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Expert Speaks | October 2017

Safeguarding Plants

<span style="font-weight: bold;">Sushant Sarin, Executive Vice President - Commercial Lines, Tata AIG General Insurance Company Ltd </span>outlines how insurance risks can be minimised during configuration and construction itself. <p></p> <p> Energy from sun is abundant and the sun will continue to shine for billions of years to come. While the solar energy is inexhaustible and renewable, its irradiance is environment-friendly. The solar power system does not emit toxic gases, which are environmentally damaging. In addition, silicon, the raw material in making solar cells, is the second most abundant element in the earth's crust. </p> <p>Since the solar industry has been developing and the technology is maturing, the photovoltaic (PV) power systems are efficient for both commercial and residential use. The price of PV systems is also more affordable now due to recent price cuts. As a result the demand for insurance cover and reliable loss prevention advice has also increased.</p> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Potential Damage</span><br /> Insurance brokers and individual insurance companies consistently viewed insuring PV technologies as an emerging niche market. However, the technical aspects of PV modules and the physical infrastructure necessary to support PV modules on rooftops or on ground configuration remains a new subject to be understood. As a result of their exposed location, PV systems are subject to various set of hazards. In addition, the PV system itself can also become a hazard, both to the plant/building and surrounding area. </p> <p>These risks are faced from:<br /> </p> <ul> <li>Inadequate construction against environmental risks such as floods, storms, land slides, lightning, fire and snow load; </li> <li>Engineering errors such as poor infrastructure design, poor lightening and over voltage protection design, poor static evaluation of mounting system, and poor layout design; </li> <li>Construction errors such as PV module with transport/handling damage, PV system with poor </li> <li>DC cabling, improper methods of storage for large quantity of modules, mounting systems with installation errors, inadequate O&amp;M, poor monitoring system installation; and </li> <li>Negligence in resolving issues in O&amp;M such as broken conduits, vegetation overgrowth, inverter breakdown, transformer oil leakage leading to fire, unclean panels, soil erosion, vandalism damage, animal menace and racking erosion. </li></ul> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Loss Prevention</span><br /> The overall property and liability risk for each photovoltaic system is unique, especially if systems are retrofitted on buildings. The level of protection needed should be based on an individual risk analysis. The following can be used to reduce the risk:</p> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">1. Overall Quality of the Erection and Commissioning </span><br /> </p> <ul> <li>Confirming to Codes and Standards: Although still under development, basic codes and standards for performance, fire protection and installation of PV systems are available and should be closely followed. </li> <li>Experience of EPC Contractors: PV systems should only be installed by qualified/ certified installers. </li> <li>Storage and Handling: The modules must be carefully stacked. The internal transportation must be thoroughly monitored, especially when done with equipments such as forklifts and trucks.</li> <li>Quality of Components: Long-lasting, secure cable connections with low contact resistances are necessary to avoid defects and losses. </li> <li>Maintenance and Inspection: PV systems should be maintained and inspected annually by qualified professionals. An AMC with OEMs would always update the operators with emerging trends in maintenance. </li> <li>Reducing Power Losses: Solar installations fail to realise their full potential, due to partial or temporary shading, even from small roof components such as antennas/trees in the perimeter of the plant. The result is also a loss of earnings.</li></ul> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">2. Lightning and Surge Protection </span><br /> </p> <ul> <li>Lightning Protection: If PV systems are ground mounted, lightning protection for the solar installation must be properly designed to cover the entire plant. If PV systems are mounted on buildings with no lightning protection, a risk analysis should be conducted to determine the susceptibility of the entire installation to damage from lightning. </li> <li>Surge Protection: Proper grounding and surge protection of the PV installation is important to avoid electrical faults.</li></ul> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">3. Natural Hazards </span><br /> </p> <ul> <li>Storm: When designing the panel fixings, maximum wind speeds in the local area must be considered to avoid potential damage to the fixings, panels or ultimately the roof. </li> <li> Inundation: The plant must be provided with proper drains systems and the same should have regular monsoon checks. </li> <li> Flood: For solar parks located in flood-prone areas the foundations and supporting framework should be designed to withstand this risk. </li></ul> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">4. Fire Protection (includes roof top and ground mounted) </span><br /> </p> <ul> <li>Isolating the solar rooftop from the building: Direct contact between PV system components and combustible building components must be avoided. Inverters should be located in a separate non-combustible structure, supervised by a fire detection system. DC cables from modules to the inverter should not be routed through the interior of a building. If this cannot be avoided, DC cables should be enclosed in fire resistant ducts, chutes or similar. </li> <li>Roof fire load: To avoid increasing the combustible load of the building roof use non-combustible modules and non-combustible mounting systems. </li> <li>Vegetation: Avoid exposure from fire to ground-mounted systems by regularly cutting vegetation. </li> <li>Disconnecting PV Systems: Although the DC current cannot be switched-off completely on PV Systems the means to safely de-energise major DC conduits can be provided through the installation of a fireman's switch. This switch should be installed where possible and located in an area that is easily accessible in the event of a fire. Non installation of this switch may delay efforts to fight the fire. </li> <li>Pre-emergency plans: Clearly label all important components of the PV system and supplement pre-emergency plans with the additional fire hazards and emergency contacts to qualified electricians. </li></ul> <span style="font-weight: bold;">5. Other</span><br /> <ul> <li>Theft/Vandalism: Ground-mounted solar farms/parks û especially in rural locations - require additional security measures (e.g. security module fasteners, fences, intrusion detection, video supervision). </li> <li>Rodent Bites: In order to avoid bites from rodents, cable at ground level should have appropriate protection. </li></ul> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Project Insurance </span><br /> In India, project insurance and operational insurance policies are designed considering the exposure/hazards associated with solar power plants.</p> <p> The project insurance for solar power plant is categorised under EAR (Erection All Risk), which will cover all risk (including testing and commissioning) from the time the material lands at the site and cover continues till commencement of commercial production or handover or expiry of policy whichever happens earlier.</p> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Operational Insurance </span><br /> We have various policies under operational phase categorised under Named Perils and All Risk form.</p> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Named Perils policies </span><br /> </p> <ul> <li>Standard fire and special perils policy, </li> <li>Consequential fire loss of profit (business interruption), and </li> <li>Package policies [covering above mentioned 1 and 2, along with miscellaneous covers like machinery breakdown, burglary (including theft) etc.,.] </li></ul> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">All Risk Form</span><br /> </p> <ul> <li>Industrial All risk (covering fire, accidental damage, machinery breakdown and consequential business interruption),</li> <li>Apart from above covers, the insurers are working on developing various new innovative products viz., solar module warranty program, loss of sunshine cover etc.</li></ul>
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