Commissioning new nonresidential buildings and spaces is now common practice, but as renewable energy becomes increasingly prevalent, commissioning solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and thermal systems for preheating water will prove just as important.  The top three reasons to consider solar commissioning right now are:

      • Fewer equipment repairs
      • Long-term operational cost savings
      • Cohesive actions across design and construction teams

Unlike “start-ups,” which some installers confusingly call “commissioning,” true commissioning is a quality control process that runs parallel with installation and start-ups that verifies your building’s systems operate as the owner intended and as the installing contractor guarantees.

After investing huge sums of money, you want that investment to pay off. Even when performance verification is not mandated by code (such as HERS verifications for new residential PV systems), common business sense dictates making sure you received what you paid for. That’s where third-party solar commissioning comes in. We’re not saying not to trust your solar installer, but an independent extra set of eyes is a prudent investment. When your solar systems – whether photovoltaic or thermal – don’t function properly, you waste time, money, and energy.

Why invest in solar commissioning?

Commissioning oversight of PV installation diminishes the chances you will need repairs or replacements in the future and minimizes disruptions to you or your tenants’ energy access. From a resource standpoint, commissioning’s quality control process also mitigates the time and labor needed to correct mistakes by catching non-conformances and inefficiencies earlier in the process.

Commissioning will also verify that your solar systems comply with the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), a document set up in the design phase of the project to define the cost expectations, performance goals, operational approaches, and other details based on the project owner’s needs and desires. Fewer miscommunications will occur if all systems align with the OPR during early project stages.

What is involved in the solar commissioning process?

During the early stages of design, a commissioning agent will listen to your needs, review your plans, and provide feedback on orientation, design, and brand selection. They understand the technology and can provide calculations to help you determine the system size you need or might want to account for in the future. The commissioning agent understands your business requirements and acts only on your behalf as an owner advocate.

After the systems are installed, the commissioning agent will visit your project site to observe everything from equipment installation and compliance with industry standards to system performance and personnel training.

How does HERS verification complement solar commissioning?

Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS) solar performance checks are mandatory to comply with the Low-rise Residential 2019 Energy Code and beyond. From design checks – like shading analyses or verifying array and panel counts meet the plans – to construction compliance tests, HERS verification will ensure you’re meeting code standards and upholding your project’s energy and financial targets.

How does VCA approach nonresidential commissioning and residential HERS verification?

VCA Green works on the behalf of the client to ensure the complete follow-through of project and operational goals for any selected installer and that the project meets the design intent and budget expectations. We offer a comprehensive and efficient process that keeps all team members accountable and diligent, while transferring financial savings and high-performing system operations to ownership. For more information, contact Moe Fakih below.

Contributing Writer: Dani Grace, Energy Analyst

Moe Fakih, Principal