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‘Digitisation’ in the solar industry

04 April 2021:

When I was asked to be the chair of the Solar Energy UK Operations and Management working group I was initially flattered, then slightly apprehensive. For those of you who know me, I tend to have views on most things and an innate desire to make things better. So when considering if I should accept this role, it was the old adage, “Put up or shut up!” that led to me to saying yes.

I am a very passionate believer in the urgent need for the renewable energy transition and I am keen to bring my diverse background in engineering, aviation and technology to the solar industry through whatever channels I have to do so. I see my role in the industry to not just to grow a successful ‘solar tech’ business, but much more. If I can have any positive influence on the wider solar industry in helping it grow and prosper and ultimately deliver the carbon free energy we all crave, then it’s a win-win.

That’s the introduction bit out of the way, so on to the job in hand, this blog. I would like to point out that I have never written a blog before, but hopefully sharing ideas and insights which I glean through the course of running Above as well as chairing this working group will be of interest to you.

The working group is principally focused on developing best practice and driving innovation, and in the first session Prof Michael Walls from Loughborough University explained the various support mechanisms we can draw on in the UK, both academically and financially, to support innovation in the sector.

We also discussed some of the challenges that new technology is bringing to the sector, such as modelling albedo into the yield of bi-facial assets. We finished on a discussion around some of the issues we are experiencing in the UK’s aging asset fleet, such as delamination and back sheet degradation.

One thing that clearly pervades many of these challenges and issues is that their negative impact on the assets themselves and the industry, can be reduced through better use of technology. ‘Digitisation’ is a nebulous term and is often used as a catchall for any use of information technology in the sector, but I want to try to distil some of the hype into practical actions the industry can take.

I regularly see asset managers and O&Ms wrestling with problems that could either have been avoided or the impact considerably reduced if information, both current and historic, was readily accessible.

Simply being able to access and compile a full picture of a situation using service records, test results over time or warranty information, is often a major hurdle for many organisations. This is especially true with older assets and typically results in a protracted or sub optimal resolution. Its this fact that really underlines the importance of record compiling and maintaining with new assets.

The fact that assets are getting bigger increases the importance further and technology providers in the industry, such as Above*, are now offering solutions to address this challenge.

Watch this space.

*Other service providers are available.