Article - Greenbyte

March 1, 2021 — Product News

Check out our 4 new KPIs for solar assets

Solar operators and investors need to ensure they are looking at the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to know how projects are performing. That’s why we’ve added four new solar KPIs.

Jemima Woolverton
Product Manager, Greenbyte

Are your solar farms underperforming? Do you know why? And, if so, what are you going to do about it?

If your answer to any of these questions was “I don’t know” then read on!

We’re all aware of the scale of the data challenge in renewables. Greenbyte reported last year that wind farms around the world produce 40billion data points each year. It is a challenge for operators to find the right data to tell them if projects are profitable.

In solar, operators and asset managers face a similar problem. They have to wade through huge amounts of project performance data, which often contains large gaps. Our director of product management Eliane Pohl discusses solar data gaps here.

This means that operators and their investors often struggle to gain a helicopter view of how their solar assets are performing. That’s where KPIs help. KPIs show up issues with underperformance and enable companies to fix them. It’s an area where we have been devoting a huge amount of our attention over the last 12 months.

And we now give you more information than ever.

In the last month, we have added four more KPIs to the Greenbyte Platform that will enable you to go into even greater depth with your solar assets. These help you to quickly know whether you can blame underperformance on a simple factor like lack of sunlight, or whether you need to pick up the phone and talk to your technicians.

Our four new KPIs (or signals) for solar assets are:

Investment Performance Ratio (IPR)

This is the key metric for solar operators and investors, because it measures the performance of your inverters from a financial perspective, by showing how actual production relates to the energy budget. This lets you know if financial expectations at your solar projects are being met.

We use the following equation:

IPR = [Actual energy production (Energy)] / [Reference energy production (Default energy budget)]

The two graphs below provide a visualization. The bottom graph shows that energy produced at the asset is exceeding budget – good news for operators and investors! – and that is reflected in the IPR figure of 120.58% in the top graph.

Why does this matter?

This is a useful metric for operators and asset managers who need to know if their site is performing as expected. If it is consistently under-performing then it gives you the insights you need to help find the source of the problem, whether that is an issue with the asset or the energy budget. If it is consistently over- or under-performing then you may need to adjust the budget to reflect real-world conditions.

Resource Index (inverter) 

This measures the weather conditions at your inverters to show how much irradiation they actually received compared to what was forecast. This provides a vital insight for operators and investors, because it shows you if production was less than expected due to a low level of irradiation, or because there were problems with your inverters.

The RI is also known as the Weather Performance Ratio (WPR) in the industry.

We use the following equation:

Resource index = Solar Irradiation Reference / Solar Irradiation Forecast (on device level)

The bottom graph here shows the solar inverters are receiving better irradiation than forecast, and the colored key at the bottom gives a quick visual cue about particular days when irradiation was lower than forecast (i.e. less than 100%).

Why does this matter?

This is a useful metric to give operators and asset managers a better understanding of the climate conditions at their solar farms, and how this affects performance. This is important as it helps you to identify whether you can blame weather conditions for poor performance at your assets, or whether you need to look closer at the inverters.

Weather is a vital variable. Understanding it helps you to make the right decisions.

Operating Performance Ratio (OPR)

This provides crucial information, because it measures the performance of the inverters given actual weather conditions. This is important because it makes a clear link between real-world conditions and inverter performance, and shows if more could have been done to better to manage those solar assets during the period.

This compares actual plant performance ratio compared to reference performance ratio using this formula:

OPR = Energy Actual / Energy Budget (weather adjusted) = IPR / RI

Essentially the OPR is there to tell you if the operator could have managed the asset better. If OPR (IPR/RI) is 100% then you’re already hitting your budget perfectly. You can see in the graph below that when weather is taken into account, the asset is actually performing over budget (137.20%), which is great news!

Why does this matter?

This tells operators whether their inverters were performing optimally given weather conditions. If you’re already at 100% then you can confident that your investor should be happy!

However, if you are one of the vast majority of operators with inverters performing at less than 100%, this information will help you identify whether you need to improve your physical assets or your asset management processes – or both.

Energy Budget (weather adjusted)

Last but not least, this is an important indicator that corrects the inverter’s resource budget with actual irradiance data. This is potentially a game-changer for operators, as comparing actual production to the adjusted budget will show the remaining losses that they can actually do something about, rather than the losses caused by weather.

This follows this formula:

Energy Budget (weather adjusted) = Energy Budget (Default) * Resource Index

The bottom graph below shows how much electricity was produced by the inverters compared with the weather-adjusted energy budget. This shows that these inverters were producing more energy than the budget predicted, even taking into account the weather of the day.

Why does this matter?

Operators and investors need a clear idea of the financial performance of their solar inverters based on real-world conditions. If they are at 100% or above, this indicates that they are on track to deliver the returns you are targeting. If they are below, this supports reporting and helps you take remedial action before it’s too late – and boost the profitability and performance of your projects.

This is a quick rundown of some of the detail of these new KPIs.

The bottom line with these KPIs is they will show you different aspects of whether your assets are producing the electricity you need to achieve your financial targets. If you aren’t, they can arm you with the information you need to ensure they are fixed quickly and help to boost the profitability of your solar portfolio.

If you have more questions, we’d love to discuss further.

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