Spring cleaning also applies to solar! After harsh exposure to winter’s snow, ice, and rain, systems benefit from routine inspection and maintenance. This ensures performance will be optimal as the season progresses.
Why is this important for owners and financiers?
The solar peak generation season is April through September. Unplanned outages in this season costs the owner more in lost revenue.
Typical ground mount system seasonal performance in the North East US:
What gets done during a PM?
Planned maintenance involves a few key tasks:
Step 1 – Visual Inspection and Repair
Weather, landscaping, insects, dirt and debris can all contribute to equipment degradation, which can lead to full breakdown. We look for:
- Wire management integrity. Broken wires lead to arc faults and stoppages or worse…fires.
- Inspect structural components for lose hardware and signs of corrosion.
- Filter cleaning for inverters or any ventilated equipment. This prevents overheating and derated performance in the upcoming summer months.
- Removal of pest and vermin nests and debris buildup from modules, racking and equipment enclosures. When found inside enclosures, sealing the ingress point to prevent future intrusion.
- Ensure all meteorological instrumentation are mechanically sound, clean and oriented as expected.
Step 2 – Diagnostic Inspection and Repair
Some issues require a more in-depth inspection utilizing specialized tools:
- Infra-Red (IR) scans of all major electrical terminations. This insures proper continuity and eliminates overheating.
- Aerial (IR) scans of the solar array. This is the fastest and most thorough way to spot both hotspots and cold spots, allowing for follow up repairs.
- IV curve traces. Where (IR) scans can only identify a problem, IV curve tracers allow for root cause identification.
Step 3 – Performance Testing
The final and most important step is confirming the operation of the system performance. What we look for:
- Data acquisition system (DAS) reporting as expected.
- Review of the annual performance for deficiencies in the expected performance. A performance ratio or regression test can help determine if the plant is meeting its performance capabilities.
What should happen leading up to the PM?
Ideally, the system should be monitored throughout the year, to ensure issues that arise are dealt with in a timely fashion. Monthly performance reporting is also an effective tool to ensure the system is performing as expected.
However, for certain issues, it may be more cost effective to push repairs to the PM interval. This reduces repair costs by minimizing truck rolls.