As your operations and maintenance company, NovaSource’s reputation (RE: our long-term viability) depends on your solar plant doing well.
With that framing in mind, let’s talk about the activities impacting solar plant performance before we even step onsite (pre-COD).
So far, per industry norms, O&M providers haven’t been closely involved in the development cycle of solar power plant design and construction. Our experience shows that this leads to suboptimal performance and in some cases material flaws in the project permanently impairing it to meet the P50 expectations in the energy model. This conclusion was independently validated by KWh Analytics report earlier this year that cited,
“Last year’s 2020 Solar Generation Index (SGI) report revealed that solar projects are on average underperforming their target production (P50) estimates by 6.3%. While the SGI report focused on average performance, the Solar Risk Assessment 2020 reported that “extreme downside (“P99”) scenarios are occurring 1-in-6 years …far from the 1-in-100 per definition.”
We believe this dynamic must change.
The earlier you can bring us in to leverage our experience in operating 20+ GWs and represent your interests, the better. Better guarantees. Better contracts. Better design. Better build. Better plant quality. Better hand-off from EPC to Operations. More megawatt hours per year. Better bottom line.
* * *
Below are the three phases we’re looking at.
(As you read on, please keep this word in mind: Continuity.)
Phase 1: Before You Sign EPC Contract and Supply Agreements
We conduct an operations review before you commit to help ensure that your plant will be well-positioned years later. For EPC Contracts, we focus on specifications as well as QA/QC and testing criteria. For Supply Agreements, we focus on warranty terms that can be leveraged to your advantage during operations, such as manufacturer response times.
Phase 2: Design Review and QA/QC Through Mechanical Completion
We partner with leading Owner Engineering firms to do full design reviews that include our input on the Operations side. Design review covers SCADA, your site layout, and your projected yearly energy output.
Our primary focus is ensuring that a QA/QC process and a Commissioning and Testing plan are both available early in the project cycle. At construction mobilization, an on-field construction management support team is provided – and these technicians will be the very same operating your solar plant after COD.
Phase 3: Energized Commissioning Through Substantial Completion
In this commissioning and testing phase, a centralized team will support the onsite construction team with testing review and pass/fail confirmation. When you turn a plant on for the first time, things come loose, things break. This is to be expected from anything so big with so many moving parts— and in the same vein, it’s natural that every plant is different, which means there is a LOT of data we want to capture on the day you start commissioning and testing. This final push towards commercial operations is also a key time for you, the owner, to have a presence on-site to represent your interests.
* * *
The pre-COD services we’re offering boil down to three points of value.
(You know the first…)
We want to be involved in your plant early for the same reason race car drivers are intimately involved in the build of their cars or why medical residents work in 30 hour shifts. Continuity matters in professions where complexity, nuance, and strong execution are critical factors. (And yes, we do view your solar power plant as both patient and high performance machine.)
To be specific, in Phase 1, we ensure there are plans in place for QA/QC and commissioning. In Phase 2, we oversee all the QA/QC and non-energized testing which had been planned out in Phase 1. In Phase 3, we oversee all the QA/QC and energized testing (which had also been planned out in Phase 1) with the added insights gleaned from Phase 2 oversight.
Last piece here, regarding the Operations Phase— our team that embeds on-site with the QA/QC and Commissioning Teams (during Phase 2 and Phase 3) is the same team that stays on* to operate the site.
(*This applies when pre-COD services are packaged with an LTSA, which we recommend.)
Currently we operate over 250 individual utility-scale PV sites. Our experience and the volume of data we’ve captured and analyzed speaks for itself. Not to be brash, but we know the terrain you’ll encounter better than anyone. We just do.
If your plant operates below expectations and it’s not our fault, we’ll do our best to maximize your asset’s output, but if we’re not accountable we’re not accountable. Thing is, we don’t want to say that anymore than you want to hear it. We’d rather be your partner and shoulder more of the responsibility with you. Our increased accountability is fundamental to the pre-COD services we’re offering.
NovaSource can’t stress enough that we’re trying to be your (the owner’s) representative in these matters and no one else’s. The EPC contractors you hire will intend to do their work, get paid, and get out as fast as possible— and that’s okay, that’s the business they’re in— but this means that even if you’re working with the best EPC in the business, there’s still going to be a lack of foresight, continuity, and accountability that you could easily shore up by looping us in and letting us liaise on your behalf.
Now’s the part where we scare you.
We feel now’s the time to have this conversation because we’re seeing bad handovers (from EPC to Operations) all over the place. We know a lot of you aren’t working with the best EPC because the best are booked solid. New solar projects are booming and a lot of characters have bellied up to the table. Risks are being taken at all levels.
If there’s one thing we can learn from the many gaffs that’ve occurred in the oil and gas industry over the decades, it’s this: For your own protection, have your operations people on site as early as possible.