EDF Renewable Services has successfully made the transition from wind to solar, seamlessly evolving into a globally leading O&M and Asset Management service provider. Executive Vice President O&M of EDF Renewable Services, Mr. Larry Barr, attributes this development of the company to their experienced asset management group already in place for their wind projects, and the increasing client demand for O&M and Asset Management services. “It is a neat synergy as this is an area the market needs filled, and since we were already doing this it was easy for us to step into that sector.”
“For EDF RS, it was a matter of adapting to the differences between operating a solar project and a wind project. Solar is logistically simpler and the complexity of the technology is less specific. The processes and procedures for wind were relatively easy to adapt to solar,” Mr. Barr offers.
Within the last year, EDF Renewable Services started offering Asset Management services to its clients. Mr. Barr explains, “The goal was to add Asset Management Service to our existing portfolio of field services. To be precise, EDF RS has always been a leading Independent Service Provider (ISP) and has been so for more than 25 years, the addition of Asset Management services is just one more service we are now offering to the market.”
The challenge for EDF RS at present is that solar asset owners are now looking for complete solutions. Mr. Barr admits, “In an ideal world, one entity would wrap all the inverter and panel warranties together and provide the owners with one single point of contact. Because we didn’t design or manufacture the components, it is a little difficult for us to step up and take those risks, but we understand the need for it and are doing our best to provide solutions. We are now the service provider and also the asset administration provider, so we are well suited to provide a full package warranty to the owners in the end.”
EDF RS’s unique position often raises questions regarding the amount of risk they are willing to take should a problem occur on site, such as an inverter failure, for example. These situations can often be a challenge for both client and company, leading to necessary negotiations so that customers feel secure and satisfied in their business agreements. In the solar arena, there are plenty of institutional investors owning projects and are looking for companies such as EDF RS with whom they intend to do business. Mr. Barr speculates, “I think this is because the output and costs of these solar projects are more predictable than wind encourages more Institutional investment interest.
Another important question EDF RS hears quite often is related to the subject of washing. “How frequently do panels need to be washed and what is the cost? The cost varies somewhat depending on the technology, such as if they are thin film or cSi panels because the value is different between the two, as well as the return. This question encompasses many sub-questions, and easily becomes very complicated as there is not a lot of science or empirical data to draw from today to swiftly make this financial analysis,” acknowledges Mr. Barr.
New technologies are under development that will help businesses like EDF RS better serve their customers in the future, ideally bringing more answers to some of the most frequently asked questions EDF RS receives, such as how often panels need to be washed and the cost. Mr. Barr offers some insight as to what could be making an entrance to the market in the coming years. “We are starting to see some interesting innovations in terms of infrared and thermographic inspection utilizing drones with infrared cameras flying above plants to identify problems with individual panels, because something even as simple as driving through the project to do visual inspection can take a lot of time. This is an example of a technology that has yet to evolve, but can help reduce costs and improve the overall performance of the project.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Barr discusses the prospective of solar in 2020. “I don’t see any revolutionary changes with the capital expenditure side of this business, except that the cost will continue to come down, though there have been some huge improvements in that regard. Admittedly, we likely will not see the continued rate of decrease in prices that we have seen. The same is true in O&M, but I think there are still improvements to be made in reducing those costs. For example, it is natural to tend to make sure with new equipment and machinery that you are initially very conservative in your maintenance practices, but in due time, these kinds of efficiencies are learned.”
Larry Barr will be one of the speakers representing EDF RS at the conference Solar Asset Management North America, taking place in San Francisco on April 1-2. The topics above will be part of the program, which addresses all relevant topics related to the operational phase of PV assets and portfolios.