SEPA releases Utility Solar Asset Management-O&M Resource Guide AM-O&M coordination vital to long-term solar project performance

To help create a knowledge base for industrywide conversation on these issues, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has published a new Resource Guide on Utility Solar Asset Management and Operations and Maintenance. The guide was written in partnership with High Performance PV, a solar planning and O&M consulting firm in Phoenix.

WASHINGTON, DC -- As large-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar projects become an integral part of utilities' generation portfolios across the country, managing these assets for optimum performance -- physical and financial -- has become a high priority for a range of stakeholders. Traditional approaches to asset management (AM) and operations and maintenance (O&M) are being disrupted by the different characteristics of solar and a lack of consistent codes and standards, measurement tools and best practices.


To help create a knowledge base for industrywide conversation on these issues, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has published a new Resource Guide on Utility Solar Asset Management and Operations and Maintenance. The guide was written in partnership with High Performance PV, a solar planning and O&M consulting firm in Phoenix.

"In a PV context, ‘asset management' refers to the tracking and evaluation of a project's commercial and administrative functions to ensure financial performance, while O&M focuses more on plant management and repair to maximize energy production," said Daisy Chung, a SEPA Research Manager and lead author on the guide. "Both areas involve an evolution in thinking for solar -- to look more deeply into what's really going on at a project site."

The guide may also be a useful primer for journalists covering long-term performance of utility solar projects. Key takeaways include:

-- Both utilities and solar developers have tended to separate AM and O&M functions. As a result, best practices in both areas are often not well communicated or incorporated into PV system design and specifications, which can, in turn, affect system performance.

-- However, industry stakeholders are increasingly aware of the link between AM and O&M, A 2014 survey found that 50 percent of PV site management companies offer AM and O&M.

-- On the administrative side, issues affecting performance include inconsistencies in contract language and definitions; a need for better tools for data collection, analysis and sharing; and lagging time frames on updates of industrywide electrical and safety codes.

The guide also offers short, targeted lists of articles and additional resources on these and other core issues.

"The crucial, yet often missing link between project ownership, asset management and O&M has exposed a rude reality," said John R. Balfour, title of High Performance PV. "If the necessary AM and O&M standards and practices are not clearly detailed in project specifications prior to design, they cannot be expected, nor will they be present, in the final product."

The guide is the first step in a new SEPA initiative focused on better coordination of AM and O&M, Chung said. The effort also includes the formation of a new industry working group and a number of educational events, such as the 2016 Solar Power Asset Management & Performance conference held recently in Newport Beach, California.

The guide is a member-only SEPA publication. A free Executive Summary is available here.

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