Solar installation checklist

IREC offers inspection template for rooftop PV systems, Clean Power Finance adds O&M; marketplace, Solar Maid gets its hands dirty

As the rooftop solar revolution spreads like wildfire across much of the United States, more states and municipalities are seeing increasing numbers of PV installations in their jurisdictions. Local authorities—many with few personnel familiar with the vagaries of photovoltaic electrical systems–are often swamped by the prodigious amount of permitting inspections. On the installer side, not every crew is well versed in what is required to pass those rigorous inspections. The resulting delays and extra soft costs add up to a headache for all parties—including the consumer. The ever-helpful Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has been paying attention to these permitting hassles, and has just issued the “Model Inspection Checklist for Rooftop PV Systems” (downloadable here).

IREC hopes the peer-reviewed “nationally applicable template” will provide a benchmark document—especially for municipalities–and become a “key tool in highlighting changing code requirements.” As IREC president-CEO Jane Weissman notes in the accompanying press release, “use of an inspection checklist can reduce the time it takes to permit a project and reduce installer costs associated with multiple inspection visits and post-inspection system changes.”

Don Hughes, senior building inspector in California’s Santa Clara County and coauthor of the report, explains that “the best way for both the jurisdiction and the PV installers to be successful is to have a common understanding of the code requirements. This inspection checklist is a vital tool for inspectors, and can be used as a handout to assist local installers. Checklists are a very important part of the field inspector’s tool kit. This model inspection checklist makes it easier to ensure that vital elements are not overlooked. It also saves time, making it possible to complete comprehensive inspections in the scheduled timeframe.”

Once installed, a PV system has to be maintained and kept operationally sound. But the state of O&M service providers in the U.S. leaves something to be desired. Clean Power Finance has added to its bag of software-as-a-service tricks, and expanded its “platform to include an online marketplace for O&M services on installed residential solar systems,” the press release explains. This new O&M marketplace connects PV system managers and owners with inspection, maintenance, and repair professionals. “Lack of ongoing O&M services is a major perceived risk that currently hinders DG [direct generation] solar investment,” company head Nat Kreamer told Greentech Media. “Lower perceived risk means more investment and lower-cost financing, and will ‘pave the way for securitization,’ in [his] view.”

A modest post at Solar Novus alerted the Curator to one of the growing crop of operations and maintenance firms in North America, the whimsically named Solar Maid. Claiming to be the largest “janitorial solar O&M” business, the Pittsburgh, PA-based company says it focuses on “washing solar panels, installing bird and squirrel guards, and providing landscaping service for utility customers, snow removal in the northern states and Canada, and basic housekeeping work to keep solar assets operating at peak performance.” Solar Maid may not carry out the most glamorous of roles in advancing the solar agenda but companies like it play a crucial role; after all, someone has to do the scut work.