Renewable Co-operatives: What data should they track?

Co-ops bring renewable energy to communities, districts and consumers seeking alternative energy sources. A Cooperative owns and manages a portfolio of solar, wind and bioenergy through business models such as utility sponsored, special purpose entity (SPE) or non-profit model to operate assets. Some examples are SMUD, and University Park Community Solar.

Capacity of America’s cooperatives have increased from 37 MW in 2010 to 873 MW in 2017. In 2014 Germany had close to 1000 energy cooperatives. This guide is meant to help existing co-op operators and newly formed co-ops just getting started on best practices for data manage of their operating assets and upcoming projects. What data is important to track and what tools are available to track and optimize processes.

Project management

It is important that data is tracked from early stages of a project when the developer is developing the site. This data will come in handy if a project changes ownership, is expanded or re-financed. Here is some information that should be tracked:

  • Product design: The design of the system, expected performance, size and the 8760 files. Tools such as PvSyst or PVwatts can be used to get this information
  • Procurement: Track the product manufacturers, design, warranties, expected performance, PID expectancy
  • Permits: Jurisdiction policies, contacts, tax laws and procedures
  • Incentives: District, state, provincial and federal incentives
  • Milestones: Milestones for difference phases of the projects from feasibility, financing, construction, and operations even if the EPC is outsourced
  • Contractors: The EPC and O&M contractors and their obligations if any
  • Document: Other relevant project documents, images, studies
  • Portfolio: You may have a different portfolio of assets owned and operated individually. The metrics for each portfolio should be tracked

Financials

To ensure that a project is performing as expected and your bottom line is maximized the following information should be tracked on an ongoing basis:

  • Financial model: The financial model that was used at the early stages
  • Risk: The worst case, median case and best-case scenario of the project
  • KPI: Key performance indicators such as IRR and NPV
  • Leases: Land leases, its terms, debt and payments
  • Loans: Any loans taken against the project, payments, and terms
  • Debt/Equity Ratio: The ratio of your debt against your project
  • System ownership: The ownership of the members or shareholders
  • Off takers: In some instances, the power can be sold to multiple off takers. What is the percentage split between the offtakers
  • PPA: The power purchase agreement and its terms. Whether it’s fixed, escalated, or time of use (TOU)
  • RECs: Renewable energy credits and who owns them
  • Members: Shareholder and members of the coop

Operations

The operations of the plant could be done by the members overseeing the asset or outsourced to an O&M provider. Regardless of how you operate the following information it should and must be tracked.

  • Monitoring: Your plants should be monitored through the manufacturer portal or through a 3rd party monitoring platform
  • Weather: Track irradiance, weather forecasts against the performance of the plant
  • Performance Ratio: The expected vs actuals charts to determine if your assumptions were accurate or if any action is required on the plant to maximize performance
  • Plant Availability: Track the availability of the plant and how much revenue it is generating against what was expected
  • Billing: Automating invoicing through software that gathers monitoring data and corresponding against the PPA and auto generated monthly invoices that can be sent directly and imported into your accounting software
  • Activities: Track activities of the site to keep a trail of all the events that take place
  • Obligations: Extract your regulatory, security, and financial obligations to remain compliant. Schedule and track events which key stakeholders
  • Maintenance: Track the tickets for preventative maintenance of the plants and alarms that are triggered
  • Reporting: Generate performance, cash flow, maintenance reports for members shareholders and management. This can be a very time-consuming process so automating it will save a ton of time

How should you track all this data?

An asset management platform such as Arbox Hap® helps track all this data in a centralized repository, monitors the facility and automates many of the processes for a co-operative. Tracking all this information on excel and rudimentary tools can be challenges specially if your portfolio is growing and you want to run an efficient operations. Automating your compliance events, invoicing, reporting, triggering tickets to contractors will save you a ton of time.

Contact Us today to learn more about how other coops are taking advantage of asset management software.