Four C&I solar project development lessons learned by Standard Solar

rooftop solar install

Have a solid staging plan, especially on constrained-area sites like rooftops.

One of the many reasons working for Standard Solar is so rewarding is that we do not design and install cookie-cutter projects. We customize each system with the specific host, site location, environmental situation and unique challenges of the project in mind. Overcoming these challenges and providing the best possible project on time and on budget makes building these systems that much more satisfying.

As the solar industry matures, we believe ensuring all projects are completed with the highest level of safety and professionalism is paramount in achieving success. Here are some of the more critical lessons we’ve learned recently installing and owning solar projects throughout the United States.

Supervision required

This seems obvious, right? When you’re working on a solar project with many moving parts, who would try to work without supervision?

What is often overlooked, however, is that this supervision cannot be casual. It needs to be conducted daily — and for some projects, multiple times per day. Otherwise, problems are going to arise that will go unnoticed until the project is much further down the road. By then, fixing mistakes almost always costs more than identifying and rectifying the problems early on in the process.

Additionally, do not skimp on site security. Keeping the project safe and secure while the workers are not there is almost as important as watching over the site when they are.

Ask for permission, not forgiveness

It’s easy, in the name of progress, to give your subcontractors the ability to change plans on the fly. In our experience, however, sometimes those changes can lead to bigger headaches.

Insist that your subcontractors receive your superintendent’s approval before they make any changes to the approved plans. Let them know that if they proceed without your approval, they will be responsible for any costs associated with these unauthorized changes as well as possible corrections and delays in the schedule. Implementing a solid Request For Information (RFI) Process is key to success in this area and building a strong relationship with your subcontractors.

In addition, it’s critical that superintendents and subcontractors are all building off the same drawing set. It’s up to the superintendent to confirm — as often as necessary — that everyone is singing from the same sheet music.

The entire site is not a stage

Confirm the staging area with the site host before any material arrives. Moreover, get the staging area approved in writing. There is nothing worse than having material show up at a construction site without any place to put it. Having a solid, approved staging plan, especially on constrained-area sites like rooftops, is key to the success of the installation phase.

Furthermore, superintendents should reject any material unless it’s staged within a reasonable distance from the mobilization area of the project. Solar modules and other materials are not easy to move, so avoid having to move them long distances or multiple times as this could potentially cause damage.

Trust, but verify

Superintendents must receive all structural and electrical information from vendors and subcontractors and verify that the installation meets code. The superintendent is ultimately responsible for making sure an installation is code compliant. Ensuring compliance at every step of the process ensures the project will go smoothly, making everyone’s life easier.

The bottom line is you can trust your vendor’s subcontractors to do their jobs, but there is nothing wrong with verifying they are completing it safely and correctly.

Rick Berube is COO of Standard Solar. Stay tuned to Standard Solar’s blog for more in this series.

— Solar Builder magazine


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