Distributed Solar Quality and Safety in India – Key Challenges and Potential Solutions
In India, the quality and safety of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems—and their installation—have become a concern for investors, regulators, consumers, and distribution companies (discoms). The lack of quality standards and a push for low prices has led to the installation of poor-quality products and inferior system design and execution on site (Devi et al. 2018). These low-quality systems deliver less energy than expected and have a lower overall lifespan, which are serious issues for developers and investors whose return on investment depends on the amount of power generated from these solar systems for the expected life of the project. Equipment that does not conform to minimum quality standards also creates safety risks for business and homeowners. Overall, both performance and safety concerns lower investor and consumer confidence in solar products, threatening to slow market development, and are likely key contributing factors in slowing rooftop photovoltaic (RTPV) installations in India, particularly small- capacity systems (less than 100kW). Technical issues such as the absence of standards or monitoring systems, and the penetration of inferior-quality products in the market hamper the performance of the solar system and create a poor reputation for PV systems and the technology (Devi et al. 2018).
India is not alone; the solar quality and safety issues it faces mirror global experiences. Worldwide, residential RTPV consumers are typically unable to distinguish between low- and high-quality systems. RTPV system components vary in quality, and inadequate training leads to poor installation practices. Many inspection checklists and certification procedures to rectify these issues are already available in India, however, they are not always used because they are not mandatory, or the workforce is not aware of them, or may not have the technical capacity to comply. Demonstrations of quality products and installation practices are more effective if the information reaches the consumer in a clear way. A successful approach to improving residential RTPV system quality is likely to include an assortment of strategies by different stakeholders, as discussed later in this report.
This report provides solar quality and safety information and best practices that can help increase confidence in RTPV in India, particularly for small-capacity systems, and thus accelerate the growth of that sector. New data stemming from expert interviews and a stakeholder workshop shed light on common quality and safety technical issues at various stages of an RTPV system’s life (Figure ES- 1) and potential solutions for addressing them. To achieve the goal of a low-cost system with high energy yield, best practices must be followed at each stage of system life.