12 things to consider for a solar PV projects

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News article

12 things to consider for a solar PV project

July 2012

renewable energy news

Mark Newton, head of renewable energy at Fisher German, looks at the main things to consider when investing in a solar project:

1. Equipment producers going bust - solar PV was originally produced in Europe, however the price has been driven down by Chinese and Indian manufacturers. There is now a risk that many well known solar companies will go bust as PV panels are being sold below production cost. There has been a big shake up in the market with a lot of producers leaving the market already - with many likely to follow in the next couple of years. 
It is important to buy Tier 1 and not cheap equipment. It is also recommended to use large diverse companies that do not rely solely on solar PV, so if something goes wrong with your project the company is more likely to be around in the future.
2. Installers going bust - the market has been swamped by vast numbers of new companies or one man bands entering the market to make a quick buck. After 1st August when the FIT rate is reduced, many more installers will leave the market. If the equipment goes wrong in the future, the original installer may no longer be around to put it right. It is important to use larger installers that do not rely solely on solar PV as they are more likely to still be operating in the future 
3. Warranties - You should have 10 year manufacturer’s warranty for panels and 5 year warranties for inverters – however it is worth paying to extend these to 10 years. You should also have a warranty that the panels will be working at 80% efficiency after 25 years. 
Inverter failures are the main problem (even good SMA inverters are failing) however the benefit of buying good quality ones is they will be replaced immediately. Allow for replacing your inverters once or twice during a 25 year project lifetime. 
You should ideally get all warranties insured by an outside independent reputable insurance company.
4. The Building - a lot of projects are incorrectly located on roofs that are not south, south-west or south-east facing - also suffering from shading from trees and chimneys. Shading on one panel affects the efficiency of the whole string of panels. The building must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of level D or higher otherwise you will not get the higher FIT rate. 
5. Roofs - ensure you do not have an asbestos roof as there will be Health and Safety issues. If the roof requires replacing in the next 25 years then get it reroofed now before you install the project. Do not use cheap fixing equipment that may let in water in the future.
6. Structural report - ensure you have had a structural report before installing heavy panels otherwise the roof may fail, and you will have negated your insurance cover.
7. Use of buildings - there has been an issue of hay being stored in a building too close to cheap poorly manufactured solar PV equipment – this then caused a fire.
8. Cleaning panels - the ideal pitch for self cleaning panels in 30-35% (houses) but most agricultural/commercial buildings are 15% and the panels will need cleaning at least once a year.
9. Grid capacity - ensure you have a proper written quote from the DNO that there is capacity in the grid, and the cost before starting construction.
10. Export meter - any project over 30kW will need an export meter , but if you are only exporting a small % then it may not be viable, due to high standing charges
11. Planning - projects are now exempt provided the panels are not within 1 metre of the edge of the building, but not if you are a listed building, in a Conservation area, or in a National Park etc then you will require planning permission.
12. Business Rates - do not forget you may be charged business rates in the future!
For further information, please contact Mark Newton on 01858 411215 or email mark.newton@fishergerman.co.uk
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