By: Pritil Gunjan
Photovoltaic panels of solar power station at sunset
From sourcing to manufacturing and operations, the solar PV value chain is digitizing at a rapid pace. The extension of long-term asset life cycle plays a critical role in building a credible business case for digitizing solar power plant operations. The underlying drivers will eventually be reducing costs, improving performance ratios, improving asset reliability, and harnessing operational efficiency. Predictive monitoring and automation can identify potential faults and outages long before they actually happen, thus avoiding asset downtime and operational loss. Remote monitoring and communications have made it extremely easy to install and deploy solar PV systems on customer rooftops.
Business Model Options Grow with the Market
As the solar PV market matures there will be an increased demand for technological and financial solutions to tackle operational risks, improve asset returns, and optimize asset performance across the portfolio. Bundled with credit enhancement offerings, companies like kWh Analytics rely on a proprietary repository of performance data to realistically assess performance risks. This improves lender terms by de-risking the asset with an insurance-backed production guarantee for up to 95% of expected energy output.
Despite the fact that interoperability of software and hardware continue to retrain data sharing effectively, operators are more open to promoting transparency and advancing innovation through their digital journey. Digital solar is not a novel concept. Asset operators and operations managers have relied on monitoring and control systems to establish key performance indicators through SCADA, data loggers, and energy management solutions.
Investment in Internet of Things, automation, and analytics drives the emergence of new business models. The role of data analytics is rapidly evolving with innovative data as a service models. Solar PV data management companies are beginning to offer customers a digital marketplace to provide repairs, cleaning, and maintenance services along with automated operational analytics. They offer attractive value propositions for operations and maintenance and asset management companies where data is used to drive operational actions.
Data Monitoring and Management Is an Operational Necessity
Joining the asset optimization solution bandwagon are Sweden-based energy company Vattenfall and Germany-based service provider EWE. The companies have invested in Solytic, a German-based solar PV monitoring and data management company. Series A financing aims to invest in international development and product enhancement with an ambitious target to service 1 million plants by 2023. Solytic currently monitors about 100,000 solar plants. The company previously secured €3 million ($3.2 million) in a late-seed round to accelerate product development and market adoption in 2018.
This investment, backed by Vattenfall and EWE, reiterates the idea that data monitoring and management is an operational necessity. However, monitoring on its own cannot truly enable the operator to maximize returns from their portfolio. To exploit additional opportunity, Vattenfall should unlock the benefits that data analytics could offer when tied to financial and technical analytics. Identifying best practices across its portfolio could help build advanced analytics offerings including the management of operational data. Monetizing this capability and applying data to generate value will help accelerate ROI.