The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Defining an Industry: Solar PV Operations & Maintenance versus Asset Management

There are more solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the U.S. than ever before and more of them are aging out of warranty coverage. The need to manage this portfolio of residential, commercial and utility-scale solar assets is accelerating a relatively new industry sector, solar PV operations and maintenance (O&M).

“The sheer size of the solar industry is driving O&M maturation,” said MJ Shiao, Director of Solar Research at GTM Research.  Worldwide the operations and maintenance (O&M) market for megawatt-scale PV plants will total 146 GW by 2017, according to GTM Research. 

The solar PV O&M industry faces several developmental challenges, including the definitions used to describe service offerings. 

Take for example, operations and management (O&M) versus asset management (AM).  These services are engineered to deliver the solar power plant’s prescribed energy performance and expected return on investment.  Yet these two terms, while they fuse at some point in the value chain of O&M services, describe specialized services to deliver on the solar investor’s expectations.

What is Solar Operations and Maintenance?

Solar PV O&M and AM services were clarified last year in the GTM Research report, “Megawatt-Scale PV Plant Operations and Maintenance: Services, Markets and Competitors, 2013-2017.”

“In the PV industry, the term O&M describes a set of activities, most of them technical in nature, which enable power plants to perform their task of producing energy in compliance with applicable rules and regulations,” states the report.

O&M activities can be described as on the ground including technical equipment fixes in the field, vegetation control and security.  

The report outlines the five major goals of solar O&M as:

  1. Optimization of plant production for increased asset revenue
  2. Reduction of risks for asset owners and investors
  3. Protection of asset value and longevity
  4. Compliance with applicable regulations (e.g., those set forth by the grid operator or environmental governance bodies)
  5. Transparency on plant production, performance, issues, risks and O&M activities

Moving into the cloud, solar O&M services reap monitoring information via a data acquisition system, or DAS, to deliver energy generation information and fault detection to the solar O&M service provider or asset owner’s office. More sophisticated systems deliver fault resolution information directly into the field including GPS mapping to guide truck routes, tools and replacement equipment to resolve component failure, tech login to signal completion and routing to the next destination.  Most DAS systems are geographically neutral, harvesting information for review no matter the site location of the solar asset.  Growing increasingly sophisticated DAS technology is expanding from reactive to predictive maintenance.

What is Asset Management?

O&M is sometimes considered a subset of asset management.  Asset management consists of the financial, commercial and administrative activities necessary to ensure a plant’s energy production translates into the appropriate revenue stream. 

AM activities are generally conducted in an office as opposed to out in the field.  These activities typically include billing and collections and sometimes distributions to investors, management of incentives, accounting and financial reporting, administrative interface with regulations, local authorities and grid operators and insurance paperwork and processing, according to GTM Research.

A quick review of service provider offerings reveals AM activities move a lot of critical paperwork:  accounting related including billing, energy production reporting for incentive programs, power purchase agreement energy billing and cash disbursements including those to investors, tax filings and financial audits, warranty and parts management related and insurance processing.

The Blue Collar and White Collar Solar O&M Teams

“Managing PV assets includes O&M and asset management, or 'blue collar' and 'white collar' functions,” states Stefano Cruccu, Project Manager of Solarplaza, organizers of the March 2014 event, Solar O&M North America.

“Because these two are highly interconnected it is important for both the O&M provider and the asset manager to understand each other’s perspectives.” Cruccu cites this mutual understanding as the main reason why the event Solar O&M North America focuses on both the so-called “blue collar” and “white collar” aspects of O&M.

This point of view sees the blue collar activities of the O&M provider as focused on the technology issues, whereas the white collar or asset manager intent is on the financial — non technical — side of the asset.  Both of these viewpoints will be highlighted in the March event, which is solely dedicated to solar PV O&M activities in the industry. 

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Welspun Commissions 52-MW Solar Power Plant in India

Vince Font Leading Indian solar developer Welspun Renewables has commissioned the construction of a massive solar plant in the state of Maharashtra. The planned 52-megawatt (MW) solar plant will be located in the city of Baramati. The...

Regional News from the July/August 2015 Digital Edition of Renewable Energy World

Renewable Energy World Editors EcoFasten Solar announced that it launched a new mounting "Rock-It System" that it would be displaying during Intersolar. Product compliance was determined through testing per UL Subject 2703, which reviews integr...

SkyPower Inks $2.2 Billion Deal for Massive Solar Power Plant in Kenya

Eric Ombok, Bloomberg Kenya’s Energy Ministry and SkyPower Global Ltd. will sign a $2.2 billion agreement on Sunday that paves the way for the Canadian company to develop a 1-gigawatt solar project in East Africa’s biggest economy. The solar pro...

Making a Match: How Solar Companies and Banks Hook Up

Jennifer Runyon The announcements are fairly frequent: SunPower Partners with Admirals Bank for $200 Million Solar Loan Program, Deutsche Bank to Lend $1 Billion for Japanese Solar Projects, Financing Partnerships Drive North Carolina's So...
Wiseman has been an executive marketing professional in the solar industry since 2007. Her expertise includes work with companies along the solar supply chain from manufacturers to installers, financing entities to solar O&M providers and across ...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Presenting at Infocast's Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...

Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...

5th Annual Hydro Plant Maintenance

Join maintenance professionals to discuss the challenges in maintenance ...

COMPANY BLOGS

Behind Every Good Decision

When something about your business isn’t working, you set out to c...

Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

An Overwhelming Paradox

I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the feeling of being o...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS