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How did you make this website?

See below for 2010 visitor stats.

The conceptual design for the site was based on feedback from real people I’ve talked to about our solar array. As I talked to people about it, I kept a list of the common questions and ideas they had. Eventually that list got massaged into the basic structure of this website: information about our system, information about the microFIT program, and information about solar power in general.

For my “day job”, I am a co-founder and Technical Architect at Freeform Solutions. Freeform is a not-for-profit organization that helps other not-for-profits use technology, and one of the things I do there is build websites. So actually building the site wasn’t a stretch.

The site is built on Wordpress, the number one website content management system for plain and simple websites. Besides the core Wordpress package, I’m using a few “plugins” that add some extra features: Contact Form 7 for the contact form, Exclude Pages from Navigation to remove certain “sub” pages from the menus, Exec-PHP to let me drop in PHP code wherever I want, Lightbox Gallery to make the fancy photo gallery, WP Unformatted to turn off auto-formatting features when necessary, and My Page Order to make it easy to re-organize the pages.

The look of the site is based on the “theme” Titan by The Theme Foundry.

All the data about the performance of the solar array is captured in real time by a computer in my house, using a software program called SG-View. It was written by a solar expert in Florida, specifically for monitoring the output of Xantrex GT inverters (it’s a slightly improved version of GT-View, the official Xantrex software for monitoring their inverters, which was written by the same guy).

The computer is connected directly to the inverter by a special cable, an Edgeport/1, which connects the serial port of the inverter to a USB port on the computer. The SG-View software then reads the information coming from the inverter and, once a minute, it logs the data and sends a screenshot to the website via FTP.

Once a day, at about 10pm, SG-View sends the entire daily log to the website via FTP. At around 10:15pm the website processes any new log its received and updates all the information in the site that depends on the performance numbers. It also generates the daily and monthly graphs and yearly graphs. All that processing and graph creation is done using PHP scripts I wrote specifically for the job. The graphs rely on the pChart library for PHP, with the hover effect on bar graphs supplied by the overLIB javascript library. The thumbnail images are generated by Chris Tomlinson’s thumb.php file.

At about 6am each day, the website also computes the sunrise and sunset times for the day and logs those, and it contacts Weather Underground to get the day’s weather forecast and logs that too (we used to use Google’s free API, but they abruptly turned it off in August 2012). The sunrise and sunset times are calculated using some PHP code written by Radek Piekarz that I modified a bit.

The power consumption and export graphs are generated on an irregular basis from data that I download from the Toronto Hydro website. We have access there to logs from the meters on our own house. The graphs are made using a custom script I wrote to read the logs, and the pChart library for PHP to make the images.

2010 Visitor Stats (from Google Analytics, since June 8, 2010)


  • 1,300 visitors, from 41 countries/territories
  • 3,100 visits
  • 11,000 “hits”
  • 77% of visitors were from Canada
  • 50% of Canadian visitors were from Toronto
  • Average length of visit: about 4 minutes
  • Average number of pages per visit: three-and-a-half

Top ten most visited pages in the website

  1. Current status of the solar array
  2. Historical Graphs and Logs
  3. Photos of our solar array under construction
  4. How much money do you make?
  5. How much did our system cost?
  6. How much power can our system produce?
  7. What are the parts of our system, how does it work?
  8. Links and resources
  9. How much power do you get from solar panels?
  10. What is the microFIT program?

How visitors got here