With support from the federal government, as well as state and local governments, primarily through tax credit programs and mandates for renewable energy generation, renewable energy projects are currently in a period of growth. Tax credits have played a key role in the growth of these projects (in regions where these credit programs are in place) due to the availability of tax credit equity financing, which provides a valuable source of financing for medium to large scale installations.

Basic Components of Common Renewable Energy Systems

Regardless of the size and purpose of the systems, the basic components needed are similar. The power is typically generated in these systems as direct current (DC) power, most commonly collected through photovoltaic solar modules or wind turbines. Several of these generation sources may be connected into a combiner box and then tied back through an electrical disconnect to the inverter. The inverters are installed to convert the DC power to AC (alternating current) power. The inverter capacity is proportionate to the size of the installation, so a larger installation either requires more inverters or larger inverters than a smaller installation. The AC power is then routed into a transformer and either into the subject property (through a net meter) or through utility provided equipment into the national electric grid. Net meters installed at subject properties offset power from the grid with power from the renewable array, reducing metered use and costs.

Common Risks with Solar Photovoltaic Installations

Solar array installations on buildings provide a particular set of risks that must be monitored. Certain of the common risks are as follows: during the design phase of the project, the development team should ensure that the roof and structure of the target building has sufficient strength to hold the dead weight of the equipment to be installed, including the mounting system, modules, combiner boxes, wiring, and conduit/raceways. In addition, the roof should account for uplift loading. Another consideration for the roof mounted equipment is the remaining useful life of the roofing material and whether or not it would need to be replaced after the system is installed. Generally, these installations are installed under leases of 20 or more years, which may exceed the useful remaining life of roof membranes or shingles. The systems can be designed to avoid roof penetrations; however, the systems can still present wear and tear issues at all the points of contact between the roof and the mounting system. Many roofs, particularly on commercial buildings, also hold various vent piping, mechanical units and other equipment, parapets, etc. that must be taken into account when designing the array layout to avoid shading of modules that will reduce power generation. Finally, the process of installation can pose a risk to the existing roof as damage may occur during installation. As such, if a warranty remains at the time of installation, it is critical that the roof be re-inspected by the appropriate party to ensure the contractor installing the solar array is aware of any and all damage that must be repaired in order to maintain the existing roof warranty.

Fulcrum has had the privilege of performing field observations and managing risk on many different renewable energy projects including over 100 solar installations (both rooftop and ground-mounted) across the U.S., ranging from very small systems to offset energy costs in a building to over 20 MW (megawatts) in size to supply power to the electrical grid. Fulcrum has also been retained to manage risk on a biomass fuel plant project. Over the last few years, significant growth in renewable energy projects has been observed and substantial tax credit programs remain a large incentive. For additional information regarding Fulcrum‘s experience with renewable energy projects, as well as how we can help manage your risk with such projects, please feel free to download Renewable Energy in Construction. If you have any questions or would like additional information on renewable energy projects, please do not hesitate to call Fulcrum at (602) 759-7884 or contact us via email at info@fulcrumcompany.com.