As part of our mission to improve our solar offering and services even further in 2023, we are refining our Monitoring & Maintenance Service so you can get even more from your solar investment. With so many customers asking us how they can save more money through harnessing their solar data and being more proactive with monitoring, Ari Nikolopoulos, Head of Service at Smart Commercial Solar, is here to answer your questions.
Q: How can having a proactive solar monitoring and maintenance program in place result in a positive ROI for the customer?
I’ll answer that with a recent case study. One of our clients had initially set up their system with a competitor, but they were experiencing a number of problems. To make matters worse, their provider wasn't helping them or even responding to their support requests.
They reached out to Smart and we jumped in straight away. Our team came out, set up submeters and identified the problem immediately. It was a 300-kilowatt system that, effectively, wasn't generating anything, resulting in $300 in energy savings losses per day.
The system had lots of trips. As soon as we saw the issues with their system, we mobilised and were on-site within a couple of days to get their system back up and running.
Q: Besides assisting companies with their solar maintenance, what other common services do you provide to businesses?
Recently, we have noticed a growing interest in system optimization to maximize ROI. This is why Smart has taken a proactive stance on this matter and rigorously review our clients' energy generation to determine if they are performing as expected. Once we share the data and offer to make the system more effective, nine times out of ten they say yes.
Q: How do you identify system issues when customers come to you from competitors?
We request that customers give us user access to their existing portal. By analysing that data, we can find all the historic faults and whether or not they have been fixed.
For one particular customer, we analysed the data on their portal as part of a full system audit. It ended up being about three years’ worth of data. Over that period, we determined they had lost out on approximately $90,000 of savings.
Q: How is such a major flaw not picked up earlier?
It happens more frequently than you would think. The systems are on the roof and, unless your provider has someone whose job is to actively review the data, these issues can go unnoticed. Three years is an outlier, but it’s certainly not uncommon.
As a general rule of thumb, for each kilowatt of installed solar that is not generating at capacity, you’re losing about $1 a day. So for commercial clients who generally use large solar systems, it adds up very quickly.
Q: What is Smart Commercial Solar doing to diagnose these issues faster?
We’ve developed a performance-analytics algorithm called “The Doctor”, which analyses five minutes' worth of data from the solar system, together with five minutes of data from the grid. This allows us to objectively see how the system performs and if there is anything out of the ordinary. For example, is there a problem with the grid? Is there something wrong with the panels? Or is it just the system that isn’t optimised effectively?
Then we look at the solar inverter. If the inverter isn't performing at the same level as similar inverters then we could have a problem. We'll investigate the string of panels, conduct a comparison and then diagnose the problem down to its source.
The system is called “The Doctor” because it allows us to surgically enhance our customers’ solar systems. In layman’s terms, it's a 24/7 auditing algorithm that perpetually monitors both the solar data and the grid data in five-minute intervals. It runs in the background all day and all night and provides alerts whenever something needs investigating.
Think of it like a heart-rate monitor. If there’s a discrepancy, we are going to know about it within a matter of minutes – not three years.
Q: What type of additional data will this provide customers?
“The Doctor” gives us a lot of data to work with, and we are committed to sharing the most valuable insights with our customers – because that’s what they tell us they want to see.
Through a live dashboard, they will be able to see what’s happening on their system and get access to a variety of real-time and historic data. We will also be providing intermittent data reports to customers so they can get a snapshot of how their system is operating.
Q: Why is Smart Commercial Solar so invested in solar data?
We've been around for years and seen many companies in this industry rise and fall. I believe one of our biggest strengths is the transparency we have with all our customers. If something goes wrong with their system, we alert them immediately and are on-site quickly to provide a solution.
We are also constantly developing new technologies and improving our existing systems to help customers enjoy a fully optimised and highly efficient solar system. I think that’s why customers keep coming back to us.
Get the latest news and find out what’s happening in the commercial solar space at Smart Insights.