How to Streamline Solar Asset Maintenance With a CMMS

 

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Computerized Maintenance Management Software (also known as a CMMS) can help make data from solar asset management actionable. A CMMS can also help optimize asset lifespan and help reap the highest return on investment for solar asset owners.

The Role of a CMMS in Solar Farm Asset Management

Renewable energy technology is fast accelerating, and data is the new fuel. With a fall in installation costs and government funding becoming more obtainable, information is now solar installers’ most valuable asset to remain profitable in this competitive market.

For solar companies to capitalize on their asset data, they must strategize their operations and maintenance to reduce daily OPEX, drive solar production, and generate the most significant return on investment.

You know the scenario. You’re working with five different vendor portals open on your desktop in an attempt to interpret the information, detect anomalies, and make critical maintenance decisions about whether or not to roll a truck.

 

At 60Hertz Energy, we nicknamed this “tab jockeying”. Tab jockeying is one of the biggest obstacles preventing efficient actioning of maintenance data.

Traditionally, solar energy system data is manually collated and recorded in the field, where it is then communicated to supervisors and other maintenance teams using software such as WhatsApp and Excel.

A truck wouldn’t be rolled out without a phone call from a field technician or critical failure alerts from monitoring software. Monitoring software is available and often used as the tool that helps vet before sending “boots on the ground” to site.

The problem here is that the monitoring software or vendor portals leaves you with “tab jockeying” and difficulty communicating all the information in one tool.

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There are also many variables that can significantly affect an asset’s degradation rate and therefore an inspector’s ability to comprehensively analyze their asset data. The industry standard for solar panel’s lifespan is 25-30 years. However, the average lifespan can fluctuate because of the following:

  • Extreme weather
  • Asset age and quality
  • Proper installation
  • Location (rolling trucks and inspections could prove costly in remote locations)
  • Signal strength
  • Local vegetation interfering with assets and causing damage
  • Animals
  • Human error
  • Staff turnover and retirement means loss of “in-their-heads” experience with aging assets

With all this asset data at your disposal, tab jockeying doesn’t offer insights into behavior patterns, current asset condition, and recent inspection findings. If only there were software that allowed you to set rules against these variables and take action on them to help automate data-driven decisions.

Enter CMMS.

Your CMMS is the perfect tool to tease out actionable SCADA data and systemize multiple vendor streams and help interpret complex information that would otherwise leave heads spinning from the sheer mass of information. Asset owners can take swift action before a costly failure occurs, all rooted in their solar asset management platform.

“Data is everything to maintenance – if it’s actionable. To make it actionable, you need the proper tools.”

Chris Besetsny, Customer Success Management, 60Hertz

How to Simplify Solar Asset Management

With a CMMS like 60Hertz, all solar services maintenance data feeds into a single location for all teams to access via a centralized view of monitoring and maintenance.

Here’s how it works:

Solar Maintenance Services

What differentiates 60Hertz from other CMMSes is our software’s ability to standardize your response to alerts generated by your monitoring software. Schedule and automate solar service jobs, and keep timely maintenance logs and field data captured against assets.

Everything can be done offline. Jobs can be ticked off, photos taken, data documented and archived ready for future retrieval from anywhere once the app has been synced within a signal range.

Here are 7 tips for how you too can simplify your PV asset management data:

1. Accumulate meaningful data O&M records

Information lost due to human error and staff turnover can almost be eradicated with full data records stored on the app, accessible across all devices. 60Hertz offers the opportunity to export full data reports for evidencing maintenance checks.

2. Oversee insights and simplify notifications

When multiple data streams and deep insights are decoded and presented in an easy-to-understand format, hours wasted tab jockeying can be saved with an O&M dashboard at your fingertips.

Simplify your maintenance and recordkeeping with these blogs:

3. Analyze failure causes

Help prevent asset failure with data analysis features and aggregate live data from the field to optimize time-to-action before failure escalates. A truck is only rolled and tools prepared when there’s a problem to fix.

4. Take action on weather-informed maintenance data

Dramatic weather changes can cause components to contract and expand, causing cracks and other damage. Heavy snowfall can pressurize the surface, and hurricanes cause dirt and debris to collect and cause irreversible damage to the panel.

The median degradation rate of solar panels is about 0.5% per year, implying that the power output from a solar panel decreases by about 0.5% annually. This rate can be higher in hotter climates and for rooftop systems, which could impact their longevity and efficiency.

5. Keep accurate solar maintenance logs

Keep access logs from a single location, accessible by all staff with little to no WiFi signal. Data is synced when a reliable network connection is established.

6. Standardized responses to conditions with preset rules

60Hertz can generate ready-to-use templates for designing your unique responses to various conditions. (“If X happens, then do Y.”)

For example, if a string failure occurs, a rule can be set up so that an alert comes through and triggers a work order or inspection job in the app. The error message gets sent to the customer’s portal. 60Hertz then creates a job with a unique code using a pre-set template, along with instructions for resolution and steps should escalation occur.

7. Benchmark asset performance

Utilize 60Hertz’s O&M optimization suggestions and data analysis dashboard to analyze patterns in data captured over time, set thresholds against data, and detect anomalies.

For example, the top performing solar modules can achieve efficiencies of 20% or more, with some cells reaching up to 25.8% efficiency.

Solar Services Maintenance

The biggest advantage of 60Hertz has to be the accountability and data tracking. We can put all of the data on a graph, look at it over time, and hold people accountable for what’s been done wrong and what’s been done right. And even the less tech savvy are able to follow my reports.”

-DeWan Smith, Field Tech Coordinator at Sesame Solar

Planning Ahead With Solar Asset Management Data

“Data is useless without context.” – Nate Silver

Why create a plan? 

Solar was originally sold as a “set it and forget it” easy way to make a quick buck. You built your panel system, with a decent warranty with set O&M costs to run for 30 years. We now understand it actually takes significant maintenance and infrastructure to profit from renewable energy.

Without clear direction, your actionable data is worthless unless it can be used to drive efficiencies, protect assets, and elongate asset lifespan. An untreated solar array can cost thousands of dollars each day when not generating energy.

Here are some tips on how to design your solar maintenance plan:

  1. Research technologies for keeping a log of maintenance inspections. A CMMS will archive data should it be required for retrieval for an underperforming asset or failing component or to file a warranty claim with the manufacturer.
  2. Schedule site visits – physical routine checks and aerial solar inspections are simple to complete and a fast way to locate visible anomalies, run performance tests as well as record metrics to hold your data against.
  3. Train your solar service staff on how to use your maintenance software to help prevent errors that could have been correctly resolved by proper use of the platform or data loss.
  4. Keep maintenance logs including all inspections carried out, cleaning, repairs and replacements to aid in future diagnostics.
  5. Keep a record of manufacturers’ warranties, manuals and emergency contact information to ensure optimal solar asset performance.
  6. Check your inverter lifespan – your inverter should last around 10-20 years depending on the model and conditions. This will help you diagnose if your panel system is underperforming.

How to Protect Your Solar Assets With Maintenance

On average, a solar panel’s break-even point for optimal energy efficiency is between 6-10 years from installation. With intelligent use of data analysis to optimize your maintenance service, your panels could produce at high levels for years after this point, saving thousands of dollars during the entire solar array lifespan.

Below are some examples of how you can protect your renewables project with solar services maintenance:

Regular cleaning

Panels should be cleaned at least once per year and checked for debris weekly to avoid dirt buildup limiting solar energy output. You can invest in panel cleaning robots or human power with a simple bit of soap and a mop to get the job done, as long as the panels are gently cleaned to ensure they remain scratch-free.

Simplify Solar Services Maintenance

Animal protection

Animal droppings and chewing of wires can also lead to costly damage if left unchecked, complicating solar panel maintenance services. Protect your solar panels with critter guards to prevent nesting material and feces buildup from causing accelerated panel degradation. Bird-dropping corrosion requires specialist cleaning.

Control vegetation

Unruly vegetation interfering with components can hinder your energy production. When modules are connected in a string, shading can affect the entire array output.

Check your solar inverters

Inverters are often neglected but can trigger some of the highest numbers of failures for solar systems. Overuse, installation, under and over voltage and friction can cause lasting damage to other components affected by the inverter.

With a CMMS to consolidate and action data, and a well-thought-out maintenance plan, data can drive critical maintenance decisions to dramatically reduce OPEX for asset owners, protect valuable assets, and optimize operations and maintenance procedures to retrieve the maximum return on investment.

Optimize Your Solar Panel Maintenance Services With One Portal

Ready to upgrade from tab jockeying to working with one easy-to-access portal? 60Hertz Energy is designed with people at top of mind—easy to pick up, and even easier to roll out for your teams in the field.

60Hertz Energy integrates all your maintenance needs into one easy-to-access portal, transforming the way you track and manage solar asset maintenance. With our mobile-first application, even in the most remote locations and without internet access, your teams can continue their work seamlessly.
Interested in learning more? Book a demo with us today.

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