Solar assets have been reported to be underperforming by 8%, and with the threat of climate change and supply chain constraints looming, the implementation of predictive analysis and forecasting is essential to prevent a potential disaster and ensure a sustainable future for the renewables industry and the global society.
Solar assets are underperforming and with no long-term plan on the horizon, all players concerned may face financial loss. Climate change is causing weather patterns to become increasingly erratic and putting a damper on the profits of owners, developers, and investors. Energy Information Administration (EIA) researchers forecast that U.S. project developers will deploy up to 29.1 GW of solar in 2023. With such an ambitious prediction, the industry needs to brighten light on the future of solar energy and ensure that money doesn’t go up in smoke.
It is getting hot in here
The assets endure the scorching sun and the drying absence of rain. It’s not just major weather events such as hurricanes….prolonged high temperatures make the system start failing.
According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)…..This means that a solar panel operating at 35°C would be about 5% less efficient than the same panel operating at 25°C.
Without rain, assets need to be cleaned up more often and the invasive cleaning will make assets suffer scratches that mar the once-smooth surface, resulting in the decreased performance of the system and to top it off- increased demand for water to clean the modules. According to a 2019 report by the NREL, soiling losses like the energy loss due to dirt on solar panels can go up to 5-6% of annual energy production.
Solar assets are heartbroken – now go collect the pieces
Monitoring systems (CMMs) are not enough anymore to ensure profitability and prevent system downtime. Unless predictive analytics and forecasting solutions are invited to the table, making puzzles of broken pieces is set to be the only way for solar developers to assure their investments.
Historically, replacing broken things instead of trying to keep them working has been a part of human behavior, and it is not so different when it comes to solar assets. Replacing equipment at solar sites is not the wisest option to pick anymore. Today’s macroeconomic and supply chain challenges have made replacement both expensive and time-consuming. According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), due to the supply chain crisis, developers are reporting up to 20% increases in costs for solar panels and other components.
The timeless wisdom “prevention is better than cure” holds true for solar systems as well. In the past, when a system malfunctioned, OEMs would rush in to replace it and insurance would cover the loss of power. Solar industry players must wait for months for replacement parts to fix their broken assets, causing longer shutdowns, rising costs, and the loss of initial insurance coverage.
“To de-risk investments into zero-carbon assets and encourage resilience throughout the industry, sponsors and lenders should be wary of aggressive production forecasts”, explains Jason Kaminsky, CEO of kWh Analytics. New projects require funding and existing projects are bleeding money. To maintain both new and ongoing projects, clean energy needs accurate and timely financial forecasting to ensure the profitable generation of clean energy. With the right strategies in place, proactive measures can be taken to maintain a steady and profitable flow of clean energy.
Renew or die
Quoting The Terminator and hoping this is not the end. “The future is now, and technology is the driving force”. Embracing change is key and implementing new disruptive solutions are needed to allow users to know exactly what to do, asset managers to have a real-time big picture of the portfolio, and a chance to plan ahead to optimize resources and manage scarcity challenges.
The solar industry is currently undergoing a digital revolution but faces significant challenges in terms of standardizing data acquisition and management practices. Despite the diverse approaches adopted by solar developers, a unified standard or protocol has not yet been established, leading to difficulties in consolidating data on a single platform and efficiently leveraging intelligence to build a comprehensive analytics system with real-time actionable insights.
To that end, SmartHelio has developed predictive climate software based on physics-informed AI models to provide climate risk assessment and algorithms that prevent system downtime. The service is compatible with SCADA protocols and CMS API standards for seamless integration to empower the existing infrastructure instead of replacing it. The intelligent software extracts asset performance data in real-time to make an accurate assessment of a solar plant’s performance and enable predictive maintenance interventions to ensure the highest profitability and de-risk solar investment. The Smart Onboarding AI scans SLDs and layouts, maps physical design and electrical connection to component specifications, and can onboard even complex PV plants within minutes to provide results from day-1.
Solar assets built after 2015 are underperforming by 8% and there are two main factors impacting underperformance: inaccurate forecasting leading to climate-sensible plant design, and late faults identification resulting in system downtime. The consequences can lead to substantial financial losses for investors and hinder the growth of solar energy as a viable alternative energy source. SmartHelio’s proprietary software utilizes in-house climate risk factors for forecasting and physics-informed AI algorithms to predict failure in real time. Leveraging API intelligence from existing solutions (CMS, SCADA, weather stations, etc) not only de-risks solar investment but also maximizes ROI for the investors which would, therefore, accelerate solar adoption, in the USA and worldwide.
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