankfully once the drug sniffing dogs did their thing, they cleared the unit and deemed that we did nothing wrong. But the owner of the facility had a different opinion. Since everything happened so fast, we didn't ask permission this time and just placed the array on the roof and ran the supply down the downspout and under the door - couldn't even see it from outside. Unless you have a Police helicopter. 

So, we were raided by the police and the owner of the facility made us remove the solar panels from the roof. He did say it was a great solution but he doesn't want the liability, which we understand.  It did however lead me to my new career.

After being self employed for over 20 years, I'm now a commercial solar consultant. I have an electrical engineering degree and have used solar and photovoltaic's for years, but now I'm helping business owners place power companies on their own facilities, and storage facilities are excellent for power generation.

There are so many very large conglomerates that are installing solar systems, it's mind blowing. It really makes sense if you have climate controlled units, or if you're considering climate units. Most facilities that I've been consulting stand to make money in a very short time frame, mostly because of the government grants that cover a big part of the installation costs and then tax incentives. It's really worth a look.

So, with all that said, I'm always more than happy to help out a fellow business owner, operations manager or solar curious individual. 

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