Commercial solar installations are a significant investment, so choosing the right provider is important. The commercial solar company is responsible for tasks spanning the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) process. Understanding these tasks can help you ask the right questions when requesting tenders and quotes. This article provides a checklist of the key activities of commercial solar EPCs, as a guide to finding the best provider for your business.
1. Feasibility study
In general, the larger the area, the greater the investment. Your solar EPC will conduct a desktop analysis of roof or ground mount space and available data on your energy use to estimate the system size. The EPC will also deliver a business case – including a high-level technology analysis. This will form the basis of the installation proposal, unless you request specific elements or products.
The EPC should offer a range of financing and cost structures so you can choose the best fit for your business. Examples of the options you should expect to be offered are CAPEX, PPA and Lease. More information on these options can be found here.
3. Site inspection
The solar EPC should require a site inspection as the first step in developing a custom, detailed design. This inspection is usually after your contract is signed, but you can requested it earlier if your business needs a firmer idea of costs and requirements. The inspection should include assessment of your site’s rooftop, structural elements and electrical assets as well as planning for safety and logistics. Providing drawings of existing electrical and structural assets can greatly accelerate this step.
4. System design
Following the site inspection the EPC should prepare a detailed design for your site. This will involve a range of engineering disciplines – including electrical, mechanical, civil and photovoltaic (PV) – to maximise the safety of the design and ensure that the system integrates seamlessly with existing assets. Unless the solar EPC has these skills in-house, design deliverables should include third party structural certification for each job to guarantee the safety and durability of your installation. The design should also consider your business’ custom requirements, including power quality analysis or energy output simulations.
5. Utility grid approval process
A good EPC should have an in-house, dedicated grid-connections manager and engineer who work closely and have good relationships with the distribution network service providers (DNSPs). These staff manage the end-to-end connection of your installation and ensure the designs are grid-compliant and deliver the best possible outcome for exporting the power you generate but do not use to the grid.
6. Accredited local installation
To make sure you have a reliable on-site point of contact during the design and installation process, look for an EPC with in-house construction supervisors and managers. A dedicated staff member to manage the quality assurance process will also help ensure that the solar installation project delivers on your expectations.
7. Inspection, commissioning and maintenance
A dedicated commissioning manager is crucial to get your solar project is up and running properly. The commissioning manager will ensure the system is working according to your requirements, all identified issues have been resolved and the required documents have been fully closed off.