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Thinking of installing solar panels at your business?

With the rising costs of operating a business seen over the last decade, due to the increasing cost of utilities etc., businesses and property owners have taken to installing solar panels on their buildings for several reasons, one being the opportunity to earn a return on investment with “Feed In” tariffs or simply reducing electricity consumption from the grid. However, one thing that is often overlooked is insuring these systems, not only for material damage but also for business interruption. Many forget to consider the loss of revenue or increases in costs that may occur following an insured event impacting these systems.

When it comes to insuring these systems, several factors need to be taken into consideration. One important factor is the actual cost to replace the system. At the time of installation, there may have been grants or schemes contributing towards the cost, and knowing the true replacement cost is imperative. Additionally, these systems are not future-proof, as certain components require maintenance and replacement throughout their life cycle. Hence, insured values need to be regularly reviewed to ensure they are sufficient.

Apart from insurance, there is also maintenance to think about. Since these systems are directly connected to the building’s hard wiring, regular maintenance and inspections are necessary. This maintenance often includes visual inspection of all panels, photovoltaic module string tests, inverter system checks, junction box, isolator, distribution board, and cabling inspection, meter checks, labelling/schematic checks, energy production analysis, voltage and current checks, production of maintenance reports, and roof condition alerts.

There are some simple steps that solar panel system owners can take to ensure their PV system performs well and meets their objectives. These steps include:

  • Make visual checks of solar panels from the ground level to look for slipped panels, damage or soiling
  • Inspect the inverter for indications of faults or damage
  • Monitor the meter-recorded generation to ensure it’s increasing
  • Visually check for signs of structural distress
  • Reduce shading from vegetation growth where possible
  • Keep records of these checks

Some may argue it’s best to conduct these checks in Springtime due to harsher Winters with more snow these days. The weight of the snow can displace or damage panels, necessitating replacement. However, we recommend regular checks either monthly or quarterly for peace of mind.

Without this routine maintenance and servicing, insurance cover may be questioned in the event of a claim, as to whether the failure is due to poor or no maintenance. Let’s not forget that these systems run electricity, which is the cause of 15% of all fires in the UK. Solar systems are generally installed on rooftops, where they can sustain damage caused by rodents and birds. Being proactive with maintenance and repairs is often much cheaper than being reactive to a total failure.

By Simon Johnson Cert CIIAccount Executive


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