May 24, 2023

Inspection and testing of solar installations: 10

Here are 10 things to consider when putting solar installations to the test:

IEC 62446 compliance

Periodic verification of existing installations is recommended, with IEC 62446 not only establishing minimum requirements for system documentation, commissioning tests and PV system inspections, but also emphasising the documentation and provision of inspection and test results to the consumer post-installation. Previous periodic verifications should be taken into account, and reports should outline any identified faults and recommendations for repairs or improvements.

Shock risk and grounding

Grounding is crucial for solar panels and their racking systems to mitigate the risk of electric shocks and fire hazards. Deterioration of the grounding system over time can lead to potential shocks for individuals in contact with any metal components. Since rooftop-mounted systems pose an additional risk of falling, the importance of maintaining a robust grounding system cannot be overstated.

Insulation and leakage

PV systems, especially large-scale ones, consist of extensive underground cabling. Inadequate insulation can cause energy generated by the system to leak to the earth, particularly in damp or wet conditions. This can lead to reduced operational efficiency if the insulation monitoring or residual current monitoring function within the inverter prevents startup. Regular electrical testing helps identify insulation issues and ensures optimal performance, even in adverse weather conditions.

Damage and corrosion

As PV systems are exposed to the elements, damage or corrosion to cabling and connectors due to moisture ingress can affect performance and increase the risk of fire. Electrical testing allows for continuous monitoring of system performance, facilitating timely repairs and remedial actions to address any degradation caused by environmental factors.

​​​​​​​Contamination and performance

Over time, PV modules can accumulate dirt and contaminants, diminishing operational efficiency. Physical damage to various PV components can also occur due to exposure to the elements or bird-related incidents, resulting in reduced output performance. Regular electrical testing as part of routine maintenance enables the identification and diagnosis of such issues.

​​​​​​​Wiring damage

Poorly executed wiring installations can present hazards, such as wires hanging below panels and coming into contact with roofs or vegetation. Over time, wear and rodent damage can compromise wire coatings, potentially exposing copper wires and creating shock hazards. Regular electrical testing helps identify deteriorating cable connections and wiring, mitigating potential faults.

​​​​​​​Functional performance

The installation of solar PV systems involves significant investment, considering the costs and potential return on investment through lower energy bills and FIT (Feed-in Tariff) payments. Therefore, verifying system performance and energy output from the panels is vital as electrical faults or wiring failures can significantly impact a panel's ability to generate power. While metering provides some indication of system performance, regular electrical testing is crucial to ensure ongoing functional performance.

​​​​​​​Product warranties and guarantees

Periodic electrical testing of solar PV systems is often required to meet product warranties and guarantees for PV system components. This ensures continued safe operation and maximum energy output performance.

​​​​​​​Fire risk prevention

As rooftop solar installations have increased, reported incidents of fires related to electrical faults in PV systems have also risen. Periodic testing of electrical cabling and components associated with solar PV systems helps maintain system safety and reduces the potential fire risk resulting from electrical faults.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Providing documentation

All solar PV installations necessitate providing customers with various documentation, including system data, installer details, electrical diagrams, operation and maintenance instructions, and other relevant information as per standards or regulatory requirements. Test and commissioning data, including results from electrical safety and verification tests conducted during system installation, should also be provided.

IEC 62446complianceShock risk and groundingInsulation and leakageDamage and corrosion Contamination and performanceWiring damageFunctional performanceProduct warranties and guaranteesFire risk preventionProviding documentation