As alluded to in previous articles, implementing solar PV for your business is not a cut and dry process of simply mounting panels on your roof and connecting to your building’s electricity supply. For a broader insight on solar PV you can read; 5 reasons to install rooftop solar PV for your business and Does a solar plant make sense for your business?

This article will give you some insight as to what you need to know about your planned solar PV installation, your service provider and the requirements to ensure a successful project outcome. Like with any construction project there are rules to be followed but it can be difficult to ascertain which are necessary or needed, and which aren’t.

One of the first questions asked is what official or industry related bodies should your PV installer belong to, if any? Currently, there is no specific requirement as it pertains to solar PV plants, however, due to the electrical work required the minimum recommended for a PV installation company is to be registered with the Department of Labour (DoL) as an electrical contractor. By virtue of this registration, it means that at least one of the responsible persons in the organisation has a Wireman’s license to ensure compliance with SANS 10142 regulations when doing an electrical installation.

Given that a great deal of the commercial solar PV plant installations in South Africa are rooftop mounted, there are additional requirements that need to be followed:

This would include the client signing a mandatory appointment contract 37(2). This is in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Furthermore, the contractor and client would have to sign and submit to the DoL, annexure 2 of the Construction regulations (2014). This is the notification of working at heights.

Along with the regulations mentioned above, each site needs to have a compliant safety file available at all times. The installer (company) should also be in good standing with the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).

The contractor will have to notify the local supply authority (the municipality’s electricity department) of grid compliance and/or other possible by-law requirements.

Due diligence also needs to be given to the structural assessment of the roof before starting construction and structural sign-off from a Structural Engineer should be mandatory.

In the case of ground mount solar PV installations, consideration must be given to either basic environmental assessments or full environmental impact assessments (EIA). A ground mounted solar PV plant greater than 1000kWp (1MWp) typically requires an EIA. This can be a costly and time-consuming exercise so be sure to understand the ramifications this will have on your project before committing to the project.

A common refrain, but apt: Failing to plan is planning to fail. With any sort of construction, this is particularly true. Aside from the health and safety and various regulations mentioned above, consideration must be given to security of the site, access to the works, protecting the actual works from damage, water for staff, storage of material, waste disposal, protecting the public from harm or loss, power for construction, shade for rest areas. Special care also needs to be taken to secure access to the client’s roof when access for construction is created.

Now that you are beginning to see what is required you may wonder what sort of insurance an installer should have. It goes without saying that knowing what professional indemnity cover your installer has is critically important. Given that they might spend a few months on your roof, you want to be sure you are covered in the event of any damage or injury that takes place on your property.

Other risks to understand include fire risk which is seldom considered (albeit a very infrequent event) but a risk none the less. Your installer should do the standard electrical safety procedures including earthing the plant correctly, lightning protection (where needed) as well as an FLIR surveys to check for any hotspots (ensuring connectors are not overheating).

Last but not least, how long should the installer take to build the system? If the solar panels and inverters are being imported, consider at least 6 to 8 weeks for the equipment to arrive and be safely stored on site ready for installation. Detailed design for the plant can take a couple of weeks. Building time varies depending on the roof itself, access to site and size of the team building it and their experience. A standard build should be done with 200kWp to 300kWp per month.

If your prospective installer company undertaking the work can address all of the above-mentioned regulations and best practices, that is where you begin by evaluating them. The next steps should be to ask for references and possibly visit one or two of their sites to check the quality of the work.

As always, we are keen to discuss your facility to see if it would benefit from a solar PV plant. Don’t hesitate to contact us directly, or use our PV Calculator to give us some idea of the feasibility of a PV plant at your site.