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Tuned Up Maintenance

Unlike some common misconceptions, solar power does require routine maintenance. Understanding the maintenance requirements is just one piece of the equation to ensuring optimum performance. Like many things for solar power and renewables in general, it depends on many different factors that we will cover.

1. Seasonality

It should be no surprise that renewable assets are heavily impacted by weather and weather events, but unlike other generations regulations and practices regarding the seasonality of these weather impacts is not always considering while maintenance planning.

First, we should consider that winter-ization, summer-ization, and sever weather has to be considered when developing maintenance plans and staffing.

For residential or commercial solar it is important to check all combiner boxes, roof penetrations and equipment enclosures prior to potential freezing months to ensure no damage. Large or utility scale solar sites with tracking systems can experience serious impacts of icing on trackers and actuators, it is worth considering options to prevent ice build-up.

Summer months are particularly hard on solar equipment, largely due to the excessive and intense heat. The metal enclosures and equipment is typically in direct sunlight creating serious stresses that can lead to inverter de-rating, equipment overheating, or potentially failing. To prevent this, it is always best practice during installation ton consider this and try to minimize the direct sunlight, however this is not typically done due to costs. The next strategy is to ensure filter cleaning, inspections, and cooling system maintenance of inverters is done just prior to the summer months with intervals of cleaning based on regional or site-specific considerations. It might be required to clean filter multiple times for locations with higher dust.

Another important inspection prior to severe weather or summer months is wire management. The wiring in the solar DC field can have connector failure due to winds. If these are not routinely checked there is a significant risk of these connector failures to causes sparks that can ignite dry vegetation, leading to fires on site or worse, starting a wildfire that could put local communities at risk.

2. Preparation

Though it may be elementary, preparation for maintenance will have an impact on efficiency, cost, and effectiveness. The solar industry is relatively infant, and there are many companies and individuals that are new. Developing maintenance plans based on the manufacturers’ manuals and instructions is a great place to start. From there, ensuring teams have the proper personal protective equipment (PEE), tooling, parts, and training for the maintenance to be performed.

As part of preparation, it is important to consider the timing of the maintenance and what would be required from an operational perspective to complete the maintenance. For example, residential or commercial assets might need coordination with home or business owners. Larger, utility-scale installations must determine the outage timing for grid reliability and impacts to revenue or site availability guarantees. For this reason many larger solar sites will perform night maintenance which requires an added layer of considerations for personnel safety to include lighting and coordination with potential vendors or contractors.

3. Documentation

Determining, planning, and executing the maintenance can be done by many capable organizations, however the most effective maintenance teams have a thorough computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Documentation of the maintenance being completed is easy, but setting standards to include before and after pictures, time on the maintenance tasks, parts used, and site operations required for the maintenance allows for continuous improvement. Not only can it support warranty claims, but the information can be utilized for trending and budgeting purposes.

When we think about performance of solar assets, the maintenance has a direct impact on the long term-reliability or the equipment, return on investment for investors, and the overall sustainability of the industry.

Want your maintenance optimized? We can let your potential shine by guiding your teams on all these things or opportunities to improve if you already have these processes in place.

Check out our guides and resources available here.


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