Quality certification matters for solar PV users

With the successful introduction of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) in 2010 total solar PV installations in the UK reached 240,000 by end of January 2012 (DECC, 2012).  Around 940 MW has been installed  during this period.

Since the FIT is connected with a 25-year energy generating life, the quality of the solar PV equipment was greatly highlighted by the government.  Merely installations with MCS certified installers and products attract funding.  NQA also agreed that it is important to ensure the MCS certification as an assurance of long-term performance of solar PV equipments, in order to secure the health and reputation of this new sector.

However, because many components for the solar PV equipments are imported overseas, a rigorous process for a broadly accepted quality certification system is significant.  Two stages are suggested for the process.  In stage one, there is the standard product testing procedure during the products being manufactured.  This is to ensure the required performance criteria are met.  The documented manufacturing quality control and assurance system used here is the Factory Production Control (FPC) that needs to meet the requirements of MSC 010.  The FPC will consider not only the products themselves, but also the suppliers for all the materials that ware used in the final products.  For this process, the quality standard ISO 9001 that satisfy the majority of the requirements for MCS certification will be used.

In stage two, the focus is on testing the product itself.  This will ensure that all the MCS scheme requirements relevant to individual technology are all satisfied for this product.  The requirements of MCS 011 must be met in this testing stage.  Once the certification is attained, the maintenance is important.  Annual audit will be required to test the products and ensure that all the standards are maintained.

(Published in Eco Building Magazine, May/June 2012)