By Ruth Carol Atieno
Having a Solar PV system installed at your home, office, factory or at any facility, is just one step towards the green direction. The other step would be to maintain the whole system and have it operated in the best conditions necessary for efficiency.
Fortunately, a Solar PV system does not contain any moving parts which means maintenance of the same will not be as difficult. Today we will explore some of the best practices for maintenances and operation of Solar PV systems.
It is advisable to clean your panels regularly especially if they are installed in a dusty area. Panels installed in environments such as Agricultural and Industrial spaces should be cleaned regularly. When cleaning the solar panels make sure the cleaning material is not a brush with hard bristles or any rough material as this could damage the solar modules. Use a soft brush or cloth accompanied with plain water or a mild dish washer detergent.
For instances where it is snowing, although the snow will melt down during the day, it is important to check the panels and remove any snow lying on the panels.
Additionally, with the use of an infrared, check for red spots on the solar modules. This would require the involvement of a Solar PV specialist on this one.
During the design stage of the Solar PV system, vegetation and climatic conditions should be taken into consideration when deciding where to mount the solar panels. They should be at a location most conducive for them to perform well. It is important for a Solar PV professional advice you on where best to mount the solar panels.
The maintenance of solar PV modules should not only stop at the solar array alone but also include the roof maintenance team. Both the Solar PV technician and roof maintenance person should work hand in hand to ensure the whole set up on the roof is in perfect condition. Debris that has accumulated on the roof overtime should be removed to allow for proper drainage. Any vegetation growth and nesting on the roof should also be removed.
When it comes to maintenance of inverters, it is equally important to follow the provided maintenance guidelines by the manufacturer or Solar PV contractor. It is also advisable to involve your installer fully on the maintenance of inverters.
Inverters installed in dusty areas need extra care and maintenance of the inverter air filters should be scheduled. This should also be done by a professional specifically the contractor who installed the system. You could also allow for a provision to prevent the dust from getting to the inverter with filters in place that will prevent dust from getting to the inverter.
With the assistance of a professional, use a thermal imager to inspect all the electrical connections and components of your inverter and verify the temperatures are on the right level.
Be very careful about where the inverter is placed and put into consideration harsh weather conditions. Have it installed inside a house or provide weather proof enclosure.
All batteries come with instructions on what temperature range they should be operated at. A Solar PV professional will always advise and depending on the location of the batteries, you might need to have an air conditioning system to regulate the temperatures.
In the case of Lead Acid batteries, you cannot draw all the power as this reduces the battery life. It is highly recommended to draw power from the batteries only up to 50%. This means depending on the electricity need, batteries have to be twice as big as the load. This is not the case for Lithium batteries which can be drained up to zero and recharged back again.
Put into consideration factors such as weather conditions when installing and operating batteries. The batteries should be in an enclosure that is weather proof and or put inside a house to avoid any damages.
General Maintenance Practices
When you monitor, you will be able to see how the Solar PV system is performing at all times. Monitoring platforms such as the one offered by Eenovators Ltd will allow you to see the performance in Realtime. Incase of a system failure, you can see the problem from the online platform. The Solar PV contractor is also able to see it and take the necessary precautions.
Ensure you check the fasteners on the system and ensure none of them is loose or missing. In the event of occurrences of vibrations, ensure to use sophisticated fasteners with anti-vibration features. Also replace any weak or broken wires in the system.
Finally, do not add additional load, that was not taken into consideration during the system sizing stage, to the Solar PV system. This will bring about system failures. In the event that you are buying a new appliance or adding an additional load to the system, contact a professional for advice on how to go about this.
If you treat all the components of your Solar PV system well, it will serve you well. The system will be able to provide you with the exact amount of power it was meant to produce. You will be able to do away with system failures. It will cost you more to repair or replace a Solar PV system than it would cost to maintain the same system.
Take note that negligence of the set operational and maintenance guidelines by the Solar PV provider will result to system failures and possibly void the product warranties.
It is equally very important to contact a licensed Solar PV technician or contractor when looking to do a Solar PV installation. Eenovators Limited one of the licensed Solar PV contractors in Kenya and has a huge portfolio in Solar PV installations.
To Contact them send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com or call +254105521859
Best Practices for Operation and Maintenance of Photovoltaic and Energy Storage Systems 3rd Edition by National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)