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Installers may not be doing adequate solar PV tests

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 14 September 2012 at 12:31 pm

Shocking results of a recent survey suggest that many MCS Solar PV installers may not be doing key PV array tests. Writing in his blog on Solar Power Portal  yesterday, Sundog Energy founder Martin Cotterell said: "Every PV installer accredited under MCS should know how to test a completed PV system correctly – but this seems not to be the case."

In a recent survey, test equipment manufacturer Seaward asked: Is your organisation specifically involved with the electrical safety and performance testing of PV installations? 126 respondents said YES, and where then asked which of the following tests does your organisation complete on PV installations?

75% of respondents said yes to Is/c test (the highest positive response); 49% said yes to insulation (the lowest). Tests for earth, Voc, Polarity, Operating current and DC power all scored somewhere in between.

"I think these numbers are shocking," said Martin. (I agree: shocking and worrying). "More so given that only those who said they are specifically involved with safety/performance testing answered the detailed test question.

"A bit of digging supports the results that Seaward present. Perhaps more worrying is anecdotal evidence that some training organisations (and possibly even some certification bodies) are not fully clear on what needs to be performed – e.g. stating that DC side insulation resistance measurements are not required.

"The tests are clearly explained in BS EN 62446 and moreover are quick and easy to perform. I am not sure what else I can say."

Testing a completed PV system is a key stage in the installation process and is addressed by the standard: BS EN 62446 Grid connected PV systems – minimum requirements for system documentation commissioning tests and inspection. The scope of this document states that it "describes the minimum commissioning tests, inspection criteria and documentation expected to verify the safe installation and correct operation of the (PV) system".

I hope that MCS is taking the results of this survey seriously and ensuring that training organisations and certification bodies are fit for purpose, and that business owners ensure that all their staff complete all the tests outlined in BS EN 62446.

In the meantime, if you are getting solar panels installed, it seems a good idea to asking your installer if they have done all the tests before they leave.

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