One, as a solar PV installer, requires several tools and equipments for the safe and successful installation. Solar PV systems are installed on flat-roofs, pitched roofs and on ground. Each location has its own unique requirements and therefore needs specific tools. Yes of course, some tools are common.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
Safety must be the foremost issue and hence the tools for personnel safety are of prime importance. The tools for personnel safety are helmet, safety belt or rope, hand gloves, boots, safety glasses, ladder etc. Each installer must have these tools, also called Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and should be familiar with their use.
Tools for Array Layout Design:
Installation of Solar PV system starts with the array layout. The necessary tools required for array layout and installation are magnetic compass, measuring tape, chalk or marking pen, angle finder, torpedo level etc. Figure 1 shows a magnetic compass, measuring tape and marking pen.
Fig.1: A magnetic compass, measuring tape and marking pen.
A solar pathfinder is also needed for more precise design incorporating the shadow effects. It evaluates the solar energy potential at that particular location. A compass is not needed when you are using solar pathfinder. A careful and accurate layout helps to avoid any unwanted delay or shifting of solar array in future.
Installation of solar PV on pitched roof requires the exact location of roof rafters or trusses. That’s why installations on flat-roof are the easiest one, only the shade free surface area has to be kept in mind.
Hand-tools for structural support and module installation:
The hand tool required for installation of solar structure and modules are drill machine with assorted bits, cutter machine, spanner set, hammer, cutting plier, slip joint plier, nose plier, screw drivers of different sizes, utility knife, wire stripper, crimping tool, neon tester, hole punch etc. It’s better either to carry an extension board with you or all the power machines should be battery operated. Figure 2 shows a spanner set of assorted size, cutting plier, wire stripper, screw driver, neon tester, nose plier and hammer used for solar PV installation.
Fig. 2: A spanner set of assorted size, cutting plier, wire stripper, screw driver, neon tester, nose plier and hammer used for solar PV installation.
Ground mounted solar PV installations require pit digging for preparing the concrete base. Tools such as shovel etc are required. A spirit level and string line is required to install the solar PV modules in straight line and plumb.
After the correct installation of support structures, solar PV modules are placed and secured to the structure with the help of nuts and bolts. Usually spanners or sockets of two or three sizes, depending on the used nuts and bolts, are sufficient. Some installers use torque wrench also.
Tools and Equipments for Wiring:
Before wiring the PV modules, you have to check them for proper open circuit voltage. For this a digital multi-meter or digital clamp meter can be used.
After ensuring that all the modules are OK and will properly work, they are connected in series, or parallel or series-parallel combination as per the approved or decided design.
For wiring of modules, sometimes lugs are required. Thus, one has to keep with himself a wire stripper and a crimping tool. Usually MC-4 connectors are used to interconnect PV modules, and for that you have to keep wire stripper and a crimping tool. Several crimping tool kits with interchangeable die sets are available in the market.
After connecting all the modules, once again the voltage of the string or array should be checked for any in-correct connection. Proper checking at each stage will avoid troubles at a later stage. You may also check the PV module using a test load (may be a DC lamp capable of operating on the PV voltage). The current during the test can also be measured using the digital DC clamp meter. Figure 3 shows a digital multi-meter and DC clamp meter used for PV module connections.
Fig.3: A digital multi-meter and DC clamp meter used for PV module connections.