In 2019, the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) successfully helped bring online over 7.4MW’s of solar power across the District through the DCSEU Solar for All Community Solar and Residential Solar program. In 2020, with similar goals in mind, the DCSEU has faced an entirely new set of challenges with COVID-19. One such challenge is the ability to conduct on-site inspections to verify that the panels and balance of systems have been installed and are able to provide output to the Solar for All program. Pre-COVID, inspections were conducted by a member of the DCSEU staff who would travel to the project location. This process required on-site access to home and building roofs and electrical panels to ensure the correct number of panels and the correct type of inverters were installed.
COVID changed District operations in unfathomable ways. One constant was that Mayor Bowser declared construction projects in the District an essential means of work, including solar. As such, mid-COVID, solar installations, including projects in the DCSEU Solar for All Program, continued forward. During the time of the pandemic, the DCSEU worked to adjust on-site inspections in order to prioritize the safety of employees, installers, and residents to minimize direct contact. The DCSEU created a new protocol for remote inspections, which leverages photographs from installers throughout their process, video calling, and implementing an elevated due diligence process for reviewing images. As a result, the DCSEU has been able to smoothly transition our travel intensive process to a successful remote inspection and quality check process. While making the connection in person is missed, the silver-lining is that employees and residents are safe, and we reduce our carbon impact by reducing transportation in the District.
After the inspection is complete, the installer is required to sign off on the inspection results. “The DCSEU has taken an intensive inspection process and simplified it using available tools" says Mike Healy, CEO of New Columbia Solar. "There have been no delays, and the process they devised is equally as accurate as the onsite inspection. We are pleased with the results.”
Jessica Pitts, CEO of Flywheel noted, “The DCSEU worked collaboratively with our team and pinpointed exactly what was needed in terms of picture images and other documentation. As a result, our team has been able to move forward during this challenging time, safely, and without interruption.”
Looking ahead, as COVID continues to impact our communities, the DCSEU remains committed to bringing clean, renewable energy to low-income residents in DC. As more DC residents lose jobs and income opportunities due to the pandemic, providing clean, renewable energy, free of charge, will be an important part of the economic recovery process. The DCSEUs remote verification efforts is an important part of ensuring that the solar output promised from the community and residential solar projects will materialize over time and will continue to serve as a precedent for ensuring quality for future projects in the years to come.