In the present Solar-rooftop era, the role of EPC or system installation partners in inevitable. Often it is a billion-dollar question in the minds of solar project developers when it comes to solar rooftop systems, who should be the system installer and what should my evaluation criteria for choosing the right installation partner?
Well, with tremendously growing rooftop business and with ample solar EPC players in the market, it can at times be misleading to choose the most suitable system installer for your PV System.
Therefore, it is very important to KNOW HOW to select the right vendor for you. The capabilities of vendor in your region can be assessed using parameters such as number of previous projects commissioned by the vendor, number of satisfied customers, financial position, number of technicians available in your city, type and technical credibility of critical components that vendor has proposed to you as well as to other customers, operation and maintenance services, etc.,
5 things worth considering before you choose your installation partner,
1. What products and services are offered by the company?
It is recommended to do the due-diligence of the quality and make of the products offered. It is advisable to prefer tier-1 PV modules and all components from reputed makes. It is critical to check the warranties and guarantees offered by the installer. Along with the products warranties, few installers also offer installation warranties with conditions like Defect Liability Period.
Many Solar EPC companies offer comprehensive service from feasibility assessment and reports, design and engineering, procurement and supply, Installation and commissioning, permits and approvals, operation and maintenance, service and support, and financing options. Do remember that the life of solar power project is about 25 years. Hence, it is always important to use only quality material and quality installation. With lakhs and lakhs of investment on the system, few extra bucks on quality is definitely worth it.
2. How many years has the installer been in business? How reputed and reliable is the installer?
Checking a company’s credentials should be one of your top priorities in your search for the best solar company, and also to guarantee that they are a trustworthy business that adheres to sound and ethical business practices. Proper certification can put your mind at ease, knowing that your solar system will be installed carefully and correctly.
A desirous certification to keep an eye out for is given by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy(MNRE), which is the nodal Ministry of the Government of India for all matters relating to new and renewable energy. Solar EPC companies are certified under different categories based on the technical and financial capability. Categories ranging from 1A – 5E, where 1 to 5 depicts the technical strength with 1 being the highest. A to E depicts the financial strength with A being the highest. A company under SP-1A category is much more reliable than a company under SP-5E category.
Remember that it is important to see whether the EPC company could last for 25 years of your solar system lifespan. So don’t shy away to ask for the MNRE/state nodal agency certification and license of the Installer.
3. How many installations has the Solar company done? Is the installer familiar of the statutory requirements, state policies and regulations?
Check the number of installations and the project capacity the installer has handled. Ask for the company portfolio and a list of recent projects as well as 2-3 references for you to contact. Verify whether the installer has experience of similar projects before and has project experience in your city/state. Also check the installation and commission capabilities of the installer, the number of project engineers and contactors and the project duration.
Make sure that the installer is fully aware of the statutory requirements and the state’s solar policy requirements. Solar Net-metering options is available to certain categories of rooftop consumers in few states as per the respective state solar policy. With such net-metering option, rooftop system developers can feed the excess energy to the gird for which the DISCOM would pay the developer.
Be informed whether the installer has the required certifications and empanelment with respective state nodal agencies, as certain incentives may require that your solar installer have specific certifications and qualifications. Only allow a licensed solar installer to work on your system.
4. How accurate is your system design and does it suit your requirement?
The more accurate your system design is, more optimized is your system and the quote with fewer techno-commercial changes during the installation stage. Sometimes quotes are given by the sales team/site supervisors without proper design analysis which might affect your system performance. Hence check whether the installer has a certified and proficient design team.
At times, the design has to be customized as per the site-conditions. For rooftop solar systems, the load bearing capacity of the roof and structural stability to be considered carefully in order to withstand the load and the wind pressure. Other factors such as ease of maintenance, safety, system protection, etc. to be considered at the design stage to have a safe and reliable system. So it is crucial to check the design and engineering capabilities of the Solar system installer.
5. What happens if the system doesn’t produce as much electricity as I was promised? What if the system has some trouble in its operation?
Photo-Voltaic(PV) system installers provide generation parameters and estimated generation reports. The estimation is done with the help of simulation tools and energy forecast software which will help you know how much electricity can be generated.
Performance Ratio which is a measure of the quality of a PV plant that is independent of location and it often described as a quality factor of the PV system. Ask for Performance Ratio (PR)/ Generation guarantee with penalty clauses for non-achievement. It is important to assess the claims committed by the installer. It can be quiet tricky and tempting to fall for the vendor who offers the highest generation guarantee, but be sensible enough to check the credibility of the company in case of invoking the penalty for non-performance of the guarantee.
Service and support is another aspect which you can’t ignore. For a solar system with a life span of 25 years, it is important to check whether your installer offers service and maintenance support over the period of the system.
All put together, it is advisable to select an experienced, reputable installer to ensure that you receive a quality, well-performing solar system with appropriate warranties.
And finally, it is to be seen as a contribution from all the stake holders of the project to develop a superior quality solar system that helps earth remain clean and green. So make a smart choice for the smartest power generation technology.
Stories by Manju Singh