Failing Our Mandrel Inspection with PG&E

We were looking forward to today as there were two inspections scheduled.  PG&E was to inspect our underground electrical conduit with a ‘mandrel’ and the City of Monte Sereno was to inspect our solar mounts and the conduit going to the basement. 

We ‘failed’ the mandrel inspection and scheduled another inspection for tomorrow, Wednesday 09/08/10.  The City of Monte Sereno will allow us to proceed with our construction although we owe them some updated documentation.

Failing Our Mandrel Inspection with PG&E

For underground electric service, PG&E inspects the conduit in the ground to ensure it is placed correctly and that it has the appropriate shape.  Then, they allow you to cover the conduit with earth.  The next inspection is with a mandrel.  A mandrel is a device that is pulled through the conduit that is used to verify that there is an adequate clearance through the conduit.  If, for example, one crushed the conduit during backfill then the mandrel would get stuck.

After the mandrel inspection, one must have a 2,500 lb pull tape in the conduit so PG&E can pull their cables through quickly and easily.

The ‘Green Book’ states the following:

Applicants must ensure that conduit systems are not covered or hidden from view before the facilities are inspected visually by a PG&E field inspector. The inspector must determine if the conduit system and its installation comply with all of PG&E’s specifications (e.g., type, size, schedule, radius of bends) and installation requirements before the customer backfills the trench.

After the conduit system passes PG&E’s visual inspection, including visual verification of the conduit system’s materials and the radius of the bends, the applicant must backfill the trench and compact the soil. Then, the applicant must provide PG&E with proof that the conduit system is in compliance by successfully inserting and pulling a flexible steel mandrel through the entire conduit system.

The PG&E inspector will remain onsite to ensure that the appropriately sized, flexible-steel mandrel is inserted and pulled through the length of the conduit system without encountering blockages or obstructions.

The PG&E inspector will provide a mandrel to the applicant for him or her to use during the inspection. The applicant, however, must provide the appropriate pulling tape and follow the procedures in Subsection B, below, for using the mandrel.

Bryan was waiting patiently at the job site for the inspector to arrive this morning.   When the inspector arrived, he came onto our job site and Bryan asked, ‘Where is your mandrel?’  The inspector replied, ‘The Green Book is wrong, we don’t supply the mandrel.  You do.’

Pardon me?  The Green Book is wrong?  It is fascinating that everyone at PG&E refers to the Green Book as the authoritative manual relating to all of PG&E’s procedures for residential construction.  Several times, we have been told by PG&E personnel that we should refer to their policies as set forth in the Green Book.  Here is a link to PG&E’s web site where the ‘What Has Changed‘ (updated 04/2010).  Note subsection 3.4.1, which states:

Add a paragraph saying that the PG&E inspector should provide the mandrels for the customer to use during an inspection. The PG&E inspector will provide a mandrel to the applicant for him or her to use during the inspection. The applicant, however, must provide the appropriate pulling tape and follow the procedures in item B, for using the mandrel.

So, the authoritative reference, the Green Book, is wrong.  We’ve lost faith in PG&E.  It is most fascinating how they can ‘suck and blow’ at the same time.

After the PG&E inspector had left, Bryan called the Inspection Desk and requested a new mandrel inspection for tomorrow.  Yes, the PG&E inspector will return between 7:30 am and 2:30 pm.

Bryan went to Electrical Distributors in San Jose and bought a mandrel for a 3-inch underground service and 50 ft of 2,500 lb pulling tape.  Both of which meet PG&E’s specifications.

Back to the job site and Bryan pulled the mandrel through the conduit easily and quickly.  We’re ready for tomorrow.

Inspecting Our Solar Mounts and Conduit

The Building Official from the City of Monte Sereno showed up this afternoon.  He reviewed the plans and looked at our progress on the roof.  Akeena Solar made some changes in the field so our Building Official requires an updated set of plans to show what was built.

Bryan met with Duk Lee after the inspection and explained what we need.  Akeena will file two (2) copies of the updated plans with the City of Monte Sereno.

We’re good to go with the tapered insulation on our flat roofs.

Mandrel to go through our 3-inch conduit.  Note the rope on the left and the 2,500 lb pulling tape on the right.

Mandrel to go through our 3-inch conduit. Note the rope on the left and the 2,500 lb pulling tape on the right.

Rope coming out of the 400 amp panel.  This rope is attached to the mandrel, which must pass through the conduit to the concrete vault by the street.

Rope coming out of the 400 amp panel. This rope is attached to the mandrel, which must pass through the conduit to the concrete vault by the street.

The rope coming out of the conduit where the concrete vault will be located at the street.  Lets see if the mandrel goes through the conduit ...

The rope coming out of the conduit where the concrete vault will be located at the street. Let's see if the mandrel goes through the conduit ...

It worked!  The mandrel came through the conduit quickly and easily.  We're ready for the mandrel inspection tomorrow.

It worked! The mandrel came through the conduit quickly and easily. We're ready for the mandrel inspection tomorrow.

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