Despite a struggling economy, the US solar photovoltaic market will double in 2011, and is forecast to become the third largest solar PV market, according to a recent report.
With an industry growing at such a rate it becomes a concern to protect the PV investments and ensure they continue to perform over their 20 year life span. This is even more evident in the utility scale solar market, as developers face more pressure to delivering projected output as part of their Power Purchase Agreements. In today's climate plant owners are focused on maximising the return on investment, including assets such as facilities and O&M staff.
Optimizing O&M strategies is a key in a competitive solar market. An efficiently run PV plant reduces the risk of early equipment failure, unscheduled downtime and increases plant profitability. Yet, PV O&M budgeting is an inherent compromise between the costs and benefits of maintaining asset availability and performance.
Currently European O&M costs are 50-100%higher than US, given greater embrace and scope of O&M activities. Compared to other markets the US are in a privileged position as all the market trends are pointing towards increased PV installations; however the perception of O&M is that it comes as an afterthought to permitting, finance & balance of systems. This issue is exacerbated by the fact the US have limited O&M knowledge, meaning that most plant owners have a O&M related horror story.
'Contrary to popular belief, PV power plants are not maintenance free; they require a regimen of continual monitoring, periodic inspection, scheduled preventative maintenance, and service calls' EPRI Whitepaper Report
It is a fact that the relevance of O&M is growing, and the question at the forefront of the industry remains, What ROI can be achieved from O&M investments? Every plant is unique which means there is not a set of golden rules to follow. Yet, there are set of common principles that can be applied that will improve plant performance. In line with this, PV Insider have organised a PV Plant Operations and Management Training workshop on November 16, hosted by the leading O&M gurus sharing ‘O&M best practice' for the most cost effective O&M strategy.
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