Reliable health

Report: Safety issues found in majority of solar PV field inspections


Heliovolta solargrade

The cover article of our Q1 2023 issue concerning “What’s Going Wrong?” in the solar industry called out the hazards often seen in rooftop C&I solar systems.

The authors of that piece, HelioVolta, a software developer and provider of independent technical advisory and inspection services for solar projects, have published internal data that shows a majority of their PV inspections (62%) find safety issues. Seventy-five percent of the projects inspected are installed on commercial rooftops, and system sizes range from 100 kW to 350 MW.

“On-the-ground solar fieldwork generates vital safety and reliability data that cannot be obtained from any other source – not drone or plane flyovers, remote monitoring tools, or even inverter error logs,” commented James Nagel, Co-founder of HelioVolta and SolarGrade. “Our report demonstrates that standardized, high-quality visual and thermal inspections are necessary to maximize PV system uptime and prevent safety incidents like fires and thermal events.”

There is more where this came from. Another third-party has a report coming out later this week with a similar devastating stat. We’ll report on that when it is ready to publish.

This inaugural SolarGrade PV Health Report is a comprehensive analysis of the safety and reliability of distributed generation (DG) solar PV systems using on-the-ground data from operational projects in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The SolarGrade PV Health Report analyzes more than 60,000 PV system health datapoints from hundreds of independent project assessments conducted from 2021 to 2023 with SolarGrade, HelioVolta’s cloud-based fieldwork management platform for renewable energy assets.

“Solar power is fundamentally safe and reliable – but only when it is properly installed and maintained,” commented David Penalva, Co-founder of HelioVolta and SolarGrade. “Our new report underscores the vital role of fieldworkers in the renewable energy transition: they are the safeguards of PV systems, and they need modern software tools like the SolarGrade software to do their best work.”

Key findings from the first SolarGrade PV Health Report include:

  •  62% of inspections found safety issues, such as overheating components or improperly installed equipment.
  • 59% of all issues are related to wire management and field-made solar connectors.
  • More issues were observed in systems commissioned during the year 2020 than systems commissioned in any other year.

“The SolarGrade PV Health Report demonstrates that QAQC inspection for PV assets assures safe, reliable operations that meet performance expectations. We’re thrilled that our partners at HelioVolta are sharing their unique insights from the field to inform the market,” commented Anna Waters, VP, Commercial Operations at Omnidian, the industry’s leading nationwide provider of Performance Assurance plans and asset performance management.

HelioVolta’s SolarGrade software enables large-scale analyses of field observations by standardizing PV system QA/QC and O&M and by automating reporting. To learn more and explore fieldwork best practices for DG solar project stakeholders, download the free SolarGrade PV Health Report at www.solargrade.io/pv-health-report.

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