First published in Bizcommunity on 11 May 2021

Solar PV Guidance for Facility Managers

by Menno Sulsters, Head of Western Cape Operations, SEM Solutions

The unpredictability and increases in the cost of electricity renders Solar Photo Voltaic (PV) an extremely viable alternative source of energy. Solar PV prices have dropped dramatically in recent years whereas the output power and efficiency per PV module (“panel”) has conversely increased.

As more and more buildings are equipped with PV, Facility Managers need to ensure that these installations are correctly maintained. Below are some guidelines for PV system maintenance:

  • Clean PV modules on a 3 monthly basis using only water and a squeegee. No high-pressure hoses or cleaning detergents are necessary. It is paramount that safety regulations are adhered to. Therefore, insist that the installer provides adequate access, walkways and railings required for safe maintenance.
  • Annual or bi-annual electrical checks for hot spots (infrared inspection), signs of heat discolouration of cabling and a check for exposed wires should be done. Specialist measurements of the insulation resistance, I-V curve performance and inverter tests should be carried out by the Solar PV installer.
  • Annual retorqueing of all PV modules must be done along with an inspection of the mounting structures for signs of corrosion. If a ballasted system is used, the ballast blocks must be checked for cracks and chips, especially if they are installed over a subframe. The positions of the ballast blocks are determined based on the wind loading calculations and the ballast weight, it is therefore important that this weight distribution is maintained.
  • Replace damaged Solar PV modules as soon as possible as the output of the entire string of PV modules connected in series will be affected. It is advisable to replace the PV module with one of the same technology (i.e. mono-, poly-crystalline or thin film) and an output that is equal or larger. If in doubt, contact a reputable Solar PV installer.

Solar PV Plants that are well engineered can be a great asset to a building that helps Facility Managers to:

  • Reduce the building operating cost.
  • Predict the cost of future electricity.
  • Provide a reliable source of power.

About Menno Sulsters:

Menno is the Head of Western Cape Operations at SEM Solutions, a company specialising in sustainably engineered energy and water solutions for the commercial and industrial building sectors.  As a Mechanical Engineer his speciality lies in sustainable solutions in solar PV, energy and water management.