Selecting a Solar Maintenance Provider—A Checklist

Once a solar power plant begins operation, identifying the best solar maintenance provider is critical. Your choice in a solar maintenance contractor will significantly impact modeled returns, and with more and more solar incentives tied to actual production, finding the right solar maintenance and operations partner is key.

Below is a checklist of questions for evaluating solar maintenance and operations providers.

What scope of work are they offering? The form and quality of the electrical test performed as part of the annual preventive maintenance on site is the single most important part of any operations and maintenance (O&M) package. Borrego Solar performs a 100% IV Curve Trace annually as part of its Basic Service package. The primary benefit of a 100% IV Curve Trace is to address small performance inconsistencies before they become catastrophic issues. Beware of electrical tests such as open circuit voltage (Voc) and maximum power point (Imp). These tests only determine whether a string is on or not, are inherently inaccurate and difficult to perform correctly, and give little insight into how the modules on that string are performing. An IV Curve Trace is a significantly superior test because it catches performance issues at the module level. Properly conducting an IV Curve Trace and documenting it appropriately is an acquired skill so make sure your provider owns its IV Curve Tracer and has substantial experience using it.

What manufacturer trainings have they received? A simple measure of the breadth and depth of an O&M provider’s experience is their list of Manufacturer Training Certifications (MTC). In particular, it is important to determine the number of inverter MTCs they have. Without these certifications, rather than fixing the problems as they occur on site, the provider will be forced to call the manufacturer to send a technician who will typically take days to arrive. As a rule of thumb, an experienced provider should have MTCs for all of the inverter types they are working with regularly. O&M providers should always be willing to participate in MTC programs for new equipment.

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