How Data Could Transform the Solar Industry
As solar becomes more accessible and installations continue to spring up, there is an insane amount of data produced daily—and it’s going completely unused.
Writing for GreenTech Media, James Bickford notes the effect collecting and analyzing data is having on other industries.
“Leveraging the vast knowledge hidden within massive data sets is currently transforming entire industries such as retail, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and government operations,” he writes. “In the case of the financial services industry, entirely new business models were born out of utilizing big data, by analyzing data on a minute-by-minute basis and identifying opportunities to capture value almost instantly.”
There’s no reason, according to Bickford, that solar can’t do the same. So, how the industry use data to take itself to the next level?
Bickford says the first step for the solar industry to take is to rethink the way it approaches data.
“The first step is to reframe the way we view our data, moving from conceptualizing it as a cost center to be managed reluctantly to seeing our data streams as assets that can provide additional revenue, for both individual companies and the industry as a whole,” he writes.
This would essentially mean making your data work for you, be it by using it to attract investments or improve efficiencies. Bickford is arguing that data should be more than just numbers, but rather a tool that can help solar businesses run better.
Even the data itself could be monetized and used to foster growth, according to Michael Herzig, president and founder of solar monitoring company Locus Energy.
“We are starting to see an increased focus, not just on wanting analytics, but wanting to pay for analytics—which is an important distinction,” he said. “What’s driving this is that the stakes are high.”
This is especially key for people looking to invest in solar and want to know that they will assuredly see a decent ROI.
“The value of the securitization is a clear driver for paying for the data,” he said. “One of our customers literally guarantees one of its customers millions of dollars per system” based its predicted performance. “If analytics can give them 1 % more accuracy, that’s a lot of money.”
While there are certainly financial benefits to analytics, they are also the driving factor behind grid-scale energy storage. While the technology is still very young, being able to store energy is thought to be the future of where renewable is going, as they allow for load balancing and better energy distribution without stressing the grid. Storage is becoming increasingly paired with ‘traditional’ renewable sources.
“You really have to look at coupling these together,” Ajay Madwesh, vice president of utilities industry business for Space-Time Insight, said.
Essentially, not utilizing the data available from solar systems is essentially ignoring the direction of innovation.
“It is clear solar is growing at a nearly exponential rate, yet the industry as a whole must continue to keep innovating in order to accelerate us to sustained profitable growth,” Bickford writes. “While improving solutions and lowering soft costs are a strong start to this goal, ultimately, it is the vast oceans of information and analysis we can gain from tapping the power of solar data that will take us into a greater solar future.”
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.