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June 12, 2015 | Weather or Not, the Array Must Go In

This is the first in a series of posts about the interactions between weather and solar. In this installment, we explore how weather can interfere with even the best installation plans.

Bad weather can occur anytime during the construction of a solar project, and it’s always irritating. But while driving rain can be a nuisance at the end of a project, it’s the beginning when the project manager is obsessively watching The Weather Channel.

Since putting a project together from infancy to initiation can take months (and for more complex projects, often years), it’s no surprise that financial backers, owners and project managers are anxious to start construction as soon as possible. There are inverter pads to install, racking to raise and trenches to tackle. By the time a project finally meets all the federal, state and local requirements and standards, most involved are impatiently waiting to get started.

In addition, development contracts frequently outline definitive completion and commissioning deadlines for the project. Any delay, whether nature creates it or an errant earthmover does, could spell trouble for meeting those deadlines.

But rain at the beginning of the project causes intense frustration for installers. Think about it: You’ve excavated the site in anticipation of installing the underground portions of the array, then heavy rains come and turn all your carefully turned earth to mud. At that point, it makes no sense to have workers come to the site. As the rain runs down the construction trailer’s windows, it’s clear no work will be done during the downpour.

Meanwhile, the owners and bankers are looking over your shoulder to make sure the unexpected delays don’t cause the price of the project to skyrocket.

Typically, there’s no financial penalty attached to the installer in the case of severe weather delays, like hail, tornados, hurricanes, etc. After all, installers have no control over what Mother Nature has in store for a project. Any costs incurred during these severe weather delays are usually absorbed by the financial backers.

But it’s those pesky completion deadlines that cause contractors the most sleepless nights. In our next installment, we will discuss strategies installers can employ to ensure on-time project delivery, even under the worst weather conditions.

Steve Crivelli is Conergy’s Director of Project Management and is based in Sacramento, California.