How to Avoid Becoming the Dallas Cowboys
by Greg Sellers
Football announcers can’t figure out why the Dallas Cowboys are so bad.
Now, there are many bad football teams (my team has been awful for the past 10 years straight!), but what has the pundits perplexed is that the Cowboys, on paper, are an awesome team. They’re loaded with talent, their owner has a lot of money and just built them the world’s most expensive football stadium, so by any measure they ought to be great. But their performance since game one, has never matched their potential.
Using this football analogy, a solar installation’s actual performance should closely match its expected performance. Since solar installations require expected performance calculations early in the design phase, it is relatively easy to compare expected and actual performance. Accounting for weather variations, solar installations should ideally perform no more than 10% above or below their expected power output. Unfortunately, our inspections have uncovered wide variance in real world performance in some systems we have inspected – both higher and lower than expected- that significantly impact the financial viability of a solar installation and thus impact the entire industry.
The biggest variable football players face is injury, but football players that are in top physical condition face fewer injuries and recover faster than those who have done a poor job of preparing themselves. Similarly, solar systems that are well installed are likely to perform as expected for longer than systems that are poorly installed. When we inspect these systems we often see exposed wires, vulnerable connections, unsecured panels, improperly installed roof flashing and other signs of a poor installation. While most of these shortcuts don’t immediately impact system performance, they significantly increase the likelihood that the system will not last as long or function as well as expected.
After weeks of failure, the Cowboys recently took the dramatic and unprecedented step of firing their coach mid-season, in hopes of reversing their fortunes, and that seems to have put them back in the win column. So, for a solar panel touchdown, take the time to plan, install, and implement efficiently and correctly or you might, just might, end up like the ’76 Buccaneers.