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

By Edmee Kelsey, Founder and CEO, 3 megawatts

The solar industry has experienced unprecedented growth with continued demand for a reliable, cost-effective source of renewable energy. With many solar power plants operating for over 10 years, it is expected that there will be different challenges in O&M than in brand new plants. Owners are looking for efficient, cost-effective solutions to ensure their assets are operating at optimal levels, and providers want to maximize asset productivity across regions with their own challenges and opportunities.

Follow these five steps to maximize energy production and avoid future solar site problems, no matter how old the project is.

1. Try to get as clear a picture as possible of the history of your solar energy.

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

2. Keep all necessary service information.

Tracking your contracts and their deliverables seems pretty obvious, but when you’re working with multiple customers or service providers, they can end up in different places. Excel sheets, inboxes, desktops, and Dropbox are just a few of the places you could spend hours tracking down the exact clause for what to do in the event of an event. By consistently tracking contracts and deliverables, you can begin to see how these services affect the output of your plant. Whether you are an owner managing multiple service providers or a service provider managing your schedule, knowing your agreements and important responsibilities can allocate resources to preventive maintenance.

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

Technical and weather issues can affect project components, so being able to quickly refer to a warranty or check spare parts stock will reduce the time spent tracking down an additional part. This also helps predict potential future costs and prevents duplicate parts buying. 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, you can stay on track today for better planning.

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

Create a transparent maintenance schedule with information about preventive and corrective maintenance issues. This includes ticket, supporting documents and even photos. As a service provider, you may not have access to all factory information. When it comes in different forms, it is difficult to get a good picture of the workload. Setting the right expectations with the client helps both parties understand the short-term results. O&M providers can also adjust their terms of service 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 interact with your data. If you manage too many tools, your team can become overwhelmed with data and information. The goal should be to streamline and automate your processes in order to spend as little time as possible on manual activities such as connecting and collecting data. Teams in our current market need a tool that helps manage multiple data streams and reduces the same type of manual work.

By starting with these important recommendations, you will help organize your O&M plan and create a better foundation for managing your assets. This structure will also help your team create time-saving habits, not only to manage your current assets, but also to facilitate the onboarding process for new assets. Consistency is key when it comes to O&M, and finding what you’re looking for right away will help you succeed in this industry.

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