PV System Operations and Maintenance Fundamentals
Download the one-page summary (PDF, 311KB) or the full report (PDF, 3.33MB).
As the photovoltaic (PV) market grows and matures, the industry’s focus is shifting from manufacturing PV module technology, inverters, and components to properly and safely operating and maintaining installations. PV installation lifetimes are expected to be 25 years or more, so safe and proper maintenance is an integral part of successful and reliable operation. Regular operations and maintenance (O&M) is key to maximizing system production and return on investment (ROI), and as PV systems evolve to higher voltages, the need for qualified service personnel and clear safety procedures is becoming increasingly important.
This preliminary O&M guide is intended to help qualified individuals safely maintain and inspect PV systems. It identifies currently recognized major safety requirements during PV servicing and repair and provides details for a number of O&M tasks. Within the broader PV community, there are currently three working groups focused on this issue. It is expected that they will publish a comprehensive O&M guide in the next few years. In the meantime, this report serves as an introduction to O&M for PV installations.
This introductory report includes practical guidelines for PV system maintenance and options for inspection practices for grounded PV systems. This report does not cover bi-polar, ungrounded, stand-alone, or battery backup systems.
Why the Report is Important
Clear, detailed O&M guidelines help ensure a safe working environment for technicians and optimal PV system production and ROI for owners and investors.
Key findings of this introductory report include:
- To maintain quality control and safety standards, it is important that only qualified personnel work on PV installations. It is not always easy, however, to identify qualified personnel. The authors suggest skill and knowledge guidelines for PV technicians.
- Safety is a serious concern when servicing PV installations. Early PV systems often had maximum system voltages less than 50 Vdc, but 600 Vdc systems are now common, and 1,000 Vdc systems are allowed by code in commercial and large-scale installations. Safety considerations require that qualified personnel use properly rated equipment and be trained for servicing the higher voltage systems.
- Qualified personnel should always work in teams of two people when working on live equipment. In addition, on a given jobsite, there should always be at least two qualified persons trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
- Not all installations have appropriate signage, and qualified persons must be trained to recognize potential hazards with or without signage present.
- System uptime and availability is a key objective of O&M. Inverters that are offline can have a dramatic negative impact on the ROI of a PV system. Inverter failure rates are important to ROI, but even more important than how often an inverter goes offline is how quickly it can be placed back into service.
- Low power production also impacts ROI, and O&M personnel need effective strategies for identifying and correcting problems quickly. One specific recommendation is to stock critical parts that have long supply lead times.