The SEI Professional Services QA/QC Process:
Where Experience Meets Precision
Overview of our internal processes:
SEI Professional Services (SEIPS) embodies industry best practices and was formed from the network of Solar Energy International (SEI) instructors and solar professionals who serve SEI’s educational non-profit mission. It’s a natural fit for our team to represent the highest Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) standards in the industry. What we mean by this is that we live and breathe QA/QC – it’s in our DNA and is synonymous with SEI’s long standing reputation for quality in the solar industry.
Our design engineers and inspectors are intimately familiar with the codes, standards, and safety issues surrounding PV systems. In fact, a few of our staff members participate in writing some of the electrical codes and standards applicable to the PV industry.
Our team is unique in that we have a combination of employees and subcontractors who have an extensive background working in the PV industry most of who have been or are instructors at SEI. Our team members enjoy sharing their knowledge by jumping in to teach classes at conferences or at the SEI training headquarters in Colorado. We like to emphasize their depth of knowledge and experience in the various parts of the PV industry, because together as a whole this allows us to provide the highest quality consulting, engineering, and QA/QC services for all types and sizes of solar and storage projects. There is probably no other entity in the PV industry like us due to the scale, care, and quality of experience available within the large and cohesive SEI network. It really is something special!
The one thing that we hold above all else is quality on behalf of our clients. Because we are affiliated with SEI we cannot allow ourselves to lose sight of what really matters, and that is, every PV system we touch needs to safely perform to its highest level. We take very seriously the fact that our projects are long-term power plants that need to not only deliver power when the sun shines, but must fulfill a public expectation that PV is reliable for the long-term. When developing technology and bringing it to market, the most important thing is to not give your product a “black eye” with haphazard design and installation. PV is not a new technology, but with dropping prices for PV power, quality is suffering. That is no secret. So how do we ensure, as the industry standard-bearers of quality, that our client’s projects are top-notch? Well, we have a QA/QC program that is above and beyond what most other companies offer.
Engineering – Multi-touch point team review:
Within our engineering department the internal QA/QC program can be described simply as a review process whereas no design documents leave our office without an internal review by someone who is not on the project at each milestone delivery. For example, we typically make multiple deliveries of draft plan sets on our engineering projects to the client during the design process. Typical milestones are 30%, 60%, 90% and Issued for Construction (IFC). Before our project team sends plans to the client at each of these milestones they are vetted by one of our engineers who is not involved with the project for a fresh perspective on accuracy, syntax, code compliance, and all other aspects of design.
To implement our design QA/QC system we use a handful of collaborative cloud services. We’ve basically created a template that allows us to track document versions while providing space for our reviewers to place their comments. The engineers use that tool to incorporate each comment into the drawings before they leave the office. It is not terribly complicated, but it is just one example of how we leverage our design review process across all of our projects. We use the same tool when performing review of projects for clients that were done by other engineering firms.
This internal review step may slightly increase our overhead and the time it takes to get our plans delivered, but it is a requirement we have implemented without exception into our workflow. What this multi-touch point approach ultimately means to the client is that they are ensured their system design is safe, efficient, and the best it can be. By having so many eyes on each set of plans, chances are pretty good that we will be including all critical items for a successful build!
On-site Inspections – Dedicated experienced inspectors:
Within our field services department, the majority of our work includes on-site QA/QC inspections. These inspections are typically scheduled both during and after construction and commissioning. Most of our inspectors have over a decade of experience in the field and all share a commitment to improving installations through best practice implementation. SEIPS inspectors are a tight-knit group who meet in-person annually at our Colorado headquarters and stay in contact to “talk tech”. This communication helps us to ensure we are all working to the latest codes and compliance standards in the PV industry. Our team is spread mostly around the US and our inspections cover many applications from residential to commercial to utility scale PV and energy storage applications.
The SEIPS inspection reporting process is unique, collaborative, and cloud-based. We typically work closely with the installation contractor to back-check issues and confirm corrections are adequately implemented. Successful completion of an SEIPS inspection is no easy task, our inspectors dig deep to find all the issues that can lead to big problems over time. Our 3rd party inspection perspective is invaluable for many projects, SEIPS inspectors have prevented hundreds of major safety hazards and production related issues. We know what to look for because we’ve seen a lot of it before and we pride ourselves on staying educated on current industry trends and best installation practices.
Why this level of care matters:
The first reason is our promise to each of our clients. They will receive their engineered design knowing it has been placed under a lot of internal scrutiny prior to it being stamped by one of our engineers. Clients that call on us for site inspections can rest assured that their system has been rigorously inspected by one of the most detail driven inspection groups in the industry. This allows all stakeholders to move forward with confidence. Another important reason is that we are part of SEI, and we cannot afford to cut any corners. We must uphold SEI’s commitment to best practices. SEI literally represents the highest quality standards and best practices of the PV industry. Therefore, by extension, we need to deliver products and services that mirror that mission.
How does the SEIPS QA/QC approach impact the project:
As you can imagine, our attention to detail can take a little extra time and money upfront. Our fees are probably going to be a little higher than much of our competition, but our clients keep coming back to us simply for the reason that they are getting the best service possible. The quality of our work saves them money. We have heard that exact feedback from many of our clients, so we feel we’re doing something right. The passion and dedication of our team to ensure quality within the PV industry comes through on all the projects we work on!