Raptor Maps Raises $5M for its Solar Lifecycle Management Software
Company will use the funding to build on its successful software platform and meet customer demand
BOSTON, MA, August 26, 2020 — Raptor Maps, a solar software company, announced that it has raised a $5 million Series A, co-led by Blue Bear Capital, Data Point Capital, and Buoyant Ventures. Other participants include notable clean energy investors Congruent Ventures, Powerhouse Ventures, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, along with Y Combinator.
Raptor Maps solves major growing pains for solar project finance, development, and asset management across an industry experiencing a 49% annual growth rate over the past decade. The current approach to developing and operating solar farms is increasingly untenable, resulting in demand for software and standardization of required processes and documentation.
“Our mission is to build software that enables the solar industry to scale,” explains Raptor Maps co-founder and CEO Nikhil Vadhavkar. “We are on track to be the system of record, and we already serve as the source of truth that our customers rely on for collaborative decision-making. The diversity of our investor base, including those that have experienced these pains firsthand, underscores that we cannot afford to take a reactive approach in the climate fight.”
To date, Raptor Maps has improved the project finance and asset management of over 25 GW in 35 countries. Its diverse and growing customer base includes global utility Enel Green Power, asset owner Greenbacker Renewable Energy, construction company McCarthy Building Companies, operations and maintenance (O&M) providers QE Solar and SOLV, and several publicly traded solar panel manufacturers.
“People think of solar as being just panels and wires,” says Ernst Sack of Blue Bear Capital, an investor specialized in energy, infrastructure, and climate solutions. “The industry has evolved to rely on a tremendously rich and complicated supply chain, with dozens of operations and hundreds of counterparties involved in any given plant—just as one would expect for other energy and infrastructure asset of this scale. Raptor Maps is building the digital operating system to coordinate and manage all of this activity for maximum productivity, efficiency, and safety.”
Raptor Maps attests that its deliverables are ten-fold more accurate, human and machine readable, and lower cost than traditional methods. The company has built a strong reputation for its software and aerial intelligence, and it will deploy this investment to build additional capabilities into its state-of-the-art solar data model.
“Raptor Maps is leading the charge to digitize the solar industry, resulting in both immediate and long-term benefit,” explains Daniel Hullah of Buoyant Ventures, a fund that invests in early stage, digital solutions that address climate risk. “The company makes solar power more valuable and accelerates the transition to clean energy.”
Several of Raptor Maps’ customers, such as Madison Energy Investments, require solar construction companies to use Raptor Maps at commissioning, and the O&M teams to use Raptor Maps annually. Other customers, such as solar panel manufacturers, direct asset owners to use Raptor Maps to create documentation for warranty claims.
“We’re thrilled to be investing behind the Raptor Maps founders and team,” says Mike Majors, Managing Partner at Data Point Capital. “Their deep experience in building cutting-edge software has positioned the company as the leader in the multi-billion dollar solar lifecycle management space.”
In the first edition of the Client Highlight series, we’re honoring Cypress Creek Renewables, one of the United States’ leading solar and storage companies and a partner of ours.
Who is Cypress Creek Renewables?
Cypress Creek Renewables is a nationwide integrated solar and storage company that develops, owns, and operates an extensive portfolio of utility-scale and distributed solar PV systems. Based in North Carolina, Cypress Creek has over 1.6 GW in its portfolio, spanning 14 states.
In addition to managing its own portfolio, they also offer hire-able Operations & Maintenance (O&M) and Asset Management services. To date, the Cypress Creek O&M team maintains over 3 gigawatts of solar assets distributed around the country. As one of the country’s largest O&M providers, they offer 24/7/365 monitoring from their NERC-certified Networks Operation Center to ensure the maximum production of sites under their management. Their O&M and Asset Management services provide contract and compliance management, technical and financial performance review, and fleet optimization.
Cypress Creek’s impressive internal drone program was one of the first comprehensive drone programs developed in the industry, launched in 2016. To date, Cypress Creeks’ drone program has scanned multiple gigawatts of modules. They can comply with IEC 62446-3 standards, the global standard for aerial thermography, when necessary.
Cypress Creek Renewables chose Raptor Maps to support their self-operated drone inspection and analyze the massive amounts of data produced. Through the years of our partnership, Cypress Creek has inspected hundreds of megawatts of solar PV systems and used our software to receive inspection analysis and reports. They quickly realized the value of combining aerial thermography with ‘boots on the ground’ when it resulted in minimized truck rolls and reduced O&M costs.
“Cypress Creek’s in-house Unmanned Aerial Systems team has performed over 10GW of aerial thermal inspections, including Raptor Maps and in-house analysis. With IR scanning, we see advantages with improvements to safety and cost reductions.
With IR scanning, we were able to remove IV curve tracing, which involves physical interaction with electricity, from our annual maintenance. Instead, we’re able to perform non-contact testing while increasing our efficiency and the quality of our results.
Comparing IV curve tracing to IR scanning, we can IR scan 100% of a solar facility in 5-10% the time, or less, it would take to IV curve trace. There is also equipment downtime associated with IV curve tracing that is not necessary when IR scanning. We are also able to now diagnose specific module anomalies to a precise location, which was not possible with IV curve tracing.
Additionally, we have been able to perform predictive maintenance on overhead medium voltage hotspots during off-peak hours, preventing un-planned site outages, equipment damage, or potentially dangerous events. We can also utilize our internal UAS fleets to react to events such and ground faults, underperformance, floods, natural disasters, without requiring technicians to be in the array. When responding to ground faults or underperformance, the use of our thermal UAS fleet turns days of searching into a few-minute flight.”
– Mitchell Durant, Reliability Engineering Program Manager at Cypress Creek Renewables.
Raptor Maps is proud to have Cypress Creek Renewables as one of our clients and partners. Their great depth of knowledge and experience in the industry is invaluable to us, and we’re inspired by their accomplishments.
Study Finds Utility-Scale Solar Plants Degrade More Than Owners Initially Assume
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently published a report in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. The study, “System-level performance and degradation of 21 GWDC of utility-scale PV plants in the United States”, assessed a fleet of 411 utility-scale PV systems, totaling 21.1 GWDC of capacity, commissioned from 2007 to 2016. These photovoltaic (PV) systems contributed more than 50% of the total solar-generated electricity in the United States. The study found that system-level degradation rates of utility-scale PV systems were higher than assumed when initially deciding power purchase agreement (PPA) rates. Ultimately affecting the potential internal rate of return (IRR). It also found that newer PV sites degrade less, and PV sites in high long-term average temperatures degrade more.
The study focused on system-level degradation rates rather than module-level degradation rates. In the past, studies have focused primarily on module-level performance and degradation, which ignores essential system components, such as trackers, inverters, and breakers. These methods ignore these component’s effect on the “balance of system” and a PV system’s overall performance. The researchers found that at the system-level, degradation rates are higher than the rates used in PPAs, due to the majority of PPA rates using the module-level degradation rate of 0.5%. System-level degradation must be weighed when forming PPAs. By only using the assumed rate of 0.5% degradation, and with all other associated costs considered, asset owners and investors can expect an IRR of 10%. However, they’ll only receive a 5.1% return if the actual degradation turned out to be 1.0%, and a lower 2.6% return if degradation is the suspected 1.3%.
Utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) ground-mounted systems are the largest sector of the overall solar market within the U.S., and the fastest-growing form of renewable power generation. Nevertheless, most of the utility-scale PV systems used in the study were commissioned after the year 2014, showing that the industry doesn’t have extensive data on long-term utility-scale PV systems performance, unlike smaller PV systems. Due to this, Asset Owners and investors should require more rigorous and frequent monitoring of their PV systems and rely on the collected data rather than the assumed degradation. This finding is in line with the study Raptor Maps produced for the 2020 Solar Risk Assessment Report, where we found that diode and string anomalies were 60% more frequent after the first year of operation, read more about that study here.
String level anomalies in a utility-scale PV system identified through an aerial thermography inspection.
It is necessary to perform frequent and standardized preventative maintenance inspections to combat the lower rates of return and high degradation levels. However, completing inspections at this magnitude while a portfolio grows will be strenuous on the operations and maintenance (O&M) teams and resources. By utilizing aerial thermography, O&M can scale affordably, and reduce the stress on labor resources, allowing organizations to monitor the PV systems regularly. Aerial thermography, when coupled with software post-processing, equips O&M teams with a standardized inspection method, and transparent data to enable efficient site remediation and prevent future performance issues. Raptor Maps provides accurate post-processing analysis of aerial thermography data to reveal the performance of PV systems. Our turnkey services enable the fastest adoption of aerial thermography and analytics worldwide.
System-level degradation rates need to be considered when formulating PPAs, and rigorous monitoring is required to ensure the Solar Industry continues its substantial growth. Raptor Maps has analyzed over 20 GW of solar PV systems, spanning 30+ countries around the world. To learn more about Raptor Maps and our software and services, please contact us.
Greentown Labs, the world’s largest cleantech incubator, hosts Raptor Maps and Enel Green Power to discuss start-up and corporate partnerships.
Greentown Labs invited Raptor Maps, a member company of the cleantech incubator, to a Fireside chat with corporate partners, Enel Green Power. Raptor Maps’ CEO and co-founder, Nikhil Vadhavar, and Enel Green Power’s Sander Cohan discussed strategic start-up and corporate partnerships, approaching them, and how they can benefit both companies. This article was originally written by Reena Karasin, the Community and Content Manager at Greentown Labs.
Both Enel and Greentown Labs member Raptor Maps describe the start of their relationship as exceedingly “casual.” Neither anticipated that they’d ultimately partner to ensure the operation of Enel’s solar assets worldwide—they started just by testing out drones at an Enel solar farm.
But that experimentation with various data capture and analysis protocols resulted in a ten-fold improvement in inspection speed, issue identification, and overall efficiency. Those impressive outcomes and the informal relationship building that went along with it proved crucial, both companies say.
At a Fireside Chat this spring, Raptor Maps CEO Nikhil Vadhavkar and Enel Green Power North America’s Director of Innovation Sander Cohan shared the story of their partnership and offered advice for startups that want to collaborate with corporates. Enel is a Greentown partner, and its Boston Innovation Hub is headquartered at Greentown to facilitate collaboration with members like Raptor Maps.
Raptor Maps uses artificial intelligence and thermal imaging to pinpoint electrical issues, outages, damages, and obstructions (think dust, bird droppings, or overgrown trees) down to the exact solar panel. This type of information has become crucial as the solar industry grows globally.
Raptor Maps and Enel work together to manage real-time operations across the corporate’s solar portfolio.
RAPTOR MAPS CEO NIKHIL VADHAVKAR
“Raptor Maps solves a very fundamental problem by helping us automate and digitize a previously manual process,” Cohan told the Fireside Chat audience. “Enel maintains several dozen gigawatts of solar globally, and these are large facilities. What Raptor Maps’ process allows us to do is turn a days-long process into a minutes-long process.”
While they had already established informal relationships, their formal partnership began with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s InnovateMass program. Through the program, Enel and Raptor did formal testing of the technology and Enel provided feedback on how the product could be most useful for their company.
When the InnovateMass opportunity arose, Raptor Maps and Enel’s prior relationship helped all the pieces fall into place.
“We knew exactly who to call and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this idea, we think you guys are a really good partner, can we get this paperwork done and apply for this?’” Vadhavkar said.
For startups that are looking to collaborate with corporates, Vadhavkar advised that they should still work with smaller customers even while chasing a big partnership deal. This split strategy means that startups aren’t relying on corporate deals as a “lifeboat,” and that they can continue to iterate on their technology, meaning a better product for the target corporate.
Cohan emphasized the importance of patience and relationship building, explaining that a startup’s technology likely won’t be a perfect fit for a corporate initially, but that the two can grow together over time.
“The reason why we have an Innovation Hub at Greentown Labs is we want to be in constant exchange with companies in this ecosystem,” he said.
Check out a video on Enel and Raptor Maps’ partnership here!
Listen to a recording of the Fireside chat here!
“Rarely does a single investment yield both significant social and financial benefit. In this way, solar is unique: this rapidly growing asset class offers the promise of substantial returns on investment in both.”
-kWh Analytics, producer of the Solar Risk Assessment Report.
The Solar Risk Assessment Report: 2020 is a quantitative, data-driven, analysis of risks across different fields in the solar industry. The report is compiled of articles from industry experts in their respective areas, each providing in-depth data and insight into the associated risk and methods to mitigate them. In this year’s edition, Raptor Maps was invited as one of the eleven contributors, writing alongside some of the solar industry’s most respected companies, including DNV-GL, Nextera Analytics, WoodMackenzie Power & Renewables, Radian Generation, Origis Services, and others. Raptor Maps was chosen to represent the aerial thermography inspections and the post-processing scope of the industry. Our contribution to the compendium focused on the importance of performing rigorous, high-detail commissioning inspections to reduce the transfer of risk to asset owners and minimize a probable increase in performance issues, as shown by the data.
An example of a thermal anomaly in a solar PV system.
There is a transfer of risk to the asset owner when a solar PV system is commissioned, a crucial step before the Commercial Operation Date (COD). To minimize performance risk and increased costs, a detailed commissioning inspection is required. This also benefits the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction firms (EPCs), which can address issues prior to demobilization, as well as asset managers and operations and maintenance (O&M), which can establish a thorough performance baseline. Our analysis found a high level of anomalies detected at commissioning, followed by a lull in the year one of operation, followed by a large and sustained increase beginning in year two. This suggests that asset owners should opt for high-detail commissioning inspections before the COD, as unresolved issues will become present later on, causing operational challenges and inefficiencies. By conducting a meticulous commissioning inspection, teams can identify and address potential performance issues before they manifest. In turn, this reduces the transfer of risk to the asset owner and improves efficiency for EPCs, asset management, and O&M teams with a strong baseline at the start of the asset’s lifecycle. Aerial thermography coupled with accurate data post-processing software enables this both quickly and affordably.
The scatter plot illustrates two anomaly types. The “Diode” classification refers to activated bypass diodes or multiple degraded cells corresponding to a single bypass diode. The “String” classification refers to an entire string of series-connected PV modules that are offline. The x-axis is days after COD, and the y-axis is anomalies normalized by MW for the inspection.
The data set used to support this conclusion is comprised of 347 aerial PV inspections across 4,723 MW of PV systems. 96% of modules inspected are Bloomberg Tier 1, representing 12 manufacturers. Inspection times ranged from the commissioning inspection through 1,000 days past the COD. The data for this data set was collected through a standardized and proven method. The flights were conducted according to a pre-programmed standard operating procedure (SOP), and imagery being high-resolution color (RGB) and infrared (thermal) imagery at either 5.5 cm/px (typical for US preventative maintenance inspections) or 3.0 cm/px (IEC TS 62446-3:2017 compliant, typical for commissioning and warranty claims) with detector sensitivity of less than 50 mK. Click here for more information on our data requirements and flight guidelines.
Download the full 2020 Solar Risk Assessment Report for free here. To learn more about Raptor Maps and our services to the solar PV industry, contact us.
Owner-Operator to Require its EPC and O&M Contractors to Utilize Standardized Software for Commissioning and Preventative Maintenance to Make Data-Driven Decisions
Madison Energy Investments, an asset owner, manager, and financier whose experience totals over $1 Billion of asset management, have selected Raptor Maps, a solar software company specializing in transparent PV asset performance reporting and data analysis, to support their growing solar operation throughout the entire lifecycle.
Madison Energy Investments requires their Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) contractors to use Raptor Maps for all preventative maintenance and commissioning inspections. This enables their contractors to efficiently direct resources, optimize mobilization, and prevent unnecessary labor and resource waste. Madison Energy Investments is utilizing Raptor Maps for the immediate return on investment (ROI) it provides throughout their asset’s lifecycles and the gains in operational efficiency.
“We’ve had O&M teams fly a few sites and our team loves the Raptor Maps reports. We’ve updated our contracts to require EPCs to use Raptor Maps at commissioning, and the O&M team to use annually. As the long-term asset owners, Raptor Maps adds immediate value so it’s mutually beneficial for us to push their technology into the industry,” said Ben Hunter, the Director of Asset Management at Madison Energy Investments.
A 5 MW installation owned by Madison Energy Investments in Maryland. The company has developed a proprietary, efficient process to increase its solar footprint throughout the US.
Madison Energy Investments develops, owns, and operates distributed generation assets within the commercial and industrial (C&I) and small utility-scale sectors. By utilizing their partnerships, Madison Energy Investments is enabling the C&I sector to scale efficiently.
“Madison Energy Investments is one of the sharpest owner-operators out there,” says Nikhil Vadhavkar, Raptor Maps co-founder and CEO. “Ben and the team have recognized the need for auditable, transparent results that deliver benefit to the Madison Energy Investments team in both the short- and long-term. We look forward to supporting Madison and their service providers to fuel their ambitious growth targets.”
Raptor Maps’ goal to enable the global solar PV industry to efficiently scale is in line with Madison Energy Investment’s goal of unlocking the clean energy asset class to institutional investors. By strategically approaching the C&I sector, Madison Energy Investments will create an outsized impact in the growing renewables sector. Madison Energy Investments are scaling the capacity of their portfolio and benchmarking against Raptor Maps’ 20 GW dataset of PV assets to ensure it’s performing at peak efficiency.
About Raptor Maps
Raptor Maps is the leading provider of software and aerial inspection services across the solar lifecycle. Its products range from IEC-compliant inspections of operating systems to active construction monitoring. Raptor Maps has serviced 20 GW of solar PV in 34 countries across 1,900 utility-scale and C&I PV systems. For more information about Raptor Maps, please visit https://raptormaps.com/.
About Madison Energy Investments
At Madison Energy Investments, we believe the future of energy is distributed. In order to realize this future in the required timetable, institutional capital needs to have access to stable, long-term clean energy assets. Our goal is to provide a platform that unlocks the clean energy asset class to institutional investors. For more information about Madison Energy Investments, please visit https://www.madisonei.com/.
For more information on the Raptor Maps software platform please click here or fill out our Contact Us form on this page.