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close this bookPhotovoltaic Household Electrification Programs - Best Practices (WB)
close this folderTechnical requirements
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View the documentHardware design
View the documentStandards and specifications
View the documentOther technical considerations
View the documentQuality control
View the documentMaintenance services
View the documentEducating users

Maintenance services

7.33 While the simple design and dependability of most solar home systems allows a single technician to service a large number of customers, the need for local technical support remains. Users can perform simple maintenance functions. However, field experience shows that very few households can service their system themselves over a long period of time. Solar home system programs are typically used in sparsely populated areas, serviced most effectively by local representatives (preferably from the same village) who can tend to problems in a matter of hours or days, rather than the weeks that might be required with service provided from a central location. The number of technicians required in a service territory depends on the number of systems in use, their quality, and their accessibility (remoteness, road conditions, and available transportation). A rule of thumb in the Dominican Republic is that no system should be more than 50 km from a service center. In Indonesia, both the government-sponsored BANPRES Project and some private dealers use local cooperatives to administer programs, collect fees, and provide maintenance services. The Tuvalu Solar Electric Cooperative Society in the Pacific Islands has local user committees that arbitrate disputes between users and technicians concerning fee collections, disconnections, and poorly functioning systems and keep users informed about the organization's activities. These local networks offer effective support for technicians and help ensure the longterm sustainability of the programs themselves.

7.34 Technicians should be trained in the installation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair of systems. Administrative staff must be conversant in program management, accounting, collecting payments, and procedures for disconnecting or removing systems. Well-trained staff are essential for a sustainable solar PV program. Whenever possible, technicians should be used from the villages where the systems are installed. While the simple design and high reliability of solar home systems enables a single technician to cover a large number of customers, it does not eliminate the need for local technical support.

7.35 Solar home system technicians should pass basic certification examinations and also attend periodic refresher courses. Adequate salaries and benefits are required to keep trained technicians on the job in rural areas, and there must be enough business in a service area to support the fixed overhead costs of providing technical services. In Indonesia, service fees from at least 500 systems are needed to pay one technician's monthly salary. (The local cooperative charges a service fee of Rp. 500 per month per system, and the technicians receive a monthly salary of about Rp. 250,000.) The technician may be able to earn extra money by providing other services, such as adding light fixtures to existing systems or new installation. Households should be encouraged to use trained technicians for such procedures. User and technician training should stress the importance of using only approved wiring and connectors.

7.36 Documentation. A solar home system program should have documentation, including:

· A technician's manual that describes the system and includes a guide to procedures, maintenance, and troubleshooting. The manual should also contain graphics such as functional block diagrams and schematics;

· A recommended lists of tools and spare parts to be stocked at the local level;

· Procedures for receiving and responding to user requests in a timely manner;

· Standardized technicians' logbooks for recording system maintenance and repairs;

· Warranty and loan agreements;

· Tariff structures and payment terms and conditions;

· Organization and management plans; and

· User manuals and consumer education literature in an easy-to-understand booklet in the local language, or in "comic book" style.