The Google Analytics of Distributed Solar
Locus Energy is on a mission to help the distributed solar market by letting stakeholders know what is happening with their photovoltaic systems and why.
The distributed solar market — solar energy that is not owned by utilities — is going through a growth spurt. There are many reasons, but an important ingredient is to lower of the cost of capital through new vehicles. Solar City, for example, has already packaged solar leases into a portfolio of assets which can be sold into the market, lowering the cost of capital for their projects. The company’s reputation for technological and fiscal reliability made their offering possible. But what about other technologies and more complex projects?
Performance Data for Investors
Financial stakeholders need performance data in order to be comfortable investing in projects not backed by one large company. In 2007, Michael Herzig, President and Founder of Locus Energy, saw the need for reliable metrics so that investors and owners could measure the return on their investments.
While commercial and industrial solar projects were already pulling data, the residential sector had a gaping hole. There was little infrastructure in place for companies who managed the systems to gather and measure residential solar performance. As a result, Locus began developing residential meters that allowed homeowners to see their energy output and efficiency.
The product collected long term data, helping solar system managers diagnose problems remotely. Residential solar management businesses — effectively construction companies paid a one-time fee for installation — had no way to build lasting relationships with their customers. Locus Energy’s product has the technology to help system managers keep systems working properly, ensuring the best return on owner’s investment and enhanced profitability for the management company.
Tools for Asset Managers and Site Developers
Now Locus Energy focuses on asset managers and site developers, who either develop their own solar installations, or acquire and manage a third party’s system. Adrian De Luca, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, added that solar systems, like any complex machine, have multiple variables. As an example, MPG (Miles per Gallon) is an important measure of car engine health. But many factors, including tire pressure, engine oil, road conditions and driving habits affect fuel efficiency. Similarly, a solar system’s output is effected by the amount of sunlight hitting panels, cleanliness, filters and inverter health (the technologies that turns the direct current from solar panels to the alternating current used by houses and businesses).
With access to such information, engineers can mine the data to have a better idea of the factors driving system performance, and therefor a way of installing the best solution for each installation. Anyone, from the system’s end user to a financier, can track, organize and analyze data sets.
“As we were deploying more systems, we were collecting this treasure trove of data,” said Mr. De Luca.
Industry Wide Data
Locus Energy’s PVIQ suite functions as a dashboard that works with a variety of technologies. Having amassed a massive data set from more than 30,000 systems, Locus Energy can measure multiple technologies spread across a range of geographies. For example, Sun Power and First Solar have their own analytics, but their systems only cover the companies’ brand of panels, which can prevent bundling across technologies. Companies such as Enphase, which manufactures micro-inverters, use their own data collection hardware but use Locus Energy’s suite to analyze and track that data. For utilities, analytics helps predict the amount of power coming onto the grid so they can plan a more seamless integration of intermittent generators — like solar. This knowledge can lower the costs from the use of expensive reserves to regulate demand spikes or supply drops during peak demand, such as during the summer months when chillers are in high demand.
Locus Energy believes that they are on the forefront of a wave that is changing power distribution. “There’s so much more that can be done,” Mr. De Luca concluded.