Building Management Hawaii - February/March 2012 - (Page 18)
Being Smart About PV Systems
By Mark Duda
s the millennium moves into its second decade, photovoltaic (PV) systems have transitioned from a novelty to a fact of life on commercial buildings. In 2012, this trend shows no signs of weakening. As PV becomes commonplace, commercial property managers will need to be knowledgeable on installation practices, system operations and maintenance. This piece examines key areas for these managers to focus on in order to properly maintain buildings enhanced with solar energy systems. An obvious concern is the building’s roof. First and foremost, PV should not cause roof leaks. Obviously contractors are responsible for pre-installation roof conditions, and a contractor should be able to identify roofs that require upgrading in order accommodate the installation of a PV system with a 20-plus year
expected life. Doing this will clarify pre-existing conditions and allow contractors to accept responsibility for any new leaks and rectify them right away. In the end, the key to roof and PV system maintenance is to install the system the right way on a healthy roof in order to be able to attain that coveted 25-year system life. Another consideration is the siting of the PV system on the building’s roof. Often at the customer’s request, a contractor will utilize every available inch of roof space. This can make it difficult for fire fighters to access all parts of the roof, which is an important safety concern. Building owners and/or managers should be comfortable asking for designs that offer various pathways through the array even if they are not strictly required by the code for fire access. Attentive property managers will
also want to be abreast of electrical issues. Because PV systems add to the potential loading on a building’s existing electrical system, various electrical apparatuses may need to be upgraded as part of the PV installation in order to meet code. In some cases, especially on older buildings, this process may bring to light code issues with the existing electrical system. In such instances, the PV contractor should insist that everything conforms to the building code as part of the scope of the installation. Another electrical issue to be familiar with is the fact that the electrical service from the utility may need to be upgraded or a new transformer purchased in order to accommodate the new PV system. While this equipment can result in significant costs, it is typically not enough to undermine the economics of most PV projects. In addition, one final electrical issue: the inverters which convert DC power into the AC power used in the building do make noise and should be located accordingly. Ultimately, a rooftop PV system is not much more complicated than a normal roof and should not be thought of as hindering a roof’s primary job of keeping the elements out. Nor should it subject a building to additional safety concerns due to the rooftop installation or electrical issues. Building managers who understand these expectations and can work together with contractors to achieve them should see nothing but benefits from the rooftop PV, even as the appearance of commercial rooftops changes forever.
Mark Duda is President of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association and a Principal with RevoluSun, Hawaii’s largest locally owned solar design and installation firm. For more information visit www. RevoluSun.com.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Building Management Hawaii - February/March 2012
Movers and Shakers
Aimee Harris, Trade Publishing’s New Editorial Director
Rooftop Evolution: The Convergence of Roofing and Energy Technologie
Being Smart About PV Systems
Hawaii Energy and You
Solar Leasing Programs Lower Costs and Maintenance
Shifting Winds: The Changing Shape of A/C
How Safe Is Your Safety Glass?
Window Glazing as a Source of Water Leaks
Technologically Advanced Window Films Provide Smart Solutions
Hawaii Buildings, Facilities and Property Management Expo 2012
Building Management Hawaii - February/March 2012