The maturing PV market is revealing hazards that not only affect the ongoing performance of PV systems but also safety risks arising from weathering, poor installation, substandard product and poor maintenance levels. It is only now that end-users are discovering that they are perhaps getting what they paid for.

In the embryonic days of PV, systems were sometimes badly sited and over time have generated well below the expected yield. In these cases, modifying the design and products themselves is the only answer, but in many other cases, less obvious problems can be highlighted and rectified via simple regular testing and maintenance. According to the International Standard IEC62446 for grid-connected PV systems, it is recommended that periodic testing is carried out after the system has been installed, and cleaning panels via specialist professionals is now well-documented as being vital to achieve optimum performance.

Thankfully, the vast majority of installers in the market today are professional, competent and increasingly well-informed on the subject of quality in their work and choice of product, but there was and still is an element of compromise in both areas that is now manifesting itself in under-performance and at worst, the occasional house fire.

The good news is that these issues can be easily avoided. Good quality panels are the first and obvious step to take – they are more likely to stand the test of time and will require less cleaning, but it is not always the most expensive elements of the system that cause the most problems.

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