September 10, 2019

Wire management at solar sites is an oft-overlooked aspect of solar O&M, yet it is critical to a site’s performance, safety and longevity. Because wiring is vulnerable to a host of threats, robust wire management should be a top priority. In this post we rundown what every solar site manager should know about good wire management and its impact on the health of your site.

What is Wire Management?

Because wires are subjected to many abuses – such as the weather, intrusive wildlife, misuse, and general wear and tear – wiring systems require thoughtful installation and routine monitoring.  A wire management program ensures that the wired connections at your solar project are properly installed, suitably secured, and well-maintained.

The first concern is the wire installation. During this process, wires should be secured with slack for movement, have pinch points removed, given a proper bend radius, and installed with minimal exposure to the elements while still allowing easy access to maintenance techs and site managers.  Wiring also needs to be organized with neat routing and conspicuous labelling.

After installation, wire management involves regular oversight to ensure wires rest where they should, haven’t been chewed by vermin, pose no fire risk, and more. When problems are spotted, technicians need to immediately rectify them.

How Does Wire Management Impact Renewable Energy Projects?

By leveraging mindful wire management, solar installations see reductions in wire failure and replacement: future maintenance needs are performed quickly and at a reduced cost, overall safety is increased, and systems maximize energy output.

Sloppy construction during installation and a lack of oversight are the typical causes of most wiring problems. Cheap harnesses, non-UV-rated zip ties, overly tightened tie downs, stretched wires, loose wires, exposed connections and other avoidable workmanship issues cause unnecessary costs and system breakdowns that put sites over budget and behind in production. An ISP that has developed processes for preventing and mitigating wiring disasters can help solar systems last several decades.

WWS Technicians reattach home runs and module stringing at a solar project in California.

WWS’s Wire Management Services

Per NEC 110.12, the only standard for wire management is “Electrical equipment shall be installed in a neat and workmanlike manner.” While some installers, inspectors, and project managers will do enough to meet that vague standard, the WWS model mandates that wire management emphasizes safety and positions the solar project for years of profitability.

WWS initiates new projects by first performing quality checks on the work done by previous subcontractors; this approach ensures that shoddy workmanship is eliminated and wiring systems are healthy before retrofits and maintenance begin.

After repairs have been made, we conduct on-going checks on the wiring. Additionally, while performing tasks unrelated to the wiring, we employ our Inspection of Watch program, a WWS pioneered best practice where our technicians intentionally scan for problems outside of the immediate task at hand. For example, during brush removal activities WWS technicians will visually scan the wiring looking for loose wires, chewed wires, threats of fire, and more. Juan Acuna, a QA/QC technician with WWS, uses the GPS on his phone during his Inspection of Watch activities. If he finds faulty wiring, he drops a pin with a photograph attached and sends it to the client. “[After sending the photograph], they can then address it however they need to,” Juan says. “The client’s internal systems might be telling them that particular module is working just fine and there’s no known mechanical issues, so they wouldn’t have even known to check that, but by making that known to them it’s another value-added benefit WWS provides.”

Proper management of a solar site is the key to maximized output, cost-savings, and longevity. The site will produce the most with a holistic approach that considers land management, equipment maintenance, and a developed wire management program. Avoid emergencies and protect the safety of all by making sure your wiring systems are managed by technicians with a robust background in wire management and an appreciation for fastidious wire care.

If you would like to learn more about World Wind & Solar’s Wire Management services, please contact Daryl Ragsdale at 858-472-3883 or [email protected]