Webinar: Getting Solar Right: Borrowing from the Best

Lucy Carew-Reid

Procuring, Commissioning and Monitoring Rooftop Solar

Hmmm, we agree not the sexiest of topics…. However very important nonetheless!
This webinar was recorded on 1 March 2018 and goes straight to the core of how to avoid ongoing headaches from your roof-top solar installations. Even for those who are old hat at solar projects, this is guaranteed to save you time when procuring solar power and will improve how you monitor solar power generation in the years to come.

Ironbark wish to thank the following for sharing their years of solar experience and for offering their contact details for those wishing to ask questions and, in the case of Moonee Valley, source actual tender and maintenance documents:

  • 2:37 Rooftop Solar Procurement at Macedon Ranges Shire Council – Paul Brown, Managing Director of Ironbark Sustainability, paul@realaction.com.au and Emma Chessell, Renewable Energy Expert of Ironbark Sustainability, emma@realaction.com.au
  • 13:20 Solar Power Procurement: Supply, Installation And Commissioning (important!) – Harry Fricke, Senior Sustainability Officer, City of Moonee Valley, HFricke@mvcc.vic.gov.au 
  • 41:08 Monitoring Solar Power Performance – Anne Fitzsimmons, Environmental Projects Officer - Sustainability, Canterbury-Bankstown Council, anne.fitzsimmons@cbcity.nsw.gov.au

Here's the webinar presentation and below is the webinar recording, followed by a brief summary of what was discussed.

Another valuable resource is the webinar Joining the Solar Gold Rush – Which Bandwagon to Jump On that profiles councils considering large and small scale solar projects. It includes Melbourne Renewable Energy Project's guide to help you navigate large-scale renewable electricity procurement.

Take Home Messages

This list isn’t as comprehensive as the webinar, so an even better thing to do would be to simply press play on the webinar recording above and download the presentation.

  • Work out where external support is needed before you even start (e.g. feasibility studies and scoping appropriate roof space, specifications, reviewing tender applicants, reviewing design, commissioning assessment)
  • Consider establishing a panel of solar installers so you don’t have to go out for tender / request a quote each time you want to install. Contact Harry of Moonee Valley to obtain a copy of his tender wording.
  • Get at least three installers on a service panel in case one or more don’t meet expectations
  • Work closely with Council’s maintenance and assets teams throughout the project, in particular on the sign off of the lay out diagram. They will have valuable information on rooftop access. And it’s important to gain their trust and support for solar projects.
  • Make sure the design doesn’t interfere with general maintenance (e.g. gutters or air conditioner access)
  • Some tips to easily compare tender applications are:
    • Fix the price to help see who has better value for money
    • Ask them to quote on an easy install
    • Ask them to estimate generation of system (and double-check their figures) then you can compare their $/kWh over 10 years
    • Ask them to outline the warranty of different elements of the system (e.g. panels, inverters, racking systems)
    • The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition 2016-2017 Solar Scorecard is useful when assessing system quality
  • Avoid weighting cost at 50% unless you want a price-driven outcome instead of a high quality and socially and environmentally responsible outcome
  • Include solar monitoring requirements in project specifications
  • Specify for a 15 degree angle tilt so panels can self-clean (though you will still need to regularly clean them)
  • Commissioning includes: getting the system Certificate of Electrical Safety accepted by the energy distributor and ensuring the system is switched on and functioning acceptably. The installers should be doing this as part of the project.
  • Include in contract that no less than 20% of project costs will be withheld until commissioned as this level of retention is sometimes necessary to get the job done well
  • Consider getting a third party to help commission (such as Ironbark)
  • A solar maintenance contract is worthwhile (contact Harry for contract wording)
  • Get a solar monitor that profiles all systems on the one page
  • Taste test the solar monitor online portal before committing to it to ensure it caters for your needs (some are overly complex)
  • Poor commissioning, monitoring and maintenance will guarantee poor performance