How Have Technology Innovations & Monitoring Solutions Helped In The Transforming Asset Management Market?

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Recent trends in the technology utilised within the solar power industry are providing more easily accessible energy-efficient solutions to a broader range of businesses. Also, as technology continues to evolve and increase in popularity, so do the benefits that it provides in saving costs and the use of energy. The applications of IoT in renewable energy production involve sensors that are attached to the generation, transmission, and distribution equipment. These devices help companies monitor and control the working of the equipment remotely in real-time. The implementation of IoT helps to avail of these clean energy sources to a further extent. The solar power monitoring device is important to stay informed about what the system is producing and how well it’s performing.

Let’s see what the experts have to say

A solar plant is designed to last for more than 25 years. Society makes revolutionary technological advances every 20 years. Markets emerge every five years and so do threats. Therefore, a long-term planning approach is fundamental to solar asset management. Each solar plant should be considered as a stand-alone business. Like any business entity, the aim should be to improve profitability by increasing revenues and reduce the levelised cost of solar electricity (LCOE). ISO 55000 (the internationally accepted standard for management of assets) defines asset management as “the coordinated activity of an organisation to realise value from assets”.

Digital transformation of asset management revolves around data. Data integration from different systems, data optimization and noise elimination, smart data analysis and AI and machine learning algorithms help us use this data effectively. They deliver deep insights at all stages of development, in an automated fashion.

Asset management is a holistic approach, rather than a technical one. HOTO (hand-over take-over) is now becoming increasingly documented. For every project nearing completion, information about the different broad aspects is captured. HOTO is essential in the early stages even from a financial perspective. A misjudgement in output during the first year can affect the overall NPV and IRR over 25 years.

Siddharth Gangal, Founder & CEO, Panelstack (previously TheSolarLabs)

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Automated Cleaning Solution: ACS tech can help asset management teams reduce manual operations & increase the yield of the plants. This also reduces resource intensity (Manpower, Time & Money) over long periods. It is more effective when considered initially at the design stage by saving retrofitting work. However, ACS options in general work better with larger capacity projects, with less variation in orientation. We are evaluating deployment in some larger rooftops, and our ground mount open access projects.

Geo tagging apps for workers enable us to have a close tracking & control on the team in ground which is mostly required in small rooftop projects where people are needed to travel a lot daily. It also helps to effectively implement the ticketing system to carry out planned maintenance jobs. Utilizing this tech helps us reduce manual reporting requirements and the need to check and verify team movements.

Self-cleaning coatings (Chemical based) These can potentially be a game changer as many problems related to module cleaning can be solved semi-permanently. E.g., vacuum cleaning of modules can be effective after such coating, reducing water usage, permanent deposition, and minimizing bird dropping. This is highly effective in high dust environments where dry cleaning cycles can be implemented to improve the generation. However, there are some challenges with getting manufacturers’ approvals for in-warranty usage and levels of these chemicals.

Advanced monitoring systems Use of an advanced monitoring system helps identify and diagnose underperforming assets, minimize potential risks, and ensure expected returns are met. Additionally, it helps add transparency and monitor KPIs like performance ratio (PR), time between faults, tickets raised, variance between expected and actual values, etc. An integrated technical-commercial monitoring system helps identify technical and financial performance and health of assets (people & materials) and acts as a single window for the entire portfolio, at any given point in time, as well as over longer periods

Adarsh Das, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, SunSource Energy

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All industries are slowly and steadily riding on the digital transformation wave and Renewable Energy Industry is no different over the past decade, a lot has changed in the world of Operations & Maintenance & Asset Management – and one of the main catalysts for that change is technology. Organizations are willing to invest in digital technologies driven by innovation to get a bird-eye view of their entire portfolio. Not only that but a development which seemed impossible before, is now taking place, as the companies and relevant stakeholders have the freedom to access their portfolio via a phone app and get a quick update of their project from any location, all of which have been made possible by the advent of IoT, analytics and digital twin. The International Data Corporation in its report from 2017, predicted that the spending on digital transformation will be approx. $2.2 Trillion worldwide, by the end of 2022. – a whopping 43% increase from 2017.

At the centre of this digital transformation, organizations are looking to drift away from proprietary ‘enterprise IT’ systems which require long development and upgrade cycles. Organizations are now looking towards a modern architecture which enables much more agile methodologies where changes can be continuously developed, integrated and mobilized into operations

Dr Keyur Gandhi, Co-founder and CTO, Apollo Energy Analytics

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Technology Innovation and Monitoring Solutions have been key elements in the Solar Asset Management Sector. Market is evolving everyday with new technologies being tested and used, resulting in direct impact on Solar Plant performance and revenue. Since data being the new oil of the industry and so innovations in monitoring solutions are the need of the hour for both power producers and consumers. There are multiple new technologies which have already started finding their space in Asset Management like, artificial intelligence (AI), data mining, Block chain, big data to name a few of them. These technologies help in converting the immense amount of data that these plants generate, into easily understandable and interpretable information, that can be used to make optimised operational decisions.

In terms of equipment there is already a surge in the form of

  • Robotics (both for dry and wet cleaning),
  • Drones,
  • Thermographic camera,
  • PV analyser,
  • Other highly efficient solar panel cleaning tools etc.

Another important aspect is the conservation of water, it being an important natural resource. Advance brushes for wet cleaning which help in reduction of water usage and dry-cleaning robots are being extensively looked at. Water meters for recording its usage during cleaning operations are also finding its place at the solar plants.

Thus, we can rightly say that innovative technologies and monitoring solutions in asset management are being deployed more aggressively in the renewable energy sector than ever before.

Pramod Deore, Chief Operating Officer, CleanMax

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The problem with maintaining the asset starts with PV design is that with falling solar prices, the pressure is surmounting on PV design engineers to meet the scope under a thin cost margin. The role of data monitoring is to make aware of the current status of the plant, whereas solar companies, looking for business excellence via operational efficiencies are aiming at tackling the problem at its source and that’s where innovative deep data analytics providers are creating a value proposition sought by the solar industry, especially post-pandemic. The stationary production estimation software is now complemented with dynamic climate data (pollution, temperature, etc) to adjust the production estimates in real-time specific to a geographical location. When it comes to operations, a few emerging data analytics innovations have taken up the call from the industry in providing intelligence at the panel-level (using IoT sensors) to meet
the increasing demand of how problems at the source (PV panel) is impacting the performance of the whole plant.

Asset Management, now, is more focused on deriving intelligence from their existing assets and adopting a new way of managing their assets based on deep data analytics. Panel/equipment level IoT sensors are being deployed to benchmark and compare product performance in real-time rather than organizing 3rd party-based half-yearly or annual plant health checkups. The use of sensors at specific locations in a solar plant has helped asset owners and the O&M teams to decode reasons for faults faster and with more accuracy and in real-time. Emerging data analytics and monitoring solutions are helping Asset managers optimize the man-hours and allocate their resources, based on data and hence maximizing the ROI for solar companies.

Govinda Upadhyay, CEO and Founder, SmartHelio

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To read in detail, download the SolarQuarter India Magazine, January 2021 Issue

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