Solar PV : how to choose the right energy management software for my project?

Managing solar PV projects is a complex exercise as Asset Managers have to handle a variety of activities in order to achieve maximum solar production and ROI. A number of digital solutions exist to help manage solar PV production. But too often they allow to solve certain aspects only and at the end of the day the combination of multiple solutions is necessary to complete all activities.

So, how can you make sure the solution you are about to choose will really address all your needs? Here are 12 critical aspects to take into account before choosing the energy management software:

1Data Acquisition
Is the software hardware agnostic?
It is important to choose a system that allows to collect and centralise all data from any vendors’ equipment such as inverter, sensor, datalogger & meter.
2Openness to other energy technologies
Is the software open to other energy technologies?
Projects evolve and the software should allow you to integrate other technologies such as: cogeneration, wind, electric vehicles, biomass, etc.
3Openness to external systems
Can the software be integrated to third-party applications?
Choose an open software that allows to integrate data from external systems such as ERP, CRM, CMMS, users data bases, web portals.
4Velocity in data processing
How fast can the software process the data?
Choose a software that is fast in transforming data into useful information. BIG DATA technology is a must. It is based on the 3V concept (Velocity, Volume and Variety): as a user you need data fast; you also need a variety of data to perform proper analysis; and you need to handle big volumes of data (ex. data must be stored for long periods in order to detect anomalies and support the expert in his work).
5Financial KPI calculation
Can I calculate the financial gains even in case of self-consumption?
To calculate gains and turnover – for the energy sold and injected in the grid for example – it is important to choose a software that can integrate different prices per period and key contract parameters and uniformises the values automatically. Turnovers can then be used as a reliable way to do benchmarking between the different sites and countries.
6Flexibility & personalisation
Can I customise dashboards and KPIs?
Dashboards and KPIs are project-dependent and may vary. Choosing a software that allows you to adapt and customise KPIs easily and autonomously will make your work more efficient and agile.
7Awareness creation
Can I visualise performance on public screens?
Impactful dashboards with real time information directly available on public screens allow to engage occupants and customers and to communicate easily about the results achieved.
8Reporting
Can I create & schedule reports to be sent at a specific date to specific people?
Choose a software that can automate the sending of reports based on calendars, thresholds or objectives reached. This will save you time and will guarantee the information reaches the right people at the right time.
9Identification of underperforming assets
How can I detect underperforming assets?
Choosing a software that uses automatic alerts will enable you to identify anomalies and to react immediately. In addition, using Artificial Intelligence allows you to compare actual production with AI models to identify performance issues..
10Security & Privacy
Data is sensitive and I need them to be safe
Your provider must give you a secure solution for your company’s data and the on-premise solution must have a robust way of working, and protecting, local databases. Check if the provider complies with cyber security standards such as ISO 27001 as well as privacy ones (GDPR).
11Top-down analysis
How easy is it to go from macro to micro view?
The software must allow you to have a global view on the PV plants, but also to identify the one that has problems. You should be able to easily zoom on this plant to the desired level of details to identify the root cause (e.g. one inverter is failing, there is a communication issue, soiling, …)
12Set-up 
Can I configure the assets myself?
Check if the software offers solutions to easily replicate the configuration (assets, KPIs, alerts, dashboards, etc.). Also make sure data acquisition can be done in the same way with all existing hardware. These two aspects will have a great impact.

Are you currently choosing a sofware to help you manage your solar PV projects? Use this practical checklist to benchmark several solutions.

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