Over the last 4 years, software giant DIASPARK, responsible for several vertical markets stemming from healthcare to education, has entered the renewables sector by forming DIASPARK Energy. As Mr. Tim Meyer, VP of Business Development with DIASPARK reports, “We are a CMMI level 5 certified company, which is the highest level for benchmarking internal processes.” Approximately 350 other companies worldwide have obtained a level 5 certification, but what truly distinguishes DIASPARK from other monitoring providers is their unique approach of solving the problem of solar asset management from a software and integration point of view, distinguishing themselves by offering an integrative solution that is software driven.
There are many challenges to be dealt with, however, as the requirements for the accuracy of monitoring are becoming more strict. Remarks Mr. Meyer, “What we have found is that a lot of systems are starting to come out of warranty. Due to the turnover of systems and as the industry matures, asset owners require many more performance details.” Owners now have a bigger interest in how their asset is performing and they are becoming increasingly interested in seeing that their money gets paid back, which is where sophisticated software makes its debut.
“Even a 1 or 2% change in system performance is a big deal, “ says Mr. Meyer. “But this is where asset management comes in. It is becoming increasingly necessary to look at how many people it takes to track, manage and fix broken inverters compared to the situation when the systems are under warranty."
In the past, asset owners were more tolerant of multiple systems such as excel spreadsheets, monitoring screens, and tax and accounting screens. However, the market demands are shifting and there is a need from investors, owners and operators alike to have access to software that allows for all documents, warranties, insurance documents of contractors and compliance contracts for the government, to name a few, to be easily and conveniently located in one place. “We started seeing this shift about one year ago, and we started seeing that the kinds of people asking us questions are now more asset owners and less EPCs and other developers,” notes Mr. Meyer.
The future of asset management and the software business is heading towards managing a large number of complex systems. A variety of systems are changing hands and need to be adapted as new owners take over and demand different quotes or interfaces, requiring a lot of flexibility in the software. “At present, our solution is made up of monitoring O&M, accounting and finance, legal and compliance, and owners requirements. These are what we believe to be the pillars of the system. We think we have the core modules in place, so what will expand in the next five years is the sophistication and capabilities of all these modules. For example, just on the monitoring side, we already see in the next 5 years there will be a much greater need for smart inverters that will communicate with the grid and the grid can tell it to curtail power production,” asserts Mr. Meyer.
Notably, there are also various trends in hardware monitoring that Mr. Meyer expects will become more common, especially in the US market, that are still currently underutilized, such as string monitoring, micro inverters, and optimizers making their way into large PV systems. “Micro inverters and optimizers have focused traditionally on residential systems to monitor shading from trees. What we are now realizing is that it really is important to know that there are two failed modules somewhere on the plant and how to fix them quickly.”
Similarly, with regard to elements such as solar eclipses and recurrent summer dust storms through the Sahara or Mojave deserts, these are only two examples of the issues often deemed too small or challenging to research. Continues Mr. Meyer, “The variable frequency of utilizing robotic cleaning devices, the types of cleaning solutions available, how much do said solutions actually help plants to run at peak performance; these are a few examples of questions DIASPARK is presently thinking about. The attitude of the past was that often little blips in the system were just too small to pay attention to, but what we now know is that in fact, nothing is too small.”