Installing solar panels to power your business can certainly be eco-friendly while also offering attractive financial benefits. However, using solar panels does come with some risks. Taking the following steps before, during, and after installation can help reduce your risk, improve safety, and better protect your business from damage.
Prior to installation, work closely with your insurer and agent or broker, as they can help you understand potential risks of solar panels and how to mitigate loss. If your business leases its roof to host another business’ solar panels, work with your legal counsel and insurer to clearly identify who owns and is responsible for the photovoltaic (PV) system prior to installation.
- Consider installing a PV system in a location other than the roof (such as your parking lot or a nearby parcel of land).
- If you select a roof-mounted system, confirm the age of your roof. Most commercial roofs are designed to last 20 years. If your roof is 15 years old, replacing the roof prior to installation may save you time and money in the long term.
- Contract with a professional engineer to evaluate the structural integrity of the roof to ensure that additional weight (from panels and snow) can be tolerated.
- Work with a contractor experienced in this type of installation. Check references and certifications specific to solar panel jobs.
- Only install panels that have been tested and approved by an independent certification laboratory. If your business area is prone to hailstorms, select panels that are rated for hail impact.
- Create and maintain clear exits and pathways on the roof for maintenance and firefighting personnel. Space panels in a way that allows access to different areas and sections.
- Confirm that panels are sufficiently ventilated and allow air to circulate.
- Consult with your local fire department so personnel are familiar with your operations and your PV system type and layout.
Once you have hired a professional to install panels, be sure they do the following:
- Use expansion joints on all long runs of conduit.
- Use ground fault protection devices to de-energize the PV system when there is a ground fault.
- Ensure panels are securely installed and attached to minimize wind uplift.
- Provide disconnects for both the direct current and alternating current sides of the panel that are readily accessible and clearly identified.
- Use correct installation techniques, paying close attention to wire management.
- Install additional ground fault and PV array isolation-sensing devices.
- Hire a certified contractor to conduct preventative maintenance on your system twice a year.
- As your system ages, replace panels and parts as needed. For example, you may also need to upgrade your system to ensure detection of ground faults.
By proactively addressing solar panel risks with proper installation, you can help prevent loss from common exposures down the road.