How Can I Find Tested Solar PV Systems?

Is there a source to find suppliers, productions for the procurement of solar and the production of solar, that have been tested by a reputable firm? The California initiative seems like it might work in a number of states, including North Carolina. –Bruce D., Casar, NC

Bruce — thanks for your note to RenewableEnergyAccess.com asking about PV panels. The demand for solar electric systems is growing incredibly, stimulated by rising energy costs, lower prices for the solar equipment, and federal (and state) tax credits. The solar industry is changing from an emphasis on solar water heating to one where people want PV systems. I see it in the calls and letters I get, and it is increasing in this direction rapidly. Your comment about California makes everyone in the other 49 states envious. They have put their money where their mouth is, and have incredible incentives to encourage solar electricity. The Mayor of New York has announced initiatives in this direction, and the Florida Legislature is currently discussing a major new energy bill filled with incentives. These are just examples of what is happening all over the country. RenewableEnergyAccess.com has had stories in recent months about some of the state activities and you’ll be seeing more news all the time. I’m sure you’re familiar with the DSIRE database that is maintained by the North Carolina Solar Center (www.dsireusa.org) that will tell you about all of the incentives available in North Carolina as well as the other states. Testing is still “iffy.” SRCC is a national organization for testing and certifying solar thermal equipment, and it looks like the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) will be designated to operate a similar type of program for PV. There have always been questions about manufacturer claims for PV performance, and from what I’ve seen, testing often finds very different levels of performance than the manufacturer claimed. We’re very close to getting a national system to certify systems, which will be a big help. One great place to find suppliers and contractors is www.findsolar.com, a site from DOE, the American Solar Energy Society and the Solar Electric Power Assn., which will give you contact information for solar people all over the country. The Solar Energy Industries Association in D.C. (www.seia.org) has a list of their members — they also have 14 state chapters (but not one in NC) and you can contact any of them for member lists. That’ll help you find companies, installers and others, but it still won’t help you with the testing. However, you’ll get lots of useful information from people in the industry. I think because FSEC has done quite a bit of testing of PV equipment, you ought to contact someone there (I suggest Kevin Lynn) and ask for information on equipment that has been tested. I hope this is helpful and points you in the direction you want. Good luck. — Ken Sheinkopf
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