DOE prioritizes solar power plant performance with Power Factors funding

sunshot initiative financing

Power Factors, a provider for monitoring, managing, and optimizing renewable energy assets, was selected as the recipient of an award by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative. Power Factors will leverage these funds to accelerate its research and development in producing actionable insights through the characterization of PV power plant performance deviations from predictive model production.

“PV data analysis has advanced rapidly, but the ability to effectively characterize differences between production estimates and actual performance has remained elusive. With this funding we expect to provide a powerful new tool for developers, owners, operators, and O&M providers,” said Steve Voss, Power Factors’ Principal Data Scientist.

Power Factors will incorporate this advanced functionality into its existing SaaS-based IoT platform that currently supports over 7,500 MW of PV capacity. Power Factors is well-positioned to deliver due to its existing 250+ years of subject matter expertise and its proven track record of handling big data and data quality issues generated by solar PV systems.

“We are honored to be selected by the DOE for this award,” said Power Factors EVP Steve Scales. “This grant will accelerate Power Factors’ ability to drive solar photovoltaic systems’ energy yields, reliability, and bankability. The DOE’s continued focus on strengthening and assuring our nation’s supply of clean electricity is vital,” added Scales.

— Solar Builder magazine

SMA and Cypress Creek enter into 10-year Master Service Agreement

SMA America recently signed a 10-year Master Services agreement with Cypress Creek Renewables, under which it will perform inverter preventive maintenance services for a portfolio of projects, primarily located in North Carolina.

SMA O&M services

Cypress Creek is a leading solar development company. Working in close partnership with local communities, Cypress Creek develops, builds, finances and operates local solar farms across the country. Cypress Creek has operating facilities in eight states and is actively developing projects in more than a dozen states.

“We are thrilled to enter into this agreement with Cypress Creek and begin a long-term collaboration,” said Chuck Smith, executive vice president of Service for SMA. “The SMA Inverter Preventative Maintenance program goes above and beyond the manufacturer’s recommended maintenances, and proactively addresses potential inverter issues that could result in unnecessary downtime.”

Cypress Creek has grown its portfolio of solar projects while managing operation and maintenance tasks in-house. To maximize the value of its projects, Cypress Creek has selected SMA to lend its expertise in inverter technologies to manage inverter risk. This will allow SMA and Cypress Creek to leverage each other’s core competencies to maximize plant life and profitability.

SMA Service currently has more than 2.5 GW of solar assets under operation and maintenance (O&M) agreements, which are monitored from SMA’s NERC compliant Solar Monitoring Centers located in California and Germany.

Keys to inverter service: Data granularity, remote updates, customer relations

— Solar Builder magazine

New commercial PV monitoring gateway: AlsoEnergy Powerlogger 1000

AlsoEnergy introduced a new standard gateway for their Commercial PV Monitoring Solution: the PowerLogger 1000. This interactive datalogger introduces a range of practical and time-saving benefits relative to other gateway devices in the PV marketplace.

AlsoEnergy PV monitoring

The PowerLogger 1000 adds a rugged interactive touch screen LCD display. This innovation allows workers to commission, bus test and troubleshoot without the need to interface with a laptop computer or mobile device. This feature, along with an automated configuration process, will enable field workers to cut commissioning and maintenance time by more than half. The simple ability to get immediate status feedback from the LCD display can be a tremendous time saver. And many device diagnostics and configurations can be executed remotely with the AlsoEnergy Commercial Monitoring Solution, eliminating the need for some field visits altogether.

The PowerLogger 1000 comes with practical upgrades as well. This device more than doubles the processing speed of the previous standard gateway from AlsoEnergy enabling new applications. The PowerLogger 1000 has a wider operational temperature range than previous gateway models, and lower power consumption enables a longer UPS backup window.

How to optimize performance and profit through O&M monitoring

“Our team has already deployed the PowerLogger 1000 in the field” says Dennis W. Odden, President of Bay4 Energy Services. “Our field engineers save time with the convenience of the touch screen display and the simple process for network configuration and testing. This device is a big step forward for site hardware solutions.”

“We continue to invest in engineering to stay on the cutting edge of hardware technology” says AlsoEnergy CEO Robert Schaefer. “The PowerLogger 1000 is our latest effort to simplify the installation and maintenance of commercial PV monitoring systems for our clients.”

The PowerLogger 1000 records data in real time from various field devices including weather stations, inverters, trackers, and meters. Data is retained in the PowerLogger in the event of a network interruption and forwarded to AlsoEnergy data servers when the connection is re-established. AlsoEnergy integrated hardware solutions are extensively tested, rated to UL standards, and come with a standard 5-year warranty.

The PowerLogger is typically mounted in an ETL-listed NEMA4 enclosure and combined with components such as power supply, cellular modem, network switch, and a revenue grade meter. Hardware is integrated with AlsoEnergy’s PowerTrack™ software platform and combined with professional services to make a complete commercial PV monitoring solution.


— Solar Builder magazine

Insight into new solar monitoring software used by Swinerton Renewable Energy

SOLV, a solar O&M service provider in America and a division of EPC contractor Swinerton Renewable Energy, has begun deployment of QOS Energy’s Qantum software to monitor and support the operations and maintenance of more than 1 GW of solar PV plants in the United States.

Comanche PV plant - Community Energy Solar - SOLV

What is Qantum?

Qantum is a cloud-based analytics platform that allows SOLV to harness the power of the data generated by the multiple PV installations they manage on behalf of leading renewable energy project owners. It does this by being a hardware-agnostic energy management SaaS platform that seamlessly gathers data from any wind or solar plant monitoring system, such as databases, SCADA or data acquisition systems, including data from trackers, hybrid plants or storage facilities. Qantum collects and transforms the data into comprehensive, next-stage analytics, enabling SOLV to identify performance issues quickly and accurately.

“Our solution helps clients deliver best-in-class O&M services for solar PV plants of any size, from small rooftop installations to massive utility-scale projects, such as the 155 MWp Comanche Project which generates an average of 5,000 data points, including the Qantum-based calculation of 1,800 formula-based KPIs. … SOLV can visualize, understand, streamline and maximize global operational performance using a simple web browser,” explained Franck Le Breton, CEO at QOS Energy.

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

The cloud-based suite features a complete set of customizable charts, operating dashboards KPIs and alerts helping to gain a deeper understanding of the asset’s performance at a glance and to identify root causes of underperformance. Additional KPIs and technical indicators have also been created specifically for the trackers installed onsite. The platform offers a fully integrated maintenance management system to help reduce downtime by streamlining maintenance workflows for large and complex renewable energy portfolios. In addition, SOLV benefits from a reporting feature included in the SaaS solution to customize and automate its reporting processes.

“The solution provided by QOS Energy can integrate any type of data, which is a powerful and truly unique capability in the market. We can now track asset performance with greater efficiency, and, in turn provide optimum value to our clients. The implementation phase has been very smooth and we were impressed with the level of service provided by QOS Energy,” concluded Adam Snyder Product Manager from SOLV.

— Solar Builder magazine

How to optimize performance and profit through O&M monitoring

As the solar industry matures well past the early adopter stages, smart asset management and operations and maintenance (O&M) practices have increasingly become the focus of savvy solar plant owners and investors. Optimizing uptime has now become a critical foundation of ROI, and one of the keys to achieving optimized plant performance is a comprehensive data acquisition and monitoring system backed by an experienced O&M monitoring team.

Historically, O&M was often added to engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts to sweeten the deal. Monitoring was heavily used during the commissioning and performance guarantee period but was not often maintained thereafter. Only egregious faults were captured, if at all, and failing but not yet dead components would usually be overlooked.

How times have changed.  Numerous tech advancements have increased the capability and granularity of O&M monitoring, including:

■ Device-level communication and alarms.
■ Calibration/configuration algorithms to ensure equipment is reporting accurately.
■ Real-time multiple model comparisons to actual performance (financial, operational, historical).
■ Application programming interface (API) tie-ins to computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) for automated work-order generation.
■ Camera/sensor feedback for soiling, vegetation, snow and similar issues.
■ The use of multiple sensors and cameras for calibration verification and site security.

In today’s solar O&M marketplace, data drives data. That is, the more actionable data you can extract from systems, the more you learn about the “real-world” behavior of those systems, and the more proactive you can be in maintaining systems at their maximum performance.

Of course, an equally important part of the equation is to have a skilled team that can properly configure alerts and alarms, monitor system data, identify how real-world incidents impact performance and understand the balance between uptime and ROI.

The goal today is to accurately diagnose the problem and determine what equipment or parts are needed long before a technician arrives onsite. This capability can decrease system downtime, reduce the number of tech visits and increase the owner’s uptime and ROI.

There are many specific benefits that smart O&M monitoring backed by an expert O&M team can bring to system owners. For example:

■ Panel washing and vegetation abatement can be scheduled more timely.
■ Contractor compliance can be scrutinized more effectively, helping to answer what is for some a critical question: Did the subcontractor do what they said they would do?
■ Programmed alerts for the CMMS can generate automated work orders and make dispatch efforts more efficient.
As more solar plants enter the secondary market, the benefits garnered from ongoing, comprehensive monitoring takes on added value of its own. If the current asset owner can show prospective buyers in-depth operational and performance records, as well as real-time data metrics and modeled expectations based on real-world conditions, a successful sale is much more likely.

Think of it this way, are you more inclined to buy a used car from an owner who can provide a complete history of maintenance and work records or one whose operating and maintenance history is a mystery?
So, what does the future of solar O&M monitoring hold? Since the industry is driving toward more data and greater granularity, we can expect to see the development of further refined algorithms that can identify ever-more nuanced issues. We can expect to see improved real-time control and forecasting models, remote fault diagnostic and reset capabilities, RMA generation without the need for a field tech visit, greater CMMS and inventory management tie-in and more software automation built around prognostic/predictive tools.

Yet, despite the increasing levels of data finiteness, at the end of the day, there will also be an equally strong need for experienced O&M experts, since the best monitoring platforms truly are only as good as the people who set it up and are capable of performing the operations.

Bay4 Energy is an independent renewable energy service provider, with more than 30 years of asset performance and portfolio management experience.

— Solar Builder magazine