July 5, 2021 — Industry Trends
Solar asset managers must adapt after 150GW marquee year
Solar asset managers will find themselves increasingly stretched as 150GW of solar farms complete this year – and even more in 2022. Edmée Kelsey, founder and former CEO of 3megawatt, now part of Power Factors and Greenbyte, shares how this will affect asset management plans.
The solar industry is in an acceleration year.
In 2021, at least 150GW of solar capacity is due to be completed globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This compares to 84GW of new wind capacity.
And 2022 could be even busier. BNEF is predicting that up to 178GW of solar farms will be commissioned in 2022. After a tumultuous 2020, it has never been more vital to anticipate change and build resiliency into solar asset management plans.
Here are six trends that will shape these plans in the next 12-18 months:
1. Scaling will be stressful
With 150GW of solar and 84GW of wind installations in 2021, asset managers will get very busy and organizations will get stretched.
Our prediction is that organizations that have not planned for growth over the next 12-18 months are likely to stumble. If they do not already have plans to put in place the right systems, infrastructure and team they will find the period far harder. Those without the right infrastructure – or the right plans – will be unable to move fast, and will either be constantly putting out fires or trying to keep their heads above water.
2. More ‘nosiness’ from the top
With solar and wind investments making up a larger slice of investment portfolios, we expect investors to become far more ‘hands on’ in managing their investments. New investor types also have different expectations on how assets should be managed.
We forecast that this will introduce new and more detailed information needs, more scrutiny of the information by investors, and quicker response time expectations. It will help the industry to mature but will also add workload for asset managers.
3. Digitalizing the asset register
Digitalizing the asset register gives asset managers a complete view of their portfolio landscape – what they own, where they are, and their unique characteristics – which enables them to identify poor performers and make improvements.
Our view is we will see operators get serious about capturing and synchronizing the information on their assets from different stakeholders and databases. This will put companies throughout the supply chain under more pressure to digitize information about assets and raise the pressure to better integrate different software systems.
4. Empowering eyes in the field
Last year we saw the emergence of remote inspections, remote measurements and virtual site visits. This trend is now accelerating, and making this data available helps foster discussion and collaboration across the team – in tandem with the insights of expert engineers. This helps decision-making, planning and lifecycle management.
We now expect to see more choice for field engineers and field technicians to log problems and issues without spending much time on data input. This will include more mobile field apps that use the native capabilities of smartphones, including GPS location, photo capture and annotation, voice recording, and more.
5. Batteries are no longer the exception
The fundamentals of investing in energy storage are becoming stronger as prices keep falling. In many regions and applications, batteries have become standard for new solar projects and this will increase the complexity of asset management.
However, we expect asset managers to get quickly up to speed on how to manage batteries as more become operational. There will be more standardization on KPIs for battery storage projects and more streamlined integration with generating assets.
6. Software rises up the agenda
Asset management software has never been more important to solar energy asset owners and operators. Scaling will be almost impossible without the correct systems and tools in place, which means that automating manual processes will be essential.
Overall, the fast growth in the solar sector means that 2021 and 2022 are an exciting period for asset managers. New tools and systems will help organizations to become more competitive and thrive in what will be a marquee year for installations.