How to reduce BoS solar costs

Joyce Laird

Part 3. Case study - Getting certified: the Intertek factor

Somebody has to make sure all of the innovations discussed in the main feature meet electrical, safety and structural criteria. That's where the independent certification laboratories come in.

One such organisation, headquartered in the UK, and with divisions in more than 100 countries, is Intertek.

Working directly with regulatory bodies to keep up with industry trends, allows Intertek to provide a broad range of expertise and the most comprehensive integrated testing, certification and consulting services in the industry. One noticeable trend, says Sunny Rai, InterTek's regional vice president, is a lot of partnering in the area of racking, mounting and peripheral electronics for solar. And certainly, more testing is being done on full or at least partly integrated components of systems, rather than single edging or new rack-mounting products alone, he says.

“We started doing evaluations of racking and mounting systems because of accidents that had taken place with grounding issues in rackings and mountings. The industry got together and actually wrote a guideline for all racking and mounting systems which is now becoming UL standard 2703,” he says.

“The biggest trend we are seeing in the industry today, is to take all the guesswork out of installation and make it as modular as possible so every installation is exactly the same,” he continues. “Many new systems being designed are made to interlock in a way that is not just a benefit from the installation area as far as loading, snow loading and wind loading, and dynamic loads, but also provide proper grounding without the need to provide specialised workmanship. They snap together in a way to ensure proper grounding. We've been testing quite a few of those.”

Weight worries

Rai says that weight is another issue, but while some solutions work, such as those that eliminate rack-mounting entirely, others run into challenges. “Some designs have used non-metallic materials when trying to go lightweight. There are safety issues,” he says. “When using some polymeric materials that could potentially burn, they have to make sure it meets the fire class rating for the roofing material and the uniform building code to conform with the roofing and fire requirement as the entire roof, including the modules and racking.”

To safeguard against bad results before getting to the test stages, smart companies bring their design concepts to Intertek to get a preliminary design review and make sure they are in compliance with all the standards that are applicable to the materials and designs. “Once they get our feedback and make any changes that might be needed in the product, then they can go back and create the final product and submit a complete sample to us,” Rai says.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity