Customer Story: Smart Data Boosts Performance and IRR
The thermometer shows a slightly chilly sixteen degrees. Gray-white clouds drift across the sky, and rain is forecasted for the evening. We are on the roof of XXL’s main warehouse in Jessheim, where Christian Gjæver Rendall, Technical Chief of Solar Energy at Pareto Alternative Investments (PAI), gazes over a deep blue sea of solar panels.
“Solar installations in Norway are marginalized projects. But this is a long-term investment, and through our industrialized approach, we make it work,” he says.
Accompanying him on the 32,000 square meter roof are Chief Operating Officer Jan-Henrik Parmann and Chief Commercial Officer Marius Koestler from the solar technology company Skyfri. The company has already gained significant experience from solar installations in the USA, the Middle East, and India. Now, they aim to ensure that PAI’s investments in solar energy in Norway result in the most sustainable and most profitable projects in Norway.
“Solar energy in Norway is pioneering work. There has been few installation of sensors and gathering of good data, both on rooftops and commercial installations, which are most common in Norway,” says Parmann.
Immature Industry and New Technology
Portfolios with many distributed solar power plants located on commercial buildings, along with ground-mounted solar power, are among the world’s fastest-growing asset classes.
“For solar power investors to succeed, they must ensure that actual production closely matches theoretical production,” Parmann states.
Choice of sensors must be optimized for each building to balance installation cost against optimization potential. The main parameters used in Skyfri’s models are solar radiation, solar panel temperature, and production data. From the right in the pictures above: Christian Gjæver Rendall from Pareto Alternative Investments, Marius Koestler, and Jan-Henrik Parmann from Skyfri.
And this is where Skyfri’s technology and expertise come in. On a cloudy day like this, one cannot expect the solar panels on the warehouse roof in Jessheim to produce as much as on a sunny day. However, they should produce as much electricity as the weather and conditions allow.
“As Norway’s largest manager of solar installations, we are keen to detect any errors immediately. We don’t want a component to be faulty for months before it’s discovered. We focus on health, safety, and environment (HSE) and need to provide the best possible returns to our investors. We must produce all the electricity we can, and Skyfri’s sensors are fundamental,” Rendall emphasizes.
High-Quality Data on Production and Consumption
In Jessheim, PAI has covered the roofs of three neighboring buildings with solar panels. Three buildings on the same substation mean technical challenges. If the weather is too good and the solar radiation high, production must be throttled to avoid overloading the grid that handles the electricity. Tenants in the building benefit from cheap electricity, but when the sun shines and the temperature rises, the building’s power consumption decreases.
“We have three solar installations that must be throttled in sync to avoid overloading the substation. Another thing is that we need to bill the user of the electricity. Our partner and balancing contractor, Entelios, must have access to good data on production and consumption. We need skilled partners in this interface,” says Rendall.
Both tenants and property owners can achieve significant climate benefits.
“We provide quarterly reports for the funds we manage, as well as annual ESG reports. We use Skyfri’s monitoring portal for each building. Tenants and property owners also have access to Skyfri’s advanced yet user-friendly portal to easily retrieve information for reporting key sustainability figures,” Rendall adds.
Aiming for Net-Positive Buildings
At XXL’s main warehouse in Jessheim, PAI has implemented several climate measures, such as heat pumps, LED lighting, and, notably, green solar energy.
“We hope that our entire building portfolio can become a net-positive building portfolio. When we build on a large scale, benchmarking over time becomes essential. Especially if we are to sell the portfolio. We need good documentation, especially for our solar fund that only invests in solar installations on other property owners’ roofs, facades, and grounds,” he adds.
Skyfri’s cloud service allows solar power plant owners to analyze and optimize solar power production in real-time. The platform analyzes error messages and production data, allowing owners to see actual production compared to theoretically expected production under current weather conditions. Skyfri achieves this by setting up a digital twin for each facility.
Koestler compares it to having a car’s service record in order when the car is to be sold.
“One thing we ensure is that solar investors get an increased upside during the time of asset ownership. But one day, the fund with the solar assets will be sold. If we can document that this portfolio has stable production close to its maximum potential, the portfolio’s value will increase.”
He calls it vertical integration, where sensor technology provides insights that, in turn, increase the return on investment.
“Previously, advanced analysis was only available to the world’s largest solar power plants. With our machine learning-driven platform, we can now offer data-driven optimization cost-effectively to the entire solar power industry,” says Koestler.
- Through smart data usage, Skyfri increases energy production and returns for solar power plant owners
- Quality sensors used to measure solar radiation, wind direction and speed, ambient temperature, and module temperature provide optimal data to ensure that the solar park is operating at peak efficiency produces
- Where multiple buildings are close to each other, adjusted sensor data is shared between buildings to reduce installation costs
- Skyfri consists of a team with international experience in solar power development, machine learning (ML) data analysis, and insight-based optimization of investment portfolios
This article was published in Teknisk Ukeblad in August 2023.