Standardization News

Photovoltaic Power Plants

A proposed new ASTM International standard will be used to provide guidance for potential stakeholders involved in the financing, construction and maintenance of solar photovoltaic electric power plants.

WK43549, Practice for Installation, Commissioning, Operation and Maintenance Process, is being developed by Subcommittee E44.09 on Photovoltaic Electric Power Conversion, part of ASTM International Committee E44 on Solar, Geothermal and Other Alternative Energy Sources.

WK43549 details minimum requirements to ensure safe and reliable power generation for the expected life of a photovoltaic power plant.

According to Michael Whitson, president, PCGSolar Inc., and an E44 member, the rapid expansion of the solar photovoltaic industry has led to an increased need for standardization.

"The industry cannot maintain this level of growth without having some checks and balances to ensure quality and safety, especially with the very large solar sites now being developed," says Whitson.

"Through discussion with industry experts, capital markets and the insurance community, we identified key gaps in quality between code requirements and best practice, along with needs for surety to capital stakeholders. In an ever-changing and expanding industry like PV, you must stay ahead of code requirements to achieve quality, ensure safety and provide assurance for the capital markets."

George Kelly, president, Sunset Technology Inc., and a former chairman of E44, notes that communicating useful information to potential renewable energy investors is one of the ideas currently being pursued by an international effort called the PV Quality Assurance Task Force. This has led to an effort to establish an international system for conformity assessment of such projects.

"This is where I envision WK43549 coming into play, as part of the basis for conformity assessments," says Kelly. "Such assessments are routinely performed in other industries and have become a requirement for funding approval. Moving to such a system is an indicator that PV is becoming a mature industry. Establishment of high quality consensus standards and the right ways to use them will enable the industry to grow and prosper."

CONTACT Technical Information: Michael D. Whitson, PCGSolar Inc. • Charlotte, N.C. | ASTM Staff: Christine DeJong • Phone: 610-832-9736 | Upcoming Meeting: June 25-26 • In conjunction with D02 June meeting • Indianapolis, Ind.

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