Addressing organizational challenges of rapid renewable expansion


Demand for energy generation from renewable energy is growing exponentially which is fuelling demand for new, construction, more investment, and modern technology. Furthermore, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that solar and battery storage will make up 81% of new U.S. electric-generating capacity in 2024, solar accounting for 58% of that.

With rapid expansion, comes challenges such as policy uncertainties, grid infrastructure investment, administrative barriers, and financing in emerging economies. In addition, low efficiency has always been a concern for renewables – the wind does not always blow, the sun does not always shine. That is why it is particularly important in this industry to optimize performance and maximize the power output of these projects to meet energy demand and investor return expectations.

Let us examine the impacts of this growth on renewable energy businesses and how technology can help with project efficiency.

A rising headcount

As companies bring on more employees or contractors, processes and workflows need to be put into place. A few people can no longer do it all, so roles must be designated and allow for the passing of work from one set of hands to another. Maintaining continuity and balance in process and workflow improves efficiency.

A good technology platform designed for the renewable industry supports tailored workflows and has templates for processes which sets the expectation for how a project is handed from one team to another. It fosters a universal understanding of tasks, project details, and deliverables. It enforces continuity when staff changes over, when employees are out sick, and enables anyone to jump into a project to understand what has happened, what is happening, and what needs to happen.

An expanding portfolio

Every project that is added to the renewable portfolio adds a new universe of complexities. Some companies have a combination of renewable sources that bring different variables to the portfolio. Regardless of this, every project comes with managing dozens of people, data (and their sources), contracts and their deliverables, external organizations, and tasks.

Imagine a project as a haystack of information, varying in size and shape, a digital platform needs to centralize this data and pick out the needles quickly without sifting through each data point. project management tools need to track budgeted vs actual spend and forecast project performance based on real-time performance data.

Quenching the thirst for expansion

Most owners are looking for new land to expand operations. Potential new projects come with a series of tasks and details that need to be tracked including progress, stakeholders, contacts, and most importantly, payment contracts and parties involved (landowners in particular). There is a lot of spending and revenue to estimate, forecast and deliver.

A solid technology program builds out potential project profiles, allows tracking of progress, and increases the ability to close on new deals with all the boxes checked. Once delivered, a smooth handoff is critical to getting projects off on the right foot, and technology that ensures that new projects are staged for success is critical to support the transition.

Managing investment wisely

There is a lot of investment going into renewables and companies on the receiving end need to show accountability for managing those funds. Transparency and visibility into how our projects are performing keeps investors committed to the success of the project. Having data available in a technology platform gives owners and investors the ability to go deep and extract insights to show optimal performance.

More importantly, if performance is not optimal, the technology will indicate that, and provide the tools to determine why. Tracking the performance of dozens, or hundreds of individual assets across a portfolio is simply not sustainable without purpose-built software for renewable energy. When something is not working as it should, these solutions should enable asset managers to trigger operators to get on top of servicing or fixing the asset and prioritize work orders to target fixes that will have the largest revenue impact in the process.

Staying on top of evolving regulation and policies

Regulatory compliance is complicated, time-consuming, and mandatory. In addition, being a relatively new but critical industry, Federal and State regulatory bodies, (FERC and NERC), as well as state public utility commissions and regional entities continue to evolve standards and requirements, making it hard to stay on top of, especially if you are expanding into multiple states.

There are service providers that stay abreast of these changes and software programs that can help manage compliance. Technology platforms with compliance modules will provide tasks, documentation, and submission templates to ensure deadlines are met, and issues are anticipated. Based on your state, programs can be set up to align your project with the required entities’ standards and show where the gaps are to meet compliance.

Breaking the silos, and aggregating data

It’s not uncommon for an expanding company to add new tools as needed. It usually starts with every day communication tools, word and data processing tools, and document management platforms. As the company grows, it adds ERPs, CRMs, planning tools, project management tools, CMMS systems, construction tools, and may develop and acquire projects with their own SCADA/DAS systems, and communicate with partners via their various FTP sites. The more data that is added, the more systems are required to manage it, creating silos.

This results in the development team working in one system, the asset management team working in another, the finance team doing their thing, the construction team working elsewhere, and the O&M yet somewhere else. In addition, the more sources of data, the higher the risk of things falling through the cracks, duplicate work being done and delays in decision making as staff crawl from one data silo to another searching for information, and ensuring it is the latest version. This leads to no source of truth and no trust in the data and information available.

Aggregating data into a single platform that gets all team members working off one source of truth with visually easy to understand dashboards is the only way forward for an expanding company. A good digital technology platform integrates with other critical business systems and manages and stores all data in one central location, providing stakeholders with secure access to the level of information they require and supporting cross-functional workflows.

Sustainable growth is achievable

The global renewable energy market, valued at $881.7 billion in 2020, is projected to reach $1,977.6 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 8.4% from 2021 to 2030. This demonstrates the significant economic potential and the pivotal role of renewable energy in shaping a sustainable future. Using the right tools, renewable owners can achieve optimal portfolio performance financially, and generate enough power for a carbon free clean energy future. This industry can profoundly and positively impact the environment, economy and society, and purpose-built modern technology solutions are critical to supporting the transition.

Author: Kurt Ferrell is in Business Development at Radian Generation. He works with renewable energy businesses, providing digital solutions and services that help renewable energy asset owners manage and optimize their development pipelines and operating assets, and maintain regulatory compliance and security.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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