Stranded Solar Systems, sometimes called Solar Orphans, refer to abandoned or neglected solar energy projects or installations that are left incomplete or non-functional by the original contractor or installer. Not only is this frustrating for the property owner, who is left with an inoperable or underperforming system, but it results in wasted resources and lost potential for renewable energy generation.

There are several reasons why PV systems may be abandoned. One common cause is the bankruptcy or financial instability of the project developer or installer. In some cases, the project may be abandoned midway, leaving the solar infrastructure incomplete. Additionally, changes in government policies, utility interconnection requirements, lack of maintenance, or poor planning can also contribute to the occurrence of solar orphans.

To avoid becoming the owner of a stranded system, it is crucial to address these issues proactively. Here are some measures that can be taken:

1. Financial stability and due diligence: Before investing in a solar project, assess the financial stability, tenure, and track record of the project developer or installer. This can help ensure that the project will be completed and maintained properly.

2. Permitting and Interconnection: Make sure all required permits and interconnection permissions have been obtained prior to installation. Your contractor should be able to provide information about permitting with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) where your property is located (local building department), as well as the regulations regarding interconnection with your utility.

3. Adequate project management: Proper project management is crucial to ensure the successful completion and maintenance of solar projects. A pre-construction site visit to confirm equipment locations, roof measurements, conduit runs and other construction logistics is necessary to ensure the build goes smoothly.. Proper project management also includes regular monitoring, maintenance schedules, and clear communication between you and your installer to address any issues promptly.

4. Installer training: Ask your installer what training programs are available for their project developers, installers, and maintenance personnel. This can help ensure that solar projects are installed correctly and maintained effectively, reducing the chances of abandonment. NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) is the industry standard for certification. Equipment warranties provided by manufacturers require that installers be specifically certified to install their brand. Any technician doing work on your home who is not certified by the equipment manufacturer will void that warranty.

5. Maintenance options: Does your installer have a maintenance department that is available to work in your location? Some companies contract their installations out to third party installers – and many installers will not provide service for systems they did not install. This does not necessarily mean the installation will be low-quality, but it may indicate that the company does not have a permanent team dedicated to maintenance. Maintenance teams also need to be certified by manufacturers; if an uncertified technician works on equipment that requires certification by the manufacturer, product warranties may be voided.

Unfortunately, some property owners in central Ohio (and all over the country) have found themselves stranded with incomplete systems or have had maintenance issues that the original installer can’t or will not address. In some cases, this may be a matter of repairing or replacing equipment. In other cases, systems are unable to pass inspections due to jurisdictional requirements, and a construction team may need to uninstall a system.

If you or someone you know find yourselves in this position, Ecohouse may be able to help!

We have adopted, repaired, and built expansions on several systems built by companies that are no longer in business or operating in Central Ohio. Click here to learn more about our solar panel maintenance and contact our local team for support!