By Richard Matsui
With the notable exception of Intersolar North America, it’s surprisingly rare for a major solar conference to be held here in San Francisco. So when Solarplaza extended an invitation for us to speak at its 2nd annual Solar Asset Management conference here in the city, we leapt at the opportunity.
I joined fellow panelists Kent Williams (VP of Asset Management, Vivint Solar), Jimmy Bergeron (Director of O&M, SolarCity), and Matt Golden (Senior Consultant, IBTS) for a discussion entitled, “Challenges in effective management of small scale portfolios.”
4 Asset Management Best Practices From The Experts
Measure twice, cut once: With small scale portfolios, it is especially important to build systems right the first time. Why? The cost of a single truck roll to solve an O&M issue can wipe out years of electricity value that the system is generating. Therefore, the most cost-effective solution to O&M is to ensure that O&M is not needed in the first place, by ensuring your installers are building high-quality systems with high-quality equipment from the start.
You need to examine the tails: While our industry often describes portfolio performance in terms of its average (e.g. “my portfolio is at 103% of expectations), there is a wealth of insight hiding in the anomalies, the “tails”–especially when looking at portfolios that run into the hundreds or thousands of systems. Even with a “103%” portfolio, it’s your customers on the left tail of the portfolio distribution who are not giving you referrals and leaving you negative Yelp reviews.
Be disciplined with data collection: Jimmy Bergeron showed an impressive chart of 75+ O&M issues that SolarCity deals with, in order of frequency. Generating this chart requires that SolarCity classify every single O&M case it has ever handled–that is a painstaking investment for any developer. But it pays off richly: SolarCity has tremendous insight into what factors cause O&M problems. That insight is fed into the organization’s operations as learning, thus completing a feedback loop–which brings us to our last best practice.
Adopt a learning mentality: Even as our industry scrambles to service solar portfolios that are doubling in size every year, it is critical for asset managers to see the forest through the trees. After the session, one asset manager drew an analogy to medicine: “Today, a lot of O&M issue handling is really about treating symptoms, but we are not yet curing the underlying disease. In order to cure the disease, we must learn about what these symptoms share in common.” For instance, beyond simply fixing problematic systems as they arise, identifying underlying trends to learn that Installer X is systematically causing these problems will enable you to take corrective action up front.
kWh Analytics is helping our industry to “cure the disease.” We enable solar investors and asset managers to take control of their risk management and reporting through a web-based portfolio management platform. The platform delivers risk insights from 40,000+ PV systems, representing the industry’s largest independent database of operating solar assets. The firm’s clients include several of the leading solar originators and financial institutions.