5 steps to O&M success for solar projects of any age

By Edmee Kelsey, founder and CEO, 3megawatt

The solar industry has seen unprecedented growth with continued demand for a reliable, cost-effective source for renewable energy. With many solar assets operational for 10+ years, it’s expected that there will be different challenges in O&M than with brand-new plants. Owners are looking for efficient, cost-effective solutions to make sure their assets are running at an optimal level, and providers want to maximize productivity of assets in a variety of geographies with their own challenges and opportunities.

Follow these five steps to maximize energy production and prevent future problems with solar sites, no matter how old the project may be.

1. Try to get the clearest view of your solar asset’s history.

Consolidating all information around your asset will help you understand any unique needs for solar. This approach is easier said than done when tracking down logs and records related to your solar plant that’s been in operation for over 10 years and has likely changed hands a few times. If you are unable to find records, start with what you have. You’d be surprised how just a year or two of data can illuminate trends for an asset’s future performance. Just watching the project’s performance isn’t enough to get a good picture of the asset, so be sure to focus on the entire asset history. Together, this will help you navigate and determine what you will need to plan for the future.

2. Track all necessary service information.

Tracking your contracts and their deliverables should seem pretty obvious, but when you work with multiple clients or service providers, these can end up in a variety of places. Excel sheets, inboxes, desktops and Dropbox are just a few of the places where you might end up spending hours tracking down the exact clause for what to do in case of an event. By consistently tracking contracts and deliverables, you’ll begin seeing the effect these services have on your plant output. Whether you’re an owner managing multiple service providers or a service provider managing your schedule, knowing your agreements and key responsibilities will help allocate resources to preventative maintenance.

3. Manage warranties, spare parts and their locations together in a single place.

Technical and weather issues can affect project components, so being able to quickly reference a warranty or check spare parts inventory reduces the time spent tracking down an extra part. This also helps forecast potential future costs and prevents buying duplicate parts. Part locations can also help determine when to perform certain updates, saving time and money on truck rolls and site visits. Even if you don’t have a full picture of the warranties, starting today will keep you on track for better scheduling.

4. Communicate well with your clients or contractors and standardize the formats of reports.

Create a transparent maintenance schedule that details preventative and corrective maintenance issues. This includes site evidence, supporting documents and even photos. As a service provider, you might not have access to all the plant information. If it’s in different forms, it’s difficult to get a good picture of the workload. Setting the right expectations with the client will help both parties understand short-term outcomes. O&M providers might also adjust their service conditions based on these situations.

5. Put your asset history to work in a software tool.

Not sure where your data is stored? There are software solutions to help manage, automate and collaborate with your data. Managing too many tools can leave your team overwhelmed with data and information. The objective should be to streamline and automate your processes to spend as little time as possible on manual activities like connecting and collecting data. Teams in our current market need a tool that helps manage multiple data streams and reduces this same type of manual work.

Starting with these key recommendations will help organize your O&M plan and create a better foundation for managing your assets. This structure will also assist your team in creating time-saving habits to not only manage your current assets but to also ease the onboarding process for new ones. Consistency is key when it comes to O&M, and being able to find what you’re looking for right away will make you successful in this industry.