The solar industry has been around for quite a few years, but it’s just now ‘heating up’ as advances in technology make solar a more feasible source of energy for a broader user base, particularly as costs trend downward and the ability for solar systems to ‘pay for themselves’ in terms of reduced energy costs becomes more widely known. As the solar sector matures, emerging from its early adopter phase to more established systems and processes, a clear need for effective solar asset management is also growing.
A Brief History of Solar Energy
With origins in the 7th Century B.C., it seems a bit odd to state that the solar industry is just now beginning to move past the early adopter phase that all technology advances generally experience. Of course, early use for solar energy was quite primitive, and the industry evolved at a slow pace over the next several centuries.
Even in the late 1900s as the interest in solar as an energy source was renewed amid oil and other natural resource crises that created economic and political strife, solar was not widely regarded as a viable source for producing enough energy efficiently enough to power homes, let alone much larger factories or facilities.
That’s all changing now as technology is available to better harness the power of solar energy. In the 2000s, CleanTechnica reports that “a family in Colorado installed largest residential installation to be registered under the ‘Million Solar Roofs’ program. The system is measured at 12 kilowatts, providing most of the energy for the 6,000-square-foot home.”
Major investments in utility-scale solar plants started happening in the years leading up to 2012. “As of 2012, the history’s largest solar energy plant is the Golmud Solar Park in China, with an installed capacity of 200 megawatts,” according to ExploringGreenTechnology.com. “This is arguably surpassed by India’s Gujarat Solar Park, a collection of solar farms scattered around the Gujarat region, boasting a combined installed capacity of 605 megawatts.”
Impacts of Solar Sector Growth
Solar energy systems now accounting for an increasing portion of energy needs in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, in the first half of 2015, “40% of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the U.S. came from solar,” according to RER Energy Group.
But this growth introduces substantial challenges for traditional energy companies. The possibility for consumers to go ‘off-the-grid’ is very real today, as electric companies struggle to keep prices low with the rising cost of infrastructure and other resources. With the U.S. Government offering a Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), installing solar systems is an increasingly appealing prospect. The potential tax savings is largest when systems are installed by 2019.
As solar energy systems are installed with greater frequency, it hasn’t been a top priority for home or business owners to effectively track and monitor usage. Among owners whose systems were installed five or more years ago, many have not monitored historical usage or performance, making it difficult to prove value when they try to sell those systems today.
Sound Asset Management Practices Needed in the Solar Industry
To solve these challenges, as well as to demonstrate the savings a solar system produces over a set period of time and ensure that adequate maintenance is performed to optimize performance, asset management practices are direly needed in the solar sector.
“One aspect of solar asset management is technical oversight,” according to Michael Puttré in an article for Solar Industry Magazine. “While the O&M provider is performing or subcontracting the actual on-site work, somebody other than the people writing invoices has to make sure preventive and corrective maintenance is done accurately and cost effectively.”
In this sense, the solar sector is unique. For traditional utilities, including energy companies, the assets are owned, managed, and maintained by the utility company. But in the solar sector, assets are both owned and managed, and ideally maintained, by the consumer. Consumers, of course, are less familiar with the value of comprehensive asset management and are largely unconcerned about specific performance metrics other than their bottom line.
This is all likely to change as consumers become increasingly technology savvy and adopt new technologies such as ‘smart home’ gadgets and appliances. Additionally, consumers are growing more environmentally conscious, and it’s the most environmentally conscious consumers who are most likely to invest in solar energy systems for their homes or businesses. Solar Asset Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) – where consumers with installed solar energy systems can actually sell their excess energy to local utility companies – further complicate the issue and compound the need for highly effective tracking and management.
It’s safe to say that the solar sector is out of its infancy, but it could be said that the industry is in the awkward adolescent phase. As the sector fully matures, asset management will become a staple for any consumer or enterprise implementing solar energy.
Systems for tracking solar assets will require automatic data capture technologies including highly durable bar code labels and asset tags capable of withstanding extended time in direct exposure to the scorching sun. In addition to near-constant exposure to high temperatures and UV, solar energy systems are exposed to harsh weather elements such as wind, rain, sleet, and snow, requiring asset tags with exceptional durability to the elements.
Camcode is one step ahead offering a variety of asset tags and bar code labels suitable for the harshest environments in many industries, such as a selection of utility asset labels and meter tags, as well as durable bar code labels suitable for harsh industrial environments. If you’re implementing a solar system and require asset tags and bar code labels up to the difficult task ahead, contact Camcode today to find out how our customized solutions can meet your needs.