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Smarter management of solar assets for maximum performance

by RES | Apr 25, 2024 | Reading time: 3 min

For over 40 years, our team has been developing, constructing and operating renewable projects across the US and Canada. This full project lifecycle experience enables us to identify ways to help our customers maximize the performance of their renewable assets, not only increasing revenues, but importantly adding more green energy to the grid.

With our years of experience operating both wind and solar assets, we recognized that there were various opportunities for the solar sector to take tips from the more mature wind sector to improve the performance of operational assets. Knowing that we could increase the availability of solar assets by enhancing traditional O&M strategies and borrowing techniques from the wind sector led our team to pool our in-house skills and develop a unique reliability management process. 

Whilst most traditional solar O&M strategies focus more on visual inspections, RES’ reliability management service also focuses on diagnostic testing to systematically assess and mitigate risks and complement the traditional methods. At the end of the Reliability Risk Assessment, owners have a clear picture of the failure risk over the plant lifetime, measured in financial value, and a list of options to reduce the risk including a business case. Mitigation steps typically involve contingency planning for repairs, proactive purchasing of replacement parts, enhanced monitoring and inspection or upgrading of components. This proactive approach to maintenance helps to optimize the allocation of maintenance resources, reduce plant downtime and reduce investment in the wrong spares or in activities that add little value. If implemented industry-wide, this process could unlock millions in savings for investors/owners as well as ensure that solar projects fulfill their potential and help the transition to a future where everyone has access to affordable zero carbon energy.

The importance of good spares management

When it comes to maintenance, the obvious thing is to start with having technically qualified personnel to carry out required O&M tasks. However, often the devil is in the details. In the solar plants in which we manage, there is a multitude of equipment that has failures that must be corrected, and in many cases, as important as a correct diagnosis is having a supply chain that guarantees having the spare part at the moment. Good spares management over the life of an asset can be the difference in project owners losing out on or saving millions in revenue and potentially avoiding months of downtime.

Across the solar portfolio we manage we have found that inverter faults are causing significant downtime. This is partly because inverters are complicated and have numerous sub-components, each of which could be vulnerable to failure. In addition, we have also come across inverters managed by other operators who have not complied fully with the equipment maintenance requirements. Due to recent global events, the lead time for spare inverter parts has increased substantially, which can lead to excessive downtime if the spare part is not readily available.

RES spares management service has helped mitigate this risk and helped our clients avoid lost revenue due to parts shortages. It’s not just the holding spares though and good spares management, it’s the deep inverter knowledge coupled with the reliability assessment to ensure you hold the right quantity of each spare part which makes a real difference.

Advances in technology

While drones have been in use on solar farms for several years now, their capabilities continue to expand as the technology improves and we experiment with different integrations.

For example, traditionally it could take technicians 2-3 person-hours to manually identify faults using a hand-held device. Using a drone equipped with a thermographic camera, this time can be reduced to less than half an hour. At RES, we are taking this a step further by innovating the technology to give preliminary inspection results in just a matter of minutes. On many of our solar sites, drone-mounted infrared cameras are already being used to identify modules for replacement.

We combine high-quality and high-frequency data with deep domain knowledge to help owners realize the potential of their assets. We’re a one-stop shop. This means that not only can we access and analyse your asset data – but we can deliver on data-driven recommendations too. Providing access to higher frequency data as well as sophisticated analytics with in-built subject matter expertise, we lay the groundwork for more informed decision-making. Our goal? To optimize your performance, boost your project’s operational efficiency, and maximize your output.

The future is bright

There are numerous ways that owners can improve the performance of solar assets and this only scratches the surface. We utilize our full project lifecycle experience, multi-technology experience and global team to pool knowledge and experience to ensure that we continue to advance and find new ways to optimize output.  

Our team will be visiting Cleanpower 2024 on May 6. If you are interested in meeting to find out more about how we can help optimize your renewable assets please don’t hesitate to reach out and arrange a meeting by emailing [email protected]

Find out more about our services here.

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