AlsoEnergy merges with skytron, will now manage more than 18 GW of renewable energy

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AlsoEnergy is making big moves. First came word of its Draker acquisition, and now it is merging with skytron energy, one of Europe’s leading solar software and hardware companies. These combined forces make up a global leader for renewable energy monitoring, controls, and asset management solutions. Together, the companies will combine their business operations to offer a global footprint with leading software, hardware, and control solutions for solar, wind, and storage assets (now totaling more than 18 GW worldwide).

“The merger of AlsoEnergy and skytron enables us to provide our customers and marketplace with the industry’s most complete platform for the management of renewable energy assets,” said Bob Schaefer, Chief Executive Officer of AlsoEnergy. “With skytron’s proven utility-scale technologies and AlsoEnergy’s strong commercial, industrial and utility presence, we can now offer our customers complete coverage for all types of assets.”

RELATED: Boost solar site performance by at least 3 percent with O&M basics

“We believe this transaction will provide what our customers have been asking for,” said Francisco Baraona, Managing Director of skytron energy. “Our combined solutions create a global software platform across all asset classes that is supported by proven hardware and control technologies and delivered with consistent sales, support and service across all geographies.”

In addition, AlsoEnergy has acquired the assets of Draker Corporation, a pioneer in the solar monitoring industry in the United States. “This strategic investment strengthens our global portfolio of best-in-class PV and storage performance management services for the C&I and Utility Scale segments,” continued Schaefer. “Together, AlsoEnergy, skytron and Draker look forward to continuing to deliver industry-leading products, sales, support, and services to our customers.”

— Solar Builder magazine

AlsoEnergy purchases Draker and is transitioning customers to its platform

alsoenergy

We couldn’t locate a news announcement about this, but according to an email sent to Draker customers, Draker is now a part of AlsoEnergy.

“AlsoEnergy has signed a letter of intent to purchase the assets of Draker Energy, including intellectual property, customer lists, and source code. AlsoEnergy is now the only supplier of Draker products, services, and support.”

The email to Draker customers noted the following as part of the Draker Continuity Program:

• Continued login access for Draker customers at https://draker.us
• Uninterrupted data collection and agency reporting related to Draker monitored assets
• AlsoEnergy will honor all previously paid monitoring license terms and agency reporting agreements
• Free migration to AlsoEnergy’s PowerTrack platform for all Draker sites, including historical data and configurations along with training and support
• Full integration of the Draker support team with the AlsoEnergy support team
o Please note the new phone number: 866.303.5668 x2

AlsoEnergy is migrating all Draker sites, data, and configurations to the PowerTrack Platform. In addition, Draker customers will have access to the full suite of PowerTrack features and capabilities such as advanced PV modeling and analytics, dashboards, and a wide range of standard queries and reports.

As part of the Draker Continuity Program:

• AlsoEnergy will honor existing orders accepted by Draker as of 7/3/2018 for Draker monitoring and hardware.
• All legacy Draker sites will continue to operate on the Draker platform until AlsoEnergy completes site migration to the AlsoEnergy PowerTrack Platform.
• AlsoEnergy will work with Draker customers to upgrade cellular modems to the latest 4G networks to enhance security and performance as needed.
• AlsoEnergy will work with Campbell Scientific to honor all Campbell Scientific data logger warranties.
• Certain Draker features, such as customer dashboards, DBS4, and the SPT String Optimizer, are subject to additional review. We encourage you to contact AlsoEnergy to discuss in further detail.
• Replacement hardware will be available for purchase through AlsoEnergy.

— Solar Builder magazine

Boost solar site performance by at least 3 percent with O&M basics

SMA O&M services

Photo of SMA O&M services,

In a post-Trump Tariff world, optimizing current portfolios is crucial, not just for each project to hit its targets, but to continue to prove solar as a worthy investment and distributed resource. Luckily, this is easy to accomplish with a well-thought out operations and maintenance (O&M) plan.

With more than a decade of hardcore O&M industry experience, there is a greater reservoir of institutional knowledge both out in the field and in plant operation management. For example, MaxGen is a U.S.-centric O&M provider focused on utility and C&I sites that manages a large team of licensed, professional technicians throughout the country, hitting about 5,000 different sites a year for corrective (CM) and preventive maintenance (PM). As part of its business model, the company will take over portfolios of assets to monitor — some of which are underperforming. According to Mark McLanahan, CEO of MaxGen, assets are usually underperforming because of one or more of these reasons:

The site is not in good physical condition because of poor vegetation management or erosion or general site management. Consider this a reminder to keep O&M in mind when designing a project because it is often the largest expense over the life of the project. “Handling stuff like vegetation management and module washing can be the biggest expense by far if you’re not careful,” McLanahan says.

Poor PM records, which often means PM hasn’t been done. “That’s a problem because you have to perform PM to maintain warranties of inverters, combiners and modules,” McLanahan says. “We have seen many cases where service to date is either not verified or there’s no record.”

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This is where PowerFactors comes in handy. PowerFactors is an energy operations management software platform that MaxGen has been using since 2016 to integrate all the monitoring, alarm management, work order creation and management, dispatch and reporting for all the operations, and preventive and corrective maintenance tasks in its scope of work with its customers. Also, contract requirements can be programmed into the system. For example, Power Purchase Agreements in California often require instant notification of large drops in capacity and failure to do this will incur penalties. Auto-notifications can be routed to the right places in those events with the right rules plugged into the software. This enables fewer operators to manage more projects with greater complexity.

The site data acquisition system simply hasn’t been mapped properly, which undermines the data quality of the entire project and leads to maintenance misdirection. There’s an outage on inverter A; a dispatched technician heads to inverter B because it’s mapped as inverter A. The issue isn’t discovered, and so on. McLanahan estimates that MaxGen encounters this in 20 to 30 percent of the underperforming sites it takes over.

“It’s a data quality issue,” he says. “With solar, you have to study performance at the low level, not just the revenue meter, to make decisions on performance. You have to look at inverters or combiners or at the main circuit. If the mapping is no good, you’re wasting time.”

Once the site is remapped and the PM is up to date, annual maintenance and CM plans are put in place to build it back to baseline performance using better data. From there, more advanced decisions can be made. Data can be studied for factors such as ground coverage ratios, tracker angles, performance anomalies at the combiner level and similarity-based modeling to help identify additional opportunities. MaxGen has boosted a number of utility-scale projects 2 to 5 percent on the performance side using this systematic process.

“With consistency, you’ll see 1 to 3 percent improvement right off the bat just with low-hanging fruit,” McLanahan says. “Compare the combiners on a relative basis on performance and just look at last month. That sets the corrective maintenance for the next week. Once you have accomplished all the PM tasks, have good data access and capture the low hanging fruit, you can move up the lost energy priority list and tackle the things that are above the baseline to increase production and revenue even further.”

The true bottom line in PV system performance, from initial projections to 30 years in the future, is customer service. People need to make the correct assumptions, perform all O&M tasks correctly and use data analysis to their advantage while being as proactive as possible. As more data is gathered and algorithms are perfected, “trend events” will be the next frontier for improving performance.

“These don’t show up as a discrete one-time energy loss but as small events that happen continuously over time, and if you don’t look for them you won’t see them,” McLanahan says. So, maybe one inverter is coming on and offline in mere seconds. “If you look at the curve, you won’t see it, but if you look at the trend, there’s something wrong with that inverter, and it will likely break down at some point.”

That curve is a nice visual to end on. Just plan to stay ahead of it.

— Solar Builder magazine

This ‘drainage’ solar module is designed to avoid dust accumulation

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Drainage Module of CECEP (PRNewsfoto/CECEP Solar)

Small scale and scattered geological locations of distributed PV power stations make operation and maintenance tasks difficult. CECEP Solar Energy Technology Co. says it has a solution inherent in its new solar module to solve the O&M pain of clearing dust on the surface of PV modules. The impact would be most felt, according to its estimates, in areas with a large quantity of sand blown by the wind, such as California, which shows an annual 7 percent generated energy loss caused by sand and dust.

“Many people still misunderstand the operation and maintenance of distributed PV power stations,” said Wang Jun, General Manager of ANX Technology. “They think distributed power stations do not need operation and maintenance, which lead to disorderly management of power stations and dust blocking problem is severe in some power stations, which severely decreases the generated energy of the module. In addition, most industrial and commercial distributed roof power stations are constructed on color roofing, with large risks for operation and maintenance, missing inspection may occur and cleaning may not be completed properly.”

Dust is commonly removed by rain flushing the surface of the module, but as the frame of the module is higher than the glass, some dust will deposit on the frame bottom after flushing, and the accumulated dust will cover the cell and lead to a local hot spot effect. This not only severely influences the output efficiency of the module but also the high temperature will accelerate material breakdown and greatly reduce the service life of the module.

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CECEP drainage solution

CECEP Solar Energy Zhenjiang Co.’s answer is the drainage module, which attempts to solve the problem of dust accumulation at the bottom of the module but also provides a self-cleaning function for the module. The so-called drainage module can effectively eliminate the influence of accumulated dust on the module, enhance generated energy of the power station and reduce the hot spot effect without influencing the performance of the module. Meanwhile, nano-modified material is used for the surface of the membrane to improve smoothness of the surface and reduce friction coefficient, making dust slip more easily; the combination of the self-cleaning membrane and antistatic effect can prevent accumulation of charge; dust will slip under the effect of dead weight and wind force, keeping the surface of PV module clean.

The research and development personnel of CECEP Solar Energy said: “Such a drainage module is more suitable for distributed power stations on color roofing. When modules are paved on the roof, they are not cleaned for a long time. Due to small installation inclination, dust is more likely to accumulate at the bottom. In severe cases, it may even block the cells of both rows, which will severely influence the generated energy. The drainage module developed by us will effectively solve the dust accumulation problem and increase generated energy of power stations. ”

In addition, application of the drainage module can greatly reduce the operation and maintenance cost of power stations.

CECEP Solar Energy Zhenjiang Company carried out the investigation for its drainage modules in 2016 and has currently completed the internal test and verification. The company is now able to manufacture the module in batches and plans to put it on the market this year.

— Solar Builder magazine

Cypress Creek Renewables opens new solar O&M control center

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Cypress Creek Renewables opened up a new solar control center in its flagship Research Triangle Park, North Carolina office. The opening of its new control center marks a significant milestone for Cypress Creek as the company expands its operations and maintenance services for third-party customers, operate secure solar sites and maximize production. The company operates 232 utility, distribution and rooftop-scale solar facilities out of the Cypress Creek Control Center (C4), totaling nearly 2 gigawatts in 14 states across the country.

“We are thrilled to announce our Cypress Creek Control Center in our flagship Research Triangle Park office,” said Matthew McGovern, Chief Executive Officer, Cypress Creek. “Operations and maintenance is an important and growing business for the solar industry and for Cypress Creek. We now have the team, infrastructure and technology to deliver exceptional customer service and system performance.”

The C4 is just one of a handful of North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) – Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) compliant control centers in the country operated by a solar-only company. The C4 was designed to meet NERC’s most stringent cyber security and reliability requirements. To meet the new compliance level, Cypress Creek hired 22 people over the past three months.

RELATED: How to optimize performance and profit through O&M monitoring

Services offered by Cypress Creek’s 60-Person Operations and Maintenance team include:

• 24/7/365 Operations. From the C4, operators quickly identify and initiate corrective actions in coordination with our field technicians and operation engineers. Cypress Creek has combined a real-time operations platform provided by PowerFactors with an enterprise SCADA system designed and engineered by Nor-Cal Controls and GridSME.

• Predictive Maintenance. Dedicated engineers and technicians work to optimize daily performance at sites, utilizing aerial thermography and state-of-the-art technology to identify and correct site level anomalies. Cypress Creek’s O&M team has a nationwide network of technicians and engineers capable of maintaining and repairing solar components.

• Vegetation Management. A team of vegetation technicians and managers work to mitigate safety risks while optimizing system performance. Whether the site requires standard grass mowing, pollinator friendly habitats or sheep grazing, Cypress Creek caters to the unique demands of each solar site and region.

— Solar Builder magazine