Assembling a committed team is a critical part of the commissioning process for renewable energy projects. Members of the team vary based on the size, complexity, and funding mechanism used for the project at hand.
The commissioning team lead is a commissioning agent, an independent agent representing the agency's interests. In addition to the commissioning agent, participants in the commissioning process can include the agency, operations and management (O&M) personnel, contractors, subcontractors, and the architectural and engineering (A&E) firm. The project energy lead should also be an active member of the commissioning team and work closely with the commissioning agent.
Renewable energy projects often require a team of experts in specific renewable energy technologies. Working with the general contractor and any separate engineering, procurement, and construction contractors on scheduling the commissioning agent, who oversees and verifies commissioning performed by the renewable energy installers on each individual system, plans, coordinates, and oversees the commissioning process and takes ownership of the overall energy performance for the facility.
Any construction contracts or subcontracts for renewable energy systems must include a provision that the installers are responsible for conducting commissioning testing and activities under the commissioning agent. It must also stipulate that they are available for seasonal testing required for enhanced commissioning for the first year of the project.
In cases when renewable energy projects are not owned by the agency but are financed through renewable energy project funding, those agreements may stipulate additional or separate commissioning activities by an entity hired by the agency. In such cases, those entities should be on the project commissioning team and efforts coordinated with the project commissioning agent.
Engaging an Independent Commissioning Agent
An independent, third-party commissioning agent brings the most objective perspective to the commissioning process. Appointing a member of the project design team or contractor can create a conflict of interest, as these parties will be tasked with reviewing, testing, and identifying deficiencies in their own work. Designating an independent commissioning agent to conduct enhanced commissioning can also earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) credits.
Leading the commissioning process for renewable energy projects requires a great deal of specialized expertise. An independent commissioning agent should have excellent communication skills, experience developing commissioning plans, and demonstrated success in directing the commissioning process.
Renewable energy projects add an additional layer of complexity to these requirements. Ideally, the commissioning agent must be an expert not only in the relevant renewable energy technologies, but also in how they interact with other systems.
The commissioning agent candidates should demonstrate significant hands-on experience with the commissioning or installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies included in the project. Where no candidates can be identified, agencies may want to ensure that an additional independent party, such as the project energy lead, is involved throughout building energy system commissioning.