Solar Magazine – Dutch solar energy companies want to conquer the O&M market: ‘You also give a car an annual service’

Anyone who gets a sunroof or solar park built should perform annual maintenance just like with a car. Where o & m in Flanders has been a standard part of the operation for years, this is not the case in the Netherlands.

Is the breadwinner still a neglected child? The editors of Solar Magazine spoke with Bas IJpelaar (Everday) and Eelco Hoogduin and Hugo Uijlenbroek (Zonnepark Services Nederland), who have the ambition to build a gigawatt portfolio as Dutch maintenance companies.

The ranking of the 25 largest European O&M companies – ranked by the assets they manage – includes a large number of companies active in the Netherlands and Belgium. About half of the companies on the list are active in the Benelux, from the RWE unit BELECTRIC to Enerparc, GroenLeven owner BayWare and Pfalzsolar. However, not a single company in the top 25 is of Dutch descent. Solora, which was founded in Flanders, is in the top 25. At the end of last year, the company from Merelbeke performed O&M services for a total of 450 megawatts peaks in solar energy projects. Two thirds of this portfolio is located in the Netherlands.

1 and 1.5 gigawatt peak
Everday and Zonnepark Services Nederland are two relatively new players who will storm the European top 25 in the coming years. Given the amount of projects they already manage, they can no longer be characterized as start-ups and are more likely to be scale-ups. Both companies recognize a trend that belongs to the top 25: The O&M market is increasingly dictated by the earth’s big. This development also ensures that both companies want to build a large portfolio.

Everday was founded in March last year as a spin-off from KiesZon, which in turn is part of energy supplier Greenchoice. ‘We have got off to a flying start because we have entered into O&M contracts with KiesZon ​​for around 250 photovoltaic plants, which together account for a 300 megawatt peak,’ explains IJpelaar. “We aim to have 1.5 gigawatt peak O&M contracts by 2025.”

Zonnepark Services Nederland is again a joint venture between project developer Chint Solar and EPC contractor Goldbeck Solar. When we were founded in 2020, we expressed the ambition to have a portfolio of 1 gigawatt peak before the end of 2022 ‘, explains Hoogduin. ‘And that’s an ambition we must achieve. We currently manage approximately 500 megawatts of peak operational solar parks. The contracts have been signed for a peak of about 900 megawatts. ‘

Quick intervention
Where Everday focuses on ground and roof mounted solar energy systems, also applies it to terrestrial and floating solar parks, but also to solar cell roofs† IJpelaar and Hoogduin agree that the 3 variants differ significantly from each other, but what they both have in common is that rapid intervention is of great importance for each photovoltaic park.

‘Last year we opened a branch in Zuidbroek for that reason,’ explains Hoogduin. ‘Close to a large number of solar parks, so we can serve our customers better and faster. We can now intervene very quickly in the event of unexpected failures in solar parks in the northern part of the country. At least in the case of key inverters and transformers, it is very important to be on site quickly with the right tools, qualified personnel and spare parts. ‘

spare parts
According to Hoogduin, the difference between performing maintenance on a small or large solar park is life-size. “You can still manually inspect a small sunbathing lawn with, for example, a camera, but an 80-hectare park really requires drone inspections. In addition, a number of large solar parks in our portfolio flow directly into TenneT’s high-voltage network. This makes maintenance much more complex. In addition, in small solar parks, you can make last-minute arrangements for things like green maintenance, while it has to be done according to a plan with a 100 megawatt peak solar park. In addition, you have many more critical components there, which requires a good spare parts management strategy. Fortunately, many professional investors make sure that they immediately build up a good stock of spare parts during the construction of their solar park. Sooner or later, of course, that stock runs up. This presents new challenges, because where all solar panels used to have a standard size of 1.6 times 1 meter, this is no longer the case. Together with the rapidly evolving inverters, it will sooner or later become a problem … ‘

According to IJpelaar, the great diversity of solar panel sizes is a development that Everday has already faced. “If a solar panel breaks, a higher capacity is not a problem in principle, but it is the rapidly changing formats that create challenges. The search for a suitable solar panel will not be easier in the coming years. It is also not inconceivable that in the future we will decide to completely supply power to a smaller installation in our portfolio in order to be able to use the solar panels from such a project as spare parts for other installations. In that case, the scale gives an advantage. ‘

According to Hoogduin, it is also not inconceivable for his company that solar parks, where a large number of solar panels are defective everywhere on the site, will have to be partially redone. ‘You can then remove the defective solar panels and’ push ‘the solar park in with good technique. You can install new solar panels using the space that is then freed up. ‘

Dividend scanning
No matter what happens, according to IJpelaar, Everday will always start with a dividend scan when it includes a PV system in its portfolio to determine the health of the system. ‘This basic measurement is important because everyone in our sector knows that a solar cell installation from 2015 has a different installation quality than a solar cell installation from 2022 that has passed a Scope 12 inspection. It is possible that after a yield scan, we conclude that the health condition of a system is so dramatic that improvements must first be made before we perform system maintenance and provide warranties. The yield scan is therefore extremely important. Because if the installation quality of a photovoltaic system is generally not good, you will never get it repaired. Compare that to the foundation of your house. If it’s bad, you’ll always have cracks in your house no matter what you do. ‘

Read the full article in the May 2022 issue of Solar Magazine here.

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