City assists with checklist for solar installations

With more people resorting to using solar power at their homes, the City has provided a checklist to assist the public with installations of solar systems. PICTURE: PIXABAY

The City of Cape Town has compiled a checklist to assist the public with guidelines on installing safe and legal photovoltaic (PV) systems.

“It is often difficult to know which system to choose and which installers will provide safe and legal services and installations.

“Although the City does not vet installers in the private sector, it has developed a checklist to assist residents who are exploring this option. Customers are encouraged to weigh up the information they have, to ask questions and ensure they choose a legitimate installer,” says the City’s mayoral committee member for energy, Councillor Beverley van Reenen.

There are, according to City information, three types of PV systems:

• Grid-tied – Connected in parallel to the electricity grid.

• Grid-tied hybrid – Can disconnect the incoming electricity supply and connect the load (home) to the PV system or stored energy in batteries.

• Standby – Electrical loads (home) are supplied by either the PV system or the grid, but never at the same time. Systems include; passive standby UPS used as standby hybrid small-scale embedded generation and alternative supply. The City discourages solar PV systems operating as standby systems saying they are often incorrectly configured, pose risks to household and grid safety and slow down the authorisation process.

The City advises becoming more energy-efficent before installing a solar PV system, to reduce the size and cost of the system required.

Solar installation checklist:

• Ask if the solar PV service provider has substantial prior experience in solar PV installations, with references.

• Establish whether the solar PV service provider designed, supplied and installed the systems or only carried out one or two of these steps.

• It is recommended that the PV service provider is an accredited service provider under a third party quality assurance programme such as; PV Green Card – A South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) endorsed programme, P4 Platform quality assurance programme,

• Request proof of electrical Certificates of Compliance (CoCs) and/or professional engineer sign-offs on previous installations.

• Ask for proof of previous installations that have been City-authorised.

• Find out if the solar PV service provider employs or sub-contracts qualified staff to design and install systems. Ask for proof of up to date registration (also called a wireman’s licence and DoLE registration). It is critical.

• Ensure that the inverter proposed is on the City’s approved inverter list.

• Grid-tied systems must be signed off by an Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) registered professional. Check that the solar PV service provider has such a professional available.

• Find out if the installer is registered with SAPVIA and the Electrical Contractors Board (ECB) – it’s not compulsory but shows commitment to industry best practice.

How to ensure your systems are safe and legal:

• Installers must apply to the City to authorise the system for grid connection to ensure safety of the electrical network, your home and all who work on the electrical grids. Regardless of the type of solar PV system being installed, authorisation must be obtained in writing from the City prior to installation. Find the necessary documentation here:

• Get a structural engineering assessment to ensure roofs can withstand the weight and wind load of solar PV panels.

• Building plans not required unless the panels protrude more than 600mm above the highest point of the roof, or are raised more than 1,5m above any point on the roof, or if ground-mounted panels project more than 2,1m above ground level.

• Check PV solar panel standards. Get at least a Certificate of Compliance with standards; SANS/IEC 61215: 2015 (Crystalline silicon terrestrial PV modules) or; SANS/IEC 61646: 2016 (Thin film terrestrial PV modules).

• Store batteries safely in a properly racked, dry, well-ventilated room.

• Property owners must get an original electrical Certificate of Compliance from the registered electrician who performs the installation.

• Get a quality assurance certificate such as a PV Green Card and all available warranties and manuals for the installation as a whole and its components.

• An independent inspection of installation can be done by the Electrical Approved Inspection Authority of Southern Africa (EAIASA). But before this can be done, it must be provided with the Certificate of Compliance and the customer will need to pay an inspection fee.

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