Solar operations and maintenance (O&M) expenses can greatly impact the profitability of every project completed by an installer.
As per Sunrun, O&M accounts for 18% of solar system costs, and according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), O&M costs can range from $18 to $28 per kilowatt per year. These costs accumulate over the typical 25-year lifespan of a system.
To provide some context, the lifetime O&M costs for a residential system with a 10kW installation capacity and energy costs of $0.22/kWh could amount to approximately $7,000. For a commercial system with a 100kW installation capacity and energy costs of $0.18/kWh, the lifetime O&M costs could be around $46,000.
Various O&M categories exist, including system inspections, module cleaning, and component replacements, among others. While certain operational costs associated with solar power are inevitable, they can be significantly mitigated through module-level monitoring.
This blog aims to explain how module-level monitoring works and how solar installers can save thousands by doing monitoring.
The Significance of Monitoring
As mentioned, O&M costs can become substantial over time. According to Tigo Energy, the average cost for an annual inspection of rooftop solar panels typically ranges from $150 to $300.
If repair or replacement work is needed, the expenses can escalate to $750. Therefore, each avoided service visit through monitoring saves anywhere between $150 and $750.
Module-level monitoring is facilitated by Module-Level Power Electronics (MLPE). By incorporating MLPE with monitoring capabilities into their installations, installers gain a digital overview of the performance of each module through a mobile app or website.
Example 1: Homeowner Complains About Poor System Performance
When a homeowner notices that their solar system is underperforming, they may contact the installer assuming that something is broken.
Without monitoring, the installer would have to travel to the site to inspect the system. This process can be time-consuming and costly, even if there is no issue that requires immediate attention. This is why the average cost of truck rolls is high.
With monitoring, installers can simply check an app on their smartphones to identify the cause of the poor performance. It could be due to shading or other factors, rather than a broken component.
By avoiding unnecessary truck rolls, installers can save an average of $225, according to NREL data.
Example 2: Optimizing Site Visits
When a truck roll is necessary, fleet monitoring allows installers to plan and group together maintenance visits to different sites within a specific area.
This eliminates the need for repeated trips and enables installers to address multiple system performance issues at once. As a result, installers can reduce the chances of missing any failures that would require another truck roll.
Furthermore, installers can diagnose the problems ahead of time and bring the necessary equipment with them, minimizing additional trips to the site. This saves an estimated $150 in round-trip time.
Example 3: Detecting Unnoticed Issues
Without monitoring, installers may overlook several system performance issues, such as a failed diode.
A failed diode can cause a significant reduction in energy production, by about one-third of the panel’s capacity. Over a span of 15 years, this could result in a production loss of approximately $935, and over 25 years, it could add up to around $1,500.
Monitoring is crucial for installers to minimize operation and maintenance costs and maximize profitability in solar projects. It not only saves installers thousands of dollars but also allows them to save time and take on more customers.
The benefits of incorporating monitoring into building solar systems far outweigh the costs associated with skipping it. This makes monitoring a wise investment for installers hoping to enhance workflow and grow their business.