Building solar energy and microgrid systems for your facilities is a great way to provide energy security and resiliency and to generate energy savings. System components typically have no moving parts, long useful life, and generally require very little maintenance. However, long-term preventative maintenance should always be considered when planning to build energy resiliency into a facility with a microgrid, or even with just a solar energy system.
Because these systems provide valuable savings and secure energy for critical facilities the small additional cost for ongoing preventative maintenance services is often well worth it. Consider these tips for maximizing system performance through preventative maintenance:
1. Mitigating Costs Up Front
By far, the most effective way to maximize performance over your system’s life is to consider the total lifetime cost of the system instead of focusing on the initial capital expenditure. For long-term performance, the lowest up-front cost may not yield the best results. Consider quality of workmanship and the experience of the firms providing design and construction services and how that affects long term performance and maintenance costs.
2. Selecting the Right Warranties
Often, standard manufacturer warranties are sufficient to guarantee performance of system components, particularly for long-life equipment like solar modules. Solar modules are typically warranty guaranteed for 25 years, so it likely wouldn’t make sense to incur additional costs to add to their already long life.
However, for shorter life equipment extended warranties are something to consider. Battery energy storage systems, for example, are expected to last a decade or so. Depending on the cost, extending their warranty could mean pushing the cost of equipment replacement down the road. Though, be wary when the extended warranty costs a significant portion of the cost of the equipment itself. For example, if an extended warranty costs almost as much as the equipment, you would effectively be pre-paying for the replacement. In those scenarios, it may make sense to accept the standard warranty and plan for replacement sooner.
3. Auditing Economic Performance and Resiliency
It goes without saying that preventative maintenance is required to ensure your solar or microgrid system is performing as expected. But, we often forget that the reason we expect performance is because we expect the savings and energy security that comes from a high functioning system.
When receiving preventative maintenance services, be sure to audit the systems economic performance as well as its technical performance. Is the system generating the expected savings? If the system is a microgrid, test the system periodically for resiliency. Will the microgrid allow your operation to continue despite interruption in the grid?