Entries by Rick Ivins

Independent Engineering Versus Owner’s Engineering

When companies do not have in-house engineering—or when an independent third-party perspective is required—outsourcing is common practice. This typically involves engaging an independent engineer (IE) or an owner’s engineer (OE) for professional services. Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, independent and owner’s engineers differ in meaningful ways. Understanding the differences between an IE […]

Best Practices Versus Code Compliance

Technical due diligence is essential to solar project success in commercial, industrial and utility applications. Large PV power systems are capital-intensive expenditures with a service life of 30 years or more. If these assets do not operate reliably and perform as expected, project financiers, owners and developers are at risk of reduced investment returns. Mitigating […]

What is Technical Debt?

Technical Debt is the cost to the system owner as a result of prior decisions made to save time or money during the engineering, procurement, or installation of a solar project. Technical Debt is a metaphor for the difference between the value you paid for the solar system and the value of the system you […]

3rd Party Drawing Reviews Reduce Risk

PV Pros has been helping our clients de-risk in their assets with our independent engineering and owner’s representative services. We specialize in the complex technical aspects of due diligence, allowing you to focus on the financial and management side of asset ownership. Long before a system completes construction and starts its 25+ year generation life, […]

Under-Performance – Part 2: Soiling, Snow, & Shade

Modules can underperform for a variety of environmental and non-environmental factors.  With good design and operation practices we can mitigate non-environmental factors. However, we cannot control the environment. We can only predict its behavior, and in turn verify or discount its effect on under-performance. What are the main environmental drivers? There are a variety of unique […]

Under-Performance – Part 1: The Sun’s Potential

Modules can underperform for a variety of environmental and non-environmental factors.  With good design and operation practices we can mitigate non-environmental factors. However, we cannot control the environment. We can only predict its behavior, and in turn verify or discount its effect on under-performance. Why is this important for owners and financiers?  Knowing the true risks […]

Effects of COVID-19 on the Solar Industry

We spend a lot of time on the phone with our clients and vendors, and he put together the common themes he is hearing on the effects of COVID19: In general, all industries have been affected in some way. Some directly affected like health care, first responders, retail, tourism, sports, and events. Help those people […]

Conduct Due Diligence In-House or Hire a Specialist?

As covered in our previous articles in this series (Article 1, Article 2, Article 3), conducting technical due diligence before a purchase/acquisition is essential for reducing risk and operating expense. If it’s so important, should you do this work in house? There is one big reason to consider doing the work in-house: it can be […]

Acquiring Existing Photovoltaic Systems

A Photovoltaic (PV) System may change hands multiple times over its 20+ year operational lifespan. The buyer and seller in each transaction may view the same project or portfolio from very different perspectives. Simply put, the seller will negotiate for the highest price and the buyer will negotiate for the lowest price. Ideally, the sale […]

Photo of the Week: Wire Management Practices

Array wire management is an area where different materials and practices are deployed. There is no 1-size-fits-all and there are a lot of great products out there to get the job done correctly. Whether you are using clips, ties, or harnesses, the product needs to be installed properly. This month’s image shows a vinyl coated, […]

2017 Asset Management and Performance Conference

PV Pros Director discusses the needs of O&M team integration in PV Plant Design/Build Phase By Chris Grablutz Operation and Maintenance teams understand the long-term effects that design and build decisions can have on PV system performance. This year’s Solar Power World Asset Management and Performance conference had a consistent message that operation and maintenance […]

Photo of the Week: Enclosure Mounting

Enclosures are designed to be mounted from the designed mounting holes or brackets. These mounting locations are engineered to distribute the weight evenly and support the enclosure frame. Drilling additional mounting holes can weaken the enclosure causing it to become detached and exposing live conductors. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for mounting and use the recommended […]

Photo of the Week: Splice Box Maintenance

Wire Splices are a common point of failure that that can be prevented by annual inspections. Inspecting all raceway enclosures for water intrusion, debris, and proper terminations. Splices should be spaced and secured to prevent expansion/contraction wear and tear. Wear proper PPE and keep an ABC fire extinguisher within arm’s reach when opening an enclosure […]

Photo of the Month: PVC Conduits

PVC conduits are acceptable when used properly (lots of expansion joints). Metallic conduits (EMC, IMC, RGS) are more expensive, but should be in areas subject to physical contact with other items (such as riser up walls, in electrical rooms, etc). This was a high quality installation of PVC and ordinarily wouldn’t be subject to physical […]

Photo of the Month: Corrosion

NEMA 3R and 4 inverters and outdoor cabinets may be rated for outdoor use, but any scratches in the paint will expose the metal to rusting. Once the rust gets a foothold, it will quickly spread. In this case, the corrosion should be sanded, primed, and painted.

Photo of the Month: Improper Raceway

This installer gets full points for creativity, but fails miserably for inappropriate construction means and methods. These cables are not protected from physical damage, and they are not outdoor rated so the UV rays will deteriorate the cables causing premature failure.

Photo of the Month: Maintain Vegetation

Two things went wrong here. First, the vegetation was not maintained, allowing it to grow tall enough to shade the modules and cover the modules in lots of pollen. The second mistake is improper seeding. If the site has proper low-growing ground cover, the weeds would not grow tall like this!

Photo of the Month: Wire Management

At this site, the intermodule wiring is zip-tied to the rails but the string homeruns are laying loose on the roof, which is poor workmanship. Over time the rough shingles will wear away on the insulation compromising its integrity and putting the system at risk for faults. In the winter, snow and ice will surround […]

Photo of the Month: Mysterious Water in Enclosures

During O&M we often find combiner boxes and disconnect switches with water inside them, despite the box being NEMA 4 and fully gasketed, no top or side penetrations, and weather tight connectors properly installed. Where is the water coming from? The water enters the enclosure as moisture in the air, which later condenses into water. […]

Photo of the Month: Irresponsible Inverter Repair

While conducting O&M on a Satcon 250kW central inverter, we noticed this fan with an object lodged between the blades. After inquiring with the owner, we learned another O&M company was called in to repair a squealing fan bearing. Apparently, rather than replacing the fan they opted to stop the noise by stuffing cardboard inside […]

Photo of the Month: Standing on Modules

I appreciate Shoal’s new arc fault technology as shown in this advertisement, however I was shocked to see the photo of a man standing on PV modules. This is a reminder that you can not stand on solar PV modules like this if you expect them to last 25 years. Standing on the modules creates […]

Photo of the Month: Awful Wire Management

We were called out to investigate a performance issue at a site, and were shocked to see this wire management. We suspect the AHJ made this contractor install physical protection after the strings were installed, which is why the contractor cut the PVC conduit in half, wrapped it around the wires, and zip-tied it back […]

Photo of the Month: Dangerous Cable Tray

At this site, cable tray was used for wire management between subarrays. The wind deflector was cut with jagged edges literally pressing against the wiring. Who does this?! The sharp edges are certainly dangerous. But is it just the start of the dangerous cable tray installation at this site. As you can see in the […]

2 Important Settings for Thermal (IR) Cameras

Thermal (IR) cameras are a great tool for preventative maintenance and inspection of your PV system. With a little thermography “know-how” and some image focusing, problems can be discovered quickly before they create a fault or safety hazard in the PV system. Below are issues that can lead to a system fault that the infrared […]

Photo of the Month: Improper Edge Setback

There was ample space on the roof, but the installer placed the modules right up against the parapet wall where it would it would be heavily shaded in the afternoons year round. Additionally, the fire code NFPA 1 requires a minimum of 6′ around the perimeter to facilitate emergency responders. This installation violates both code […]