Smart Energy Technologies & Energy Storage
As the installed costs for large scale PV systems have dropped below US$1/watt, O&M costs are becoming a significant portion of the LCOE for a PV plant. The cost of preventative maintenance services for PV plants, on a kW/year basis, has dropped due to increased competition between service providers, improved use of system performance metrics and a desire to lower LCOE for the PV system. UL has compiled performance data on over 1000 PV systems ranging in size from 10 kWAC to over 250 MWAC including individual systems, systems in large portfolios and various distressed assets. With the data collected, UL is evaluating how lower CAPEX and OPEX spending impacts system reliability and performance for systems ranging in age from less than one year to well over 10 years. The lower contracted PM costs can result in an increase in deferred maintenance, longer response times and systems that are under performing relative to initial energy estimates. To make up for the lower PM costs, the maintenance costs are shifted to different categories in the financial models and appear as higher corrective maintenance budgets and higher costs for incidentals such as balance of plant repairs and inverter reserves. UL will present data on system performance metrics compared to initial energy production estimates (back casts) and will highlight areas where improved monitoring, maintenance or design practices can increase energy production. In the coming years, UL expects that more and more projects will start to use data analytics and just in-time preventative maintenance to reduce O&M costs. In addition, system designers will deploy bifacial PV modules, smart inverters and module level power electronics to both enhance system energy production and to provide additional reductions in O&M costs. UL will outline how these new technologies will impact the O&M landscape and provide recommendations on how to make best use of the data that these and other new technologies to streamline the O&M process. UL will present key findings from the analysis, including the impacts of obsolete equipment, ground faults, broken modules, soiling and vegetation management on system availability and provide recommended best practices to minimize the impacts of these and other issues on system performance. UL will also provide recommendations on necessary CAPEX and OPEX to return the system through repowering, alternate sourcing of spare parts and/or inverter upgrades.