What are some of the challenges to solar asset management today? How has digitalisation helped manage assets efficiently?
Solar Asset Management is a challenging proposition, as its performance is affected by a
multitude of factors, over its entire life span. A solar asset is stationary in nature and is in
an open atmosphere, impacted by multitude of natural factors such as rains, cloud cover,
diffused radiation, dust, cyclones, temperature etc. These factors, combined with local
conditions greatly impact safety, reliability and yield.
Solar assets are usually located in remote locations, where logistics and resource
deployment is a challenge. Certain operational tasks, such as module cleaning, vegetation
management require safe practices that are usually performed by unskilled or semiskilled persons. Large size of the plants pose challenges in terms of logistics and resource
Speaking of industry, performance and operational standards are evolving gradually, as a
significant part of the asset base is still serviced by unorganized players. Rapid evolution
of technology, and high rate of obsolescence of installed equipment poses challenges of
availability of skilled personnel for service, warranty management and spares availability.
As a leader and the largest player in Renewable Energy, ReNew Power has always anticipated the challenges and remained ahead of its peers by adopting newer technologies such as digitization and automations. We are of the firm view that industry will eventually follow what we are doing today. At ReNew we focus on collection of information and data from multitude of platforms / sources at a very high granularity and use it for our advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms through which has helped us build capability on resource & generation forecasting.
Digital tools have helped us develop deep understanding of different atmospheric and
ambient conditions and how they impact yields, safety and reliability, plan our activities
better, deploy our resources optimally, and help conserve natural resources, such as water.
Traditionally, Preventive Maintenance, Performance and Inventory Management are
carried out using ERP tools (such as SAP). We are going one step further in that, we are
digitizing predictive maintenance of our assets.
How do you think strategic asset management can help maximize returns on investment? Has the RoI of ReNew Power in the recent past been up to company expectations? Share with us more growth insights during the years.
ReNew Power commissioned its first solar plant of 50 MW capacity in FY16 in Sheopur
District of Madhya Pradesh. Since commissioning of our first plant, we have come a
long way in our asset management program. While a large part of the industry relies on
conventional methods of O&M, we have tried to implement new technologies, innovative
methods and gone beyond conventional beliefs.
Solar Asset management is not all about module cleaning and vegetation management. I
believe that strong asset management is a combination of competent manpower, a robust
set of processes, deployment of modern tool-set of advanced analytics, machine learning
and a management focus to exploring & implementing new innovative ideas to improve
health and safety, asset yield and reliability.At ReNew Power we have all the tools in place
and this is evident in performance KPIs of our projects.
What are the latest technologies recently introduced at ReNew Power for effective and efficient renewable energy/solar asset management?
Solar asset management has a significant scope of improvisation by deploying analytics and performance monitoring tools. We have been active in this area, and have created a set of methods and systems that helps us retain our competitive edge. We began by building a robust infrastructure, processes, capabilities and implementation of Enterprise level SCADA.
In FY20, we have started working on digital transformation of business by building Agile labs and creating our own IPR in the form of digital modules on Advance Analytics. At present we have a pool of 100+ innovations to explore which will help us increase safety, yield and reliability.
ReNew asset management has sourced critical components and developed alternatives for critical components for seamless operation. This is a big leap towards the sustainable O&M practices considering that the market is seeing a lack of components, obsolescence and change of technology. Once successfully implemented, these innovations will help us realize further improvement in uptime and yield.
What are the measures taken by the team at ReNew Power to maximize energy production, minimize downtime, and reduce operation and maintenance costs?
ReNew power has taken several measures to improve safety, yield and reliability of assets.
Most of these initiatives have been implemented with the help of automation. Some of the
measures we have taken are:
- Condition based module cleaning instead of industry practice of time-based cleaning
to help conserve water while optimizing yield.
- Drone thermography used for monitoring the overall asset health condition and early
detection of failures. It also helps us to reduce the conventional module testing cost
significantly. Implementation of robotic cleaning at sites to improve the yield of plants
along with saving of water and subsequently the cost.
- Developed alternatives for critical components such as tracker, actuators, inverters etc and service / repairs set up at its own facility. This has helped us to reduce turnaround time.
- Inventory management through SAP system and BI dashboards which enables us for
effective use of spares across sites and procurement of same.
- We ran our in-house program of assessing the health of our projects through audits.
We called it “Asset Health Assurance” program. Through this we conduct periodic
audits at all sites to determine and improve the health score of assets.
- IV measurements of Strings/ Modules on a sampling basis on a periodic basis through
our reliability team by reducing the uncertainty factors.
- E-surveillance at remote sites and GPS tagging on cabs have helped to operate more
efficiently and created a scope to reduce operational cost.
Should the government introduce certain frameworks for ensuring asset quality maintenance and standardise asset management practices throughout the industry?
Government has done really well by setting the vision of 175 GW of renewable energy
by 2022 and by giving it a priority. In order that quality of assets built is good and that
they continue to serve for their design life, it is necessary to put in place a framework
that addresses asset quality concerns, such as module quality, build quality, PV waste
management, transmission constraints, re-powering the PV projects etc.
Standardizing the asset management practices is a welcome step, especially when the
industry is set to grow further. ReNew is at the forefront here as well, shaking hands with
premier institutes, renowned consultant & government bodies to set-up a standard on
performance testing of PV modules and various other initiatives.
What have been the key highlights of 2019 at the Asset Management division of ReNew Power and plans underway for growth in the team towards vision 2025?
2019 was an eventful year for ReNew power. We undertook several programs that will have
a long-term impact on our competitiveness. We entered into an alliance with a technology
partner who is a market leader in the segment. We set up an agile lab to better analyse
and assess the data at our disposal, which in turn helped us standardise more than 90
processes within solar asset management.
We also introduced an in-house program for improvement of yields and reliability
improvement. Under the initiative we are managing more than 20 projects on yield and
reliability improvement for our assets. Moreover, through this program we have put focus
on our safety culture. Our standards of governance remain impeccable throughout and we
intend to continue with the same zeal in future.
The industries association and bodies recognised our efforts and showered us with many awards for our outstanding O&M practices. Some of these recognitions came from industry peers such as the CII, who selected ReNew power as recipient of ‘Excellence in Performance award’ at the CII Performance Excellence Awards for Solar and Wind Plants-2018 and 2019 for our solar project based at Telangana and MP respectively. We were also awarded RE Assets excellence award 2019.
Going forward, we intend to sharpen our focus and adapt to newer ways in advance
analytics and machine learning. With robust processes and policies in place we look to
further promote safety culture and strengthen governance practices for solar projects.
We are building in-house services facilities, to de-risk obsolescence, non-availability of
components and improve turnaround time, further boosting yield and reliability.