Japan is the second-largest solar market in the world in terms of the operational capacity installed, offering ample fertile breeding grounds for collaboration between local asset owners and international service providers. One of the underlying drivers for the Solar Asset Management Asia conference is to bring all these stakeholders together in one hub, providing them with the right environment and tools to build long-lasting and fruitful relationships. This article highlights one of these relationships - a story of a collaborative effort between Sitemark and Japan’s largest solar asset owner, ORIX. A partnership to better enable third-party structures through digitization, one of the critical topics revolutionizing how solar assets are operated and managed.

One of ORIX's ambitions and long-term missions is to become a leading O&M company, the prerequisite of which for them entails the three pillars of ‘contracts’, ‘software’ and ‘people & management’. According to Kazuhisa Yurita, Chief Strategy Officer at ORIX Renewable Energy Management Corporation, the company is currently making significant strides towards realizing these pillars. One of the challenges hindering these efforts is the lack of premium quality monitoring software. Yurita commented that this is where the Sitemark’s Aerial Data Platform came into play, helping them to enhance the following three functions:

IPP Perspective (Decision-making): Gaining better insights into operational assets, which leads to higher profits and facilitates the liquidation process when selling the assets.

Asset Management perspective (Planning): Allowing the asset manager to fulfill accountability to current customers as well as future buyers.

O&M perspective (Implementation): Providing better production data and better navigation with respect to safety concerns.

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Having a routine inspection in place is a pivotal part of proper (preventive) maintenance to ensure the long-term profitability of solar assets. An aerial inspection helps clients to better understand what is happening with their plants by providing an overview of all the existing anomalies and their corresponding causes. Naturally, the larger the plant, the more challenging it is to identify the issues hindering its performance. This is where inspection can reap the benefits of Machine Learning algorithms, which first validate all panels to find whether they are healthy or not. Aerial inspection provides increased accuracy, as well as the ability to inspect a PV plant, in its entirety, on a regular basis.

Case Study

The drone inspection conducted by Sitemark identified issues, and data indicated significant production declines in individual panels. The software recommended the right course of O&M actions to be taken, i.e., module cleaning, grass cutting. As a result, within a month, the performance ratio was improved by 10% and 8% in the problematic areas (A01, A02, see the figure below), leading to estimated revenue improvements of $63,000 per annum.

 
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Some of the key lessons learnt by ORIX from working with the Sitemark solution in three phases of pre- and post-inspection, as well as during the inspection, have been:

  • Pre-inspection: The optimal preparatory steps to be taken prior to drone inspection in ORIX’s experience include grass cutting, panel cleaning and repairing of visibly broken panels. Taking the actions mentioned, helps increase the quality of inspection and hence the data generated. For instance, in one of ORIX’s plants the majority of anomalies turned out to be vegetation-induced.

  • Inspection: This phase, although rudimentary, can often be underestimated and is about the thorough inspection of the maintenance site. In this phase, it is not always easy to ensure the quality of data that is being captured during the drone flight. This is due to the substantial amount of data that needs to be acquired. For instance, it is of great importance to use accurate terrain models to calculate consistent smart flight paths to ensure that the pictures are taken at a constant altitude, whilst using the right settings.

  • Post-inspection: The generated data then needs to be analyzed, using proper methods to create actionable insights and implementation planning. AI technology is what makes the complex task of automated locating and categorizing of all the anomalies possible. Sitemark employs a powerful AI-powered technology, based on the combination of all of the data they have processed up to now, which will only improve over time as it is fed with more and more anomalies detected in sites all over the world.

The synchronization of these phases - grass cutting, cleaning, follow-up maintenance visits after inspection - is instrumental in truly helping the customer to get the most out of the software and maximize the value of their assets.
— Vishal Punamiya, CEO at Sitemark

There are invaluable best practices to be learnt from different markets and players. This requires transparency and devotion from both Japanese and international companies to come together in order to accelerate the transition towards a solar-powered future in Japan. Join the 5th edition of the pre-eminent Solar Asset Management Asia to be at the heart of Japan’s leading solar movement and meet your next business partner(s).

About ORIX

Japan’s leading solar asset owner, ORIX is a financial services company offering innovative products and services both domestically as well as globally, while constantly pursuing new business opportunities.

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About Sitemark

Sitemark is a world- leading Aerial Data Analytics company active in +30 countries within the Energy, Mining, Agriculture and Construction industries. Sitemark enables enterprises to deploy drones and aerial data at scale while enabling their digital transformation strategy.

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