In news highlighting that solar software is getting smarter, solar software startup Fat Spaniel Technologies is moving beyond just monitoring solar projects. The San Jose, Calif.-based solar software company plans to announce on Tuesday that it has developed a set of software called Lifecycle Management solutions that also interpret data from its customers’ projects, anticipating and solving problems to help make the most of those solar assets. The company says that some of its software can reduce total maintenance costs by up to 30 percent.
The first two of these products, Solar Plant Vision and Solar Operations Services, are geared toward operating and maintaining solar projects. Aside from helping keep solar plants at their most productive and cost-effective, maintenance is crucial to make sure that these projects retain their value as assets, said Tom Tansy, vice president of marketing at the company. This is especially important considering that most solar projects change ownership after about 5-7 years because of the way they are financed, and keeping track of those assets, including their service and performance histories, is important.
Solar Plant Vision, which is software as a service, is aimed at helping solar-project operators increase the performance of the projects they manage. The technology monitors plant devices, tracks system performance, helps simplify billing and reporting, and provides a portfolio status dashboard that can be used for marketing and energy-consumer education.
Meanwhile, Solar Operations Services targets project developers, and Fat Spaniel claims the services deliver increased energy production, system uptime and lower, more predictable costs. The company plans to pass information about the condition of the plants — and recommendations for the most cost-effective steps to keep them running well — to its customers’ maintenance crews or partner with outsourced maintenance companies, Tansy said.
Fat Spaniel is selling its new services on an annual subscription basis, with the prices varying depending on the amount of energy-production capacity and the number of plants included in the contract. The company already has upgraded its Insight Manager customers, numbering about 500, to Solar Plant Vision, and the new services will be available to new customers starting in October.
Fat Spaniel also is working to introduce additional services for other parts of the solar lifecycle that will be available in the next six to nine months. What’s next? Most likely services for energy consumers and for component manufacturers, and the company’s materials suggest it could also develop services targeted at the development, financing and construction of new projects.
Tansy sees Fat Spaniel’s strategy change as part of a shift toward more intelligent software for solar. As solar projects become larger and more numerous, it will become more difficult for companies to manage them all, and IT will have to become smarter, more sophisticated and more efficient to enable the predicted growth, he said. “During this next phase of growth, IT becomes vital,” he said. “I see it as a major trend; you’re going to see all of the components of these systems become smarter…The era of IT in the solar business has clearly begun.”