Professional O&M services for utility-scale PV plants: necessary cost or a desired value?

As the renewable energy sector continues to grow rapidly, utility-scale PV installations are playing an increasingly important role in the transition to sustainable energy. With a big scale of new investments and at the same time aging the existing projects, it’s time to look ahead and focus on how will the plant be functioning in the next decade or two. Operations & Maintenance’s role in adding long-time value to the investment cannot be underestimated.

Contrary to the perception that operations & maintenance (O&M) services for utility-scale PV installations are necessary cost, they add value and contribute to the increased reliability and longevity of solar installations. Today’s solar O&M services are very different from those of the past; they are not about only fixing problems but preventing them and improving performance through advanced data analytics. Each site may be different, but one thing is certain, solar is an investment that needs to be protected and maintained.

Nomad Electric, a leading provider of operations and maintenance (O&M) services for utility-scale PV installations with a portfolio of more than 1.1 GWp, highlights key factors demonstrating how O&M services effectively transform ongoing costs into long-term value for asset owners and investors.

Maximizing Returns
Proper O&M practices contribute to higher energy production, increased revenue, and ultimately a greater return on investment (ROI). Regular monitoring and maintenance of PV systems ensures that they operate at peak performance. O&M services also help minimize equipment downtime by identifying and addressing potential problems before they escalate into costly repairs or replacements.

Otherwise, the cost of new components, additional resources to manage repairs and extended downtime can quickly add up. I can give an example just to show the scale: a 3% loss of energy production per year on a 20 MWp farm may not seem so bad, but over a 10-year perspective it means about 800,000 EUR less. That makes a huge difference. That’s why global infrastructure funds investing in PV assets around the world are looking for these small numbers in reports because they know how big the impact is in the long run. Nomad Electric is active in Romania and we are able to carry out an audit of a PV installation and then provide a detailed report on what needs to be improved to reach better profits.– said Sorin Bratulescu, Nomad Electric Services Head of Business Development in Romania.

O&M can also extend the operational life of PV systems and enable their owners to anticipate and budget for necessary maintenance activities, reducing the likelihood of unexpected costs and financial burdens. Every plant owner should also consider third-party service audits prior to the end of the EPC warranty and at least every five years thereafter.

Maintaining efficiency in older installations
For aging utility-scale PV installations, keeping O&M services up to date is critical. Nomad Electric’s market research shows that in Romania, many owners of utility-scale PV installations have not updated their O&M to reflect the latest technological advances and industry best practices for many years. That’s a big mistake, as this approach leads to reduced efficiency, performance and ultimately lost revenue.

Sorin Bratulescu, Nomad Electric Services Head of Business Development in Romania, explains: As technology and the industry evolve, asset owners should adapt their O&M strategies accordingly. We strongly recommend engaging an independent third party to conduct a comprehensive audit of a plant’s O&M services. This will identify areas for improvement and potential cost savings. Investing in the modernization of O&M services is crucial to maximizing the value of PV assets. We use our high-tech monitoring center and proprietary Nomad NX SCADA, data analytics and machine learning to manage our farms, and drone thermography or electroluminescence for module inspections. By adapting to these new standards and innovations, asset owners can not only improve efficiency and performance but also extend the life of PV assets, mitigate risk, optimize return on investment and increase overall asset value.

Facilitating smooth asset rotation
The PV market is evolving and there is a growing trend toward asset rotation, where plant owners sell then to new investors. In such cases, a well-documented service history adds value to the asset and is essential for a smooth transaction. Professional O&M helps ensure compliance with industry standards and demonstrates the reliability and performance of the asset to potential buyers, giving them confidence that it will be easier to avoid red flags during the sales process, secure financing or subsequent insurance for the well-maintained solar installation.

All things considered, finding and contracting with a professional and experienced utility-scale PV O&M provider is more important than ever to ensure the expected energy production. As the renewable energy sector continues to expand, O&M services will play an increasingly important role in the success of PV installations and should be viewed not just as a cost, but as a desired value.

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18 Dec 2023
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