PV System Design and Installation
Putting a PV system into a building or residence takes a considerable amount of
time, so it is important to be well organized. There are four distinct phases of PV
system installation: preparation, design, installation, and maintenance.
Conducting the site evaluation is a crucial first step in the design process. The site evaluation
will help you identify shading factors, installation obstacles, roof materials, space, module
orientation, and other important facts.
Courtesy of PerfectPower, Inc.
In preparation for design and installation, you must complete the preliminary
work of finding a customer, doing an accurate site evaluation, determining what
the customer wants and needs, and finishing a legal contract agreement.
The next steps are important because they can be accomplished well or can
result in complications or frustration for the customer and integrator. With any
system, an outcome can either be profitable or create a loss for the company. In
addition, customer satisfaction is paramount: You can end up with a happy or
very unhappy customer depending on your preparations.
Please keep in mind that there are variations in all PV projects. There are no
packaged customers, sites, or systems. Every company performs in a slightly dif-
ferent manner. The organizations you work with have their own ways and cus-
toms. This outline should help as a general checklist to what major steps must be
taken in preparation to complete the job properly.
Preliminary preparations should include meeting with the PV project team
and reviewing the contract, site analysis, environmental data, and any other
50 ADVANCED PHOTOVOLTAIC INSTALLATIONS
requirements, restrictions, and customer needs. Then review the schedule for
when the project is handed off to engineering, purchasing, staging, and
The project should then be turned over to a project manager and scheduled.
Then contact your state’s Energy Commission incentive program guide and use
the customer’s past electric bills to conduct an energy audit. There are several
other preparation steps you need to take before installing a PV system:
Review criteria such as financial resources, cost savings, and mounting space
when choosing the PV system size.
Go through all factory-designed PV system packages with the customer’s
Compare different PV system products, warranties, and installation
Submit for permitting review, and determine when the permit will be ready
to allow time for comments or changes.
Order the equipment needed for the job; remember to choose PV products
and systems that meet local incentive program standards.
Schedule the materials for drop shipment that can be sent directly to the site.
Complete the pre-installation walkthrough with the customer or
Review the project with the installers, assign tasks, review safety issues, and
discuss the quality assurance process.
Remember to instruct the installers to clean up the site daily.
Brief the customers, and tell them what the next step is. There should be
Schedule inspections with the authority having jurisdiction or AHJ (the
local government entity that approves building permits, including those for
PV systems) and utility company—courtesy inspections and inspections at
the end of the completed installation.
Do a final walk-through with the customer, and have the customer sign off
on all of the installation details.
Reinspect your system after about 90 days, and complete a thorough systems
check. Retorque all of the mechanical and electrical components. This
inspection will accomplish a number of goals, such as:
Confirming and/or correcting any system conditions, both positive
Allowing electrical and mechanical connections to set properly and
correcting any potential loose connections;
Testing strings to see if they are balanced; identifying potentially bad
panels, inverter challenges, and other defects in system operations that
will lower the PV system’s ability to produce energy.
CHAPTER 3 Installation: Creating the Best PV System 51