Even when systems are installed with top notch workmanship and thorough inspections by third party commissioning agents such as PV Pros, it doesn’t ensure the system will stay that way year in and year out. Mother Nature puts a lot of wear and tear on your systems.
Here are examples of issues that were not present during installation or commissioning but popped up in the subsequent year(s) of operation. This is why annual and semi-annual preventive maintenance is so important.
Soiling – Dust, dirt, leaves, bird droppings… the lower the tilt or drier the climate the worse it gets.
Animals Nesting – This is a major fire hazard. You don’t want animals creating nests, chewing through wiring, and igniting the leaves and dry materials.
Ballast Degradation – In early years of solar, not everyone was wise to the need to use blocks that meet ASTM C1491 and will hold up against moisture and freeze-thaw cycles. We still see some systems being installed today without proper concrete ballast blocks. You may not realize inferior block was slipped in until you see this:
Conduit Separation – Summer’s heat and winter’s cold causes expansion and contraction that pulls apart connections. Separated conduits then lead to water infiltration as shown in the following photo.
Water Infiltration – Connections may appear tight during installation, but sometimes work their way loose and let water into enclosures. Even if its not pouring out of an enclosure, just a little condensation is enough for internal components to rust and corrode, significantly shortening its lifespan.
Vegetation – This isn’t just an aesthetics issue, the plants are blocking the air flow around the equipment causing it to run hotter and shorten its lifespan. Vegetation around the array doesn’t just cause shading losses, the pollen creates additional soiling losses.
Thermal Failure – Imminent failure often isn’t visible with the naked eye. But taking thermal IR images of the equipment and connections will show something running hot, indicating a malfunctioning device (such as the circuit breaker in this picture). IR imaging lets us locate issues and fix them before it results in extended downtime.
Standing Water – Clogged drains cause water to build up. Racking and components are designed to be rained on, but not be submerged for extended periods of time. Clogged drains shorten the life of components, and in the winter don’t allow the snow to melt.