Solar photovoltaic systems have transitioned well beyond small, obscure projects into massive operations in the United States. Investment has grown. Returns are starting to come back on initial investments – in some cases, within just a couple of years.
Often overlooked in influencing the bottom line for PV systems are the day-to-day operation and maintenance costs. O&M costs vary widely depending on the market segment and its unique variables, making the analysis of risk and return by investors that much murkier.
A new best practices guide from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommends tried-and-true strategies for PV system management to reduce O&M costs, improve transparency of PV assets for investors and rating agencies and lower transaction costs.
Checklists in the guide help users take steps to improve their O&M practices. Also featured are key recommendations for PV operations and maintenance. NREL suggests the following considerations for
- Make a plan on paper for proactive O&M, rather than reacting to problems on the fly.
- Benchmark performance indicators to mark real improvement, reduce costs and maximize performance.
- Develop a strategy and budget to be able to withstand unexpected expenses and reduce downtime, such as a line of credit, reserve account or a fund specifically developed for repair.
- Consider lifecycle issues during system design and equipment selection, such as ease of operations (including automation), preventive maintenance requirements, reliability and failure rates, and end-of-life issues like component recycling and hazardous material disposal.
- Take advantage of technological developments applicable to your PV system, such as software for data analytics, remote diagnostics, asset management, remote imaging and module-level power electronics.