Solar panels – on or off the grid cover for farmers

Agriculture

Solar panels – on or off the grid cover for farmers

Published: 28 June 2016

Farmers taking a beating from the African sun can now find some relief when it comes to insurance cover for solar panels installed on their properties. To assist farmers wanting to pursue and secure independent power sourcing options, leading insurer Santam, now offers extended cover for solar panel installations under their general agriculture policy. Whether such panels are installed to provide power generation to farm equipment or machinery such as windmills or water pumps or to the main farm buildings as a source of additional power or heat generation, solar panels are susceptible to theft or weather damage and should be insured accordingly.  

As electricity costs spiral and the risks of load shedding or ill-timed power outages remain a challenge for many farmers, and where alternative energy supply sources are now increasingly being incorporated into agricultural operations, farmers should take the necessary steps to insure such installations as part of their overall investment.

Compliance essential for any insurance related claims

Gerhard Diedericks, Santam head of Agriculture says, “One aspect that should not be overlooked is ensuring that a certificate of compliance (CoC) is obtained from a professional installer.”  Such a certificate is required by law when any external wiring is connected to the internal electrical wiring of any farmhouse or building. (A certificate of compliance is not required in the instance where a solar panel may be connected to a stand-alone water pump as it is not connected to the internal wiring of a building.)  

Diedericks says that often solar panels or kits are bought and self-installed and the proper electrical certification is not obtained.  “Besides presenting potential fire risks, non-compliance to such requirements could present a challenge in discerning the proximate cause should the panels/property be damaged and a claim submitted to the insurer.” 

Cover for weather related damages

Solar panels or photovoltaic systems as they are also known can be damaged by severe weather events such as hail or strong winds, and farms in high hail risk areas of the country such as the Free State and Eastern parts of the country are particularly at risk over the hail season periods from October to December.  One way of mitigating damage to such panels is to install them on a system that allows the angle of the panels to be changed depending on the angle of the falling hail. This of course comes at a much higher cost. Strong winds can also lift or damage panels that may be fixed to roof areas. It is thus imperative that these are properly anchored at all times.

In many instances, the installation of solar panels can provide many longer term benefits and savings for the farmer and the agricultural business.  Protecting solar panel installations against theft or damages makes not only sound business sense but can also save valuable rands should any of the units or components need to be replaced.

“Appropriately insuring this investment under the House Owners, Fire, Building Combine or All Risk option of your agri policy should form part of any energy saving initiatives or alternate power resourcing plans,” concludes Diedericks

For more information on how Santam Agriculture can assist you with managing your risk visit www.santam.co.za.