Steps for building technical resilience for solar plants given the increasing frequency of extreme weather
Hurricane Ian’s trajectory is expected to affect roughly 800 solar farms with 14GW of peak power capacity, underlining that owners and operators of utility-scale solar installations have an increasing need to take meaningful steps to mitigate risks and preserve energy output.
A Raptor Maps analysis of Hurricane Ian’s probable path is overlaid unto the locations of large solar farms in the graphic above, illustrating the potential for damage.*
While some solar operators may believe that the only way to prepare for extreme weather is to have a good insurance policy, there are numerous ways to mitigate risk and facilitate the thoughtful operations of solar plants.
This guide outlines some of the most productive ways to prep for extreme weather and build technical resilience for your facility—thus helping to ensure power output and speed the inevitable warranty claims process.
Why Build Technical Resilience?
What is technical resilience, exactly, and why is it important to focus on now?
Building technical resilience is the process of implementing preventative and preparative techniques to reduce the likelihood of experiencing severe damage due to an extreme weather event. It’s important because, aside from insurance, this is the #1 way to protect solar assets.
The frequency of extreme weather events has been on the rise, and experts predict the trend will continue. This was neatly quantified by Insurance Business Magazine: “In the second quarter of 2022, there were multiple catastrophic hail events that all caused losses in excess of $50 million in the solar industry.”
Read on for the exact steps to take to prepare for the increasing risk of extreme weather.
Steps to Take to Prepare for Extreme Weather
1. Assess the Particular Risks to Your Solar Farm
The first step in building technical resilience is to identify the risks present at your facility. Is your asset located in a high risk region for one of the following: damaging hail (>2”), wildfire, tornado, or hurricane/flood? Insurance providers may be able to provide data around the likelihood of extreme weather occurring on or around your facility. Understanding the risk will allow you to make engineering decisions and procure spare parts in preparation for extreme weather. For all potential threats, it is highly recommended that you begin preparing during the construction phase.
Although extreme weather can damage many parts of the array, the most common claims involve modules, and that is what is focused on here. Most module warranty claims require the following to file a claim: (a) party making claim; (b) detailed description; (c) evidence, including photographs and data; (d) relevant serial numbers; (e) Warranty Start Date; (f) Module type; and (g) physical address. There is a lot of overlap with insurance claims, and they will require the same equipment records.
2. Build a Digital Twin of Your Solar Site
Building a digital twin is the first step in planning for asset operations and a potential future claim. Raptor Maps provides digital twins that are a comprehensive data model based on your as-built drawings and that act as a data warehouse for the entire history of your equipment.
3. Map the Serial Numbers of All Panels
Mapping serial numbers is the the next step in planning for a potential claim. When the module serial numbers are loaded into Raptor Maps digital twin, you begin building an equipment record. Loading in panel serial numbers and starting your digital twin will allow you to take an important step in simplifying and expediting any future claims.
4. Run Aerial Thermography Commissioning Scans
Commissioning scans are the next step in building your equipment record. Scanning your panels prior to COD will give you a snapshot of the panel health prior to operations begin. This is a key piece of data that the insurance providers and warranty holders look for when reviewing a claim, they want to know whether or not the equipment was healthy prior to the weather event.
5. Perform Annual or Semi-Annual Thermography Scans
Regular thermography scans will keep your equipment record for the life of the asset. Every time a scan is performed, you are continuing to build the equipment record and track it’s health over time. This historical record will be reviewed during the claim process and the more data you have, the better chance of claim approval.
6. Perform a Scan Following Extreme Weather
In the unfortunate event that a site gets hit by hail or other extreme weather causing damage to the modules, getting an aerial IR scan performed as quickly as possible is key to restoring the system to full production. This will give you, and your insurance providers, a conclusive report on the overall damage to the system and help move the claim forward.
7. Use a Software Solution for Warranty and Insurance Claims
Raptor Solar’s warranty claims feature is a software solution that aggregates all of the above in a quick and simplified application, allowing you to file claims with the click of a button. Whether it’s insurance providers or warranty holders, Raptor Maps allows O&M to streamline the claims process.
These steps are key to reducing downtime and lost production. Not all insurance policies will allow you to claim all of your lost production, therefore restoring your asset to 100% production as fast as possible is the goal of our Raptor Maps Claims feature.
Plan Ahead for Extreme Weather
The risk of extreme weather to solar assets is on the rise, but you can act early to prevent significant damage. Following the guidance outlined above, and working with insurers, you can rest assured that your valuable investments are protected.
* Raptor Maps analyzed NOAA’s 18th forecast for Hurricane Ian and combined it with the EIA’s database of solar farms in the area over 1MW.