By Gayrajan Kohli
A few tips in staying solar by a domain expert
The first item on the list is also the most important: ignoring maintenance. Do not disregard a solar system’s maintenance requirements. A solar system does not require much maintenance but that does not mean that you ignore it completely. Cleaning of the solar panels is the only task you need to perform regularly. You can clean the panels simply by using a clean dry cloth to wipe the dust off once a week if possible, or at least once every two weeks. If it is very dusty then it is best to clean the panels using water before wiping them dry.
During rainy season, cleaning the panels becomes even more important. India deals with major air pollution and you do not want water, dust and oil (from the exhaust of cars and local factories) to mix and solidify into a light-blocking, glass-scratching mass over the panels. It is, thus, imperative to wipe the panels dry after rainfall and ensure that full sunlight reaches the solar cells.
Batteries or inverters do not require regular maintenance. Annual maintenance services provided by your solar installer for them should be sufficient.
Equally important to avoid at all costs is the rush to make a judgment: do not make a quick decision while choosing your solar integrator, and your decision must definitely not be based on the system’s price tag (also see the fourth “don’t do” below). Take your time and conduct a thorough background check of the company/installer you are considering contracting from. Ask to see their references and call them for their honest feedback. Check the company’s credentials and any certificates, industry memberships, or government empanelment that they are advertising. If need be, call up a few project consultants and ask them their opinion of the installer. You can also check the state or central government’s consumer complaint websites for any grievances registered against the company. There are plenty of excellent solar companies and installation experts out there. Use them. The only way you will get duped by scams or choose an incompetent installer is if you do not research diligently.
Calculate Energy Requirements on 1 Month’s Usage
Thirdly, do not calculate your solar energy requirements based on only 1 month’s electricity usage. This is one of the most common mistakes and it gives you an inaccurate picture. You should ideally take into consideration the monthly-consumption of the past 12 months and calculate your solar system’s size based on either the lowest— also known as the base requirement, and ideal for off-grid or hybrid projects, or the highest consumption, which is ideal for grid-tied or net-metering based projects.
Get Caught in the “Least Cost” Mentality
The fourth “don’t do” is to be caught in the very attractive “least cost” mentality that we usually find ourselves employing while making our regular purchases. Solar is not regular merchandise; it is a long term investment that should last you a minimum of 20 to 25 years. You do not want to sacrifice that longevity over a small upfront increment which, in reality, may also ensure a better return on the investment. Instead you should focus on the quality of the system and, equally important, its installation. Properly fastened wires, robust system protection/insulation, good quality modules and inverter, a well ventilated battery storage room, and a securely fastened foundation are just some of the critical parameters you should insist on while gathering solar quotes. You may pay a bit more but in the end your system will endure and outlast 25 years of intense heat, strong winds, heavy rainfall and biting cold, while still meeting your energy requirements.
Think Your System will Replace Electricity Grid
Last but not the least, do not be under the impression that the system can replace your electricity grid. It cannot—not without a handsome infusion of capital anyways. A 1 kW system cannot be expected to run a 1 ton A/C while also running your other electrical appliances. At this stage of the technology’s evolution, solar systems work best to supplement your electricity needs. They can provide you with the necessary energy but they need to be sized correctly to generate that energy. Thus, you must set and manage your expectations appropriately. Have a frank and open discussion with your system supplier or visit the many websites (private as well as government) that provide you with free online tools to calculator/determine your system needs.
If you need more assistance, reach out to the experts at India Goes Solar for any guidance. We’re here to help.
The author is Senior Manager-Consulting at Bridge To India, an Indian solar and cleantech-centric management consulting firm. He also operates IndiaGoesSolar.com, a consumer awareness initiative. He is passionate about solar energy and bullish on India’s solar future
This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India