The safe and successful long-term operation of a solar asset can be assured through an independent quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) inspection. Solar asset owners can significantly reduce the cost of corrective maintenance (CM) – helping to maximize PV system uptime and ROI – by conducting a thorough QA/QC inspection.
Anna Waters, VP, Commercial Operations at Omnidian, has seen several systems fully shut down not long after energization because a QA/QC was not performed. The root cause can often be tied to workmanship.
“A seemingly cosmetic item can eventually become a big problem,” Waters says. “One inverter going down causes some frustrating system downtime, but it may also signal a more serious safety issue that sets off enough alarm bells to take down an entire portfolio for an extended period of time.”
O&M Starts with QA/QC
Many solar PV system issues that will require CM can be caught right after installation during an independent QA/QC. A thorough QA/QC can identify workmanship errors or oversights that will result in immediate equipment failures, safety hazards, or worst case, thermal events. On-site inspections can also uncover issues that might go unnoticed until years down the road, providing long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) savings for system owners.
“Addressing any workmanship issues while the installer’s crew is still on site will save the asset owner time and money, and help optimize energy production,” says Waters. “Those will be workmanship issues, which if identified early, will prevent potential safety concerns and ensure peak production and return on investment from your asset.”
No C&I System is Too Small
Smaller solar asset owners might consider skipping QA/QC thinking it doesn’t pencil – but according to recently released industry statistics, bypassing QA/QC is a risky calculation, regardless of system size.
HelioVolta, a software developer and independent technical advisory and inspection service provider in the Omnidian field service network, recently published internal data showing a majority of their PV inspections (62%) find critical or major safety issues. The SolarGrade PV Health Report analyzed more than 60,000 PV system health datapoints from hundreds of independent project assessments conducted from 2021 to 2023. Seventy-five percent of the projects inspected are installed on commercial rooftops in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, with system sizes ranging from 100 kW to 350 MW.
- 62% of inspections found safety issues such as overheating components or improperly installed equipment.
- 59% of all issues are related to wire management and field-made solar connectors.
- 91% of Critical/Major Issues are in dc distribution (74% of all issues)
Minimizing CM with Monitoring
That initial QA/QC will grab a lot of low hanging fruit to prevent corrective maintenance, but the conditions of electrical equipment exposed to elements will always be variable. Staying ahead of CM on a more ongoing basis requires a thorough preventive maintenance (PM) plan, including:
- 24/7 proactive monitoring
- Annual preventive maintenance site inspections
- Aerial infrared (IR) inspection.
“Having a strong preventive maintenance plan is like a health check on how your site is doing; you wouldn’t want to skip your own physician checkups,” Waters says. “You could decide to instead budget for corrective maintenance, but you never know when or if it’s going to happen.”
All of these services can be handled by different subcontractors, but juggling multiple O&M service providers can slow response times. Given how crucial a PM plan is for a solar PV asset – from QA/QC to ongoing monitoring to on-site work – sourcing it all from one provider ensures nothing falls through the microcracks.
With Omnidian’s 24/7 monitoring and nationwide network of vetted field service providers (with built-in regional redundancy), we are sure to stay on top of any system issue and address it on-site when it makes the most financial sense for the solar asset owner.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By investing the resources up front, PV system owners and operators can realize production gains via increased asset uptime, a reduction in CM needs and operating expenses, and an improved internal rate of return (IRR).
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