Sat. Apr 4th, 2020

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Guide to installing residential solar amid a pandemic

3 min read

As long as their businesses are allowed to operate, residential solar companies have to adhere to the changing world that Covid-19 has created. In light of this, Sunrun and SEIA have both released best practice guidelines for installing solar during a global pandemic.

Although restrictions are placed and heightened on the amount of human interaction allowed as the world fights Covid-19, Sunrun and other residential solar companies are finding it imperative to continue operations as best they can, while still following safe social practices.

So, in an effort to maintain business operations while also adhering to contamination preventing methods, both Sunrun and the Solar Energy industries Association (SEIA) have released best practices, intended to protect installers, customers, and the general public.

Right off the bat, SEIA recommends that any residential solar company reach out to all customers with appointments for solar installations, EPC or O&M work in the next eight to ten weeks and attempt to reschedule. The organization outlines that this rescheduling should be made with crew and part availability accommodations in mind, rather than just using the time as a benchmark and flatly pushing projects back.

SEIA also hammers home that any projects on households with individuals who are going through symptoms of illness, even if they are not directly connected to Covid-19 or are home to particularly high-risk individuals should be the highest priority of rescheduling. In the same vein, any employee exhibiting signs of illness should remain home.

The resource guide also tells installers to prepare for the possibility that municipalities may decide to close all ‘non-essential’ services or conduct business like plan design reviews and permitting virtually.

The document finishes by echoing the importance of existing CDC guidelines, reiterating some practices that should be common knowledge by this point:

  • Assure your customers that you value their business, your crew will greet them as advised (no personal contact such as shaking hands) and will keep the recommended minimum social distancing of six feet for both crew-to-customer and crew-to-crew interactions
  • Have employees carry company identification, check with customers ahead of time before going out to sites and have only the crew lead deal directly with customers
  • Inform customers of crew’s hand washing and sanitization practices, as well as what supplies you are providing the crew with to safeguard them
  • Limit crew talks or meetings to no more than 10 people
  • Avoid touching doorbells, doorknobs, door handles, and other similar entry/exit surface at work sites unless you have the proper PPE

Using similar parameters to the SEIA best practices, Sunrun is also pivoting to make sure that the company’s business operations can meet the demands of “flattening the curve.”

Sunrun has already directed that all employees able to perform their work remotely do so. This group includes teams focused on permitting work, as Sunrun is coordinating with local authorities to ensure that permits will continue to be issued and to establish virtual audits. Under these parameters, the company is taken steps to ensure that permitting and pre-installation coordination can all be done remotely.

However with residential solar, there is only so much that can be done remotely. For installations, Sunrun is performing “zero customer contact” installations, entering the home only in situations where they absolutely must. As for crews working with one another, Sunrun is staggering start times to limit crew-to-crew interaction and reduce branch density, adjusting branch construction huddles to involve only the foremen, distributing crews into multiple vehicles and increasing tool and vehicle sanitation.

As per the SEIA guidelines above, the company is also calling and confirming exact arrival times prior to sending crews out and maintaining social distancing between workers.

As for site surveys and inspections, Sunrun is carrying those out on an “exterior only” basis.

As long as their businesses are allowed to operate, residential solar companies have to adhere to the changing world that Covid-19 has created. In light of this, Sunrun and SEIA have both released best practice guidelines for installing solar during a global pandemic.
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