Due to the dynamic nature of the solar PV market, selecting the right service provider can be challenging. As Cedric Brehaut, Managing Director of SoliChamba Consulting clarifies, there are different ways of supervising solar Operations and Maintenance. Asset Management, Operations Management and Maintenance are interrelated, but to a certain degree, remain independent of one another, making vertically integrated solar firms appear like the most efficient way to provide assistance for all ends of the solar solution spectrum.
As Mr. Brehaut discusses, there are multiple considerations for O&M provider selection, including but not limited to personal expertise, infrastructure and tools, scale and geographical coverage, ability to perform warranty repairs, types of guarantees offered, and the alignment with plant owners interests. For example, the insolvency of SolarMax in Switzerland immediately cut off service to all SolarMax inverter users. While older plants almost out of warranty had little to be concerned about, newer plants with younger inverters had an added burden of not only needing to track down extra inverters, but experts familiar with SolarMax equipment who could then install the new inverters should they break within warranty.
However, O&M is not without its weaknesses. There are potential resource allocation conflicts, a lack of processes for consistent service delivery, and O&M is often given lower priority due to lower revenue potential compared to new construction. Could the combination of Asset Management and O&M solve some of these dilemmas?
Larry Freeman, Business Development Manager of EDF Renewables was joined by Joe Brotherton, President of MaxGen Services and Jamie Mordarski, Senior Management O&M North America at SMA during Solarplaza’s webinar covering Service Provider Selection. Mr. Brotherton expects to see some degree of integration of Asset Management and O&M by 2020, but emphasizes that they are very different at their cores. Mr. Freeman urges plant owners to remain flexible. “No two owners or projects are the same. We will still continue to see one-stop shops and independent providers, but there will be an evolution driven by people making investments.”
Management of spare parts is also of concern to plant owners, particularly after the recent insolvencies of once top manufacturing firms, such as SolarMax. Mr. Mordarski reassures the participants, “We do our own service and have the purchasing power and the logistics. We are seeing trends about problems in the field, and have a good analysis of the problems that do exist. We are in the unique position with both experience and knowledge to handle spare parts well.” Presenter Cedric Brehaut supports Mr. Mordarski’s position by acknowledging that management of spare parts is best decided by location, as there is not a one size fits all solution, but that inverter manufacturers do appear to be the best positioned at this time.
Solarplaza’s webinar was a prequel for the Solar Asset Management North America conference taking place in San Francisco, CA from April 1-2, 2015. The event will be attended by +300 participants, ranging from asset managers, to O&M related service providers, IPPs, investors, utilities, and project developers. Topics to be discussed throughout the conference will include performance engineering, OPEX reduction, risk mitigation, O&M best practices, asset valuation, financial asset management, grid integration, SREC management, and many more.