Is your solar PV system an asset or a liability?

solar-install

Astonishingly one in three solar PV systems we examine have serious defects.  The root cause of this startling statistic can be tracked back to the drastic changes made to feed-in tariffs by the Government over the last 4 or 5 years. This created “feast and famine” cycles which has meant that even the good installers have often rushed installations and then not re-checked or inspected them later to make sure they are installed correctly and that all the required documentation is in place. In addition to this there are of course the less scrupulous, albeit MCS accredited, installers who viewed the solar PV market as a opportunity to make short term profits and have sought to maximise those profits often at the customers’ expense by cutting corners to reduce design and installation time and by sourcing cheaper and inevitably less reliable key components  (panels, inverters, roof mounting kits). Those same installers are now no longer around to pick up the pieces having successfully completed their solar PV “smash and grab raid” and moved on to the next “big thing” in a fresh company leaving all their liabilities behind. Storm damage is also a factor but is less of an issue in our experience.

 

The consequences of this firstly are a significant number of installed solar PV systems are not producing the financial and environmental benefits that the customers were expecting when they made their decision to invest in solar PV. Secondly, in many cases, the absence of key documentation including equipment warranties and testing certificates may expose customers unnecessarily to the financial consequences of key component failure and even invalidate insurance policies. Finally, in more extreme cases, the solar PV system may actually expose the unsuspecting customer to health & safety and even fire risks.

To make sure your solar PV system is the asset you wanted and not the liability you didn’t know you had we recommend the following:-

  1. If you are considering installing solar PV then choose an experienced and accredited installer whose core business is solar PV and not some fly by night opportunistic enterprise whose core business is, say, carpet laying, but has got hold of some cheap panels and is looking for a quick profit but is likely to leave your roof looking like a colander in the process;
  1. If you already have an existing solar PV installation then get it inspected immediately by a qualified and accredited solar PV technician. This inspection should cover as a minimum the following:-
  • Visual inspection of the array
  • Voltage testing of system “strings”
  • Irradiation tests
  • Electrical connections
  • Documentation check
  1. Monitor the output of your system constantly as any unexpected or non-weather related changes may indicate a problem. It’s not enough to check the meter readings once a quarter to do the feed-in tariff claim. In the summer months for example failing to spot a problem could lead to 50% of the annual benefits being lost in a matter of months. There are meters you can retro fit that allow for remote monitoring by you or by a third party provider on your behalf so this doesn’t become a burden;
  1. Solar PV is not the “fit and forget” technology that many “unscrupulous” installers made it out to be so to achieve maximum performance maintenance is essential. This maintenance should be carried out by someone with the appropriate equipment, experience and qualifications and as a minimum should cover the following:-
  • Check for dust build up on inverter fans and remove if necessary;
  • Visual inspection of the panels, looking for cracks, defects, discolouration and leaks;
  • Cleaning panels if required;
  • Identification and addressing areas where trees or vegetation have increased shade levels.

 

Randall Edwards

Chairman, Egnida Limited

copyright egnida 2016  |   Company registration number 07670069