The first is simple: Read the warranty exclusions. When manufacturers face warranty claims, they have two practical options: 1) honor the warranty; or 2) blame everything other than the warranted product for the problem.

Second, system owners also need to organize their essential documentation. This means not only the contract, but also all exhibits to the contract, plus any proposals, purchase orders or documents referenced in the contract even if not specifically made an exhibit.

Third, system owners should also review the O&M plan. Experienced operators might have a great plan in place already, but if it doesn’t consider the specific requirements from the module manufacturer, that gap between what one typically does and what that manufacturer recommends might well be a legitimate basis for a denied warranty claim.

Document that the plan is actually being implemented — make sure, for example, that if a manufacturer recommends yearly re-torquing of bolts on the slew drive, not only is re-torquing done, but it’s also documented as being completed on schedule and according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Other considerations:

• Plan to pursue warranty claims as quickly as possible. Obviously, this will need to be done while still following any mandated warranty procedures and not spoliating any evidence, but a manufacturer that unnecessarily delays and asks for more and more information to “better assess this claim” is unlikely to do an about-face and honor the warranty claim many months into the process. They either value their customer and want more business in the future (and will therefore meaningfully assess and honor valid warranty claims) or they don’t.

• What are the warranties on all the key systems? Do the modules, tracking system and inverters all have different length warranties? If they don’t all have the same warranty duration, has this been appropriately priced into O&M budgets?

• Who actually holds the warranty? Did the EPC contractor purchase everything? Has the warranty been appropriately assigned, or will the EPC contractor stand in the shoes of the manufacturer? Injecting more parties into the process is going to make things worse — particularly if the remedies available to the owner are not perfectly back-to-back.


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