Posts Tagged ‘Soft Costs’

Building and operating a solar PV system isn’t simple. For example, obtaining the necessary permits and inspections can present widely differing requirements among incentive programs, municipalities, and states.

In recent years, the industry has come to recognize the impact of these “soft” (that is, non-equipment) costs on the price of PV systems. Many efforts are underway to streamline and standardize the permitting process.

Staying focused on the post-installation inspection process is important too. Inconsistent or incomplete inspections can lead to increased project costs, impair system performance, or compromise the safety of those living and working around PV systems.

Robust quality-assurance programs, such as those offered by some state incentive programs, are a good way to provide expert review of PV installations. But these inspections often find issues not identified by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), such as local wiring or building inspectors. From an installer’s perspective, this means at least one return trip to the site on a system the installer may have considered complete.

Solar QA Pie Chart

That’s why it is important to provide local AHJs with the PV-specific training and support they need to complete a thorough and consistent inspection. Training and support means:

  • Rapid response on installation issues that may cause safety or performance issues.
  • Reduced burden on incentive programs to check for code compliance.
  • Lower incidence of system re-work.
  • The ability to leverage industry experts and tools across many AHJs.

Numerous programs and offerings are available to help AHJs successfully inspect PV systems. For example:

  • Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (ABCs) website. Solar ABCs is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop codes, standards, and best practices for PV installation. http://www.solarabcs.org/
  • Photovoltaic Power Systems for Inspectors and Plan Reviewers by John Wiles. This book, available from Amazon and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, provides inspectors with a handy reference on codes and standards related to PV systems.
  • U.S. DOE Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers PV Inspection Checklist. While there are variations, this version combines several of the better checklists in the industry and provides a printable format that is easy to use in the field. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wip/pdfs/solarpv_checklist.pdf

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