We provide acquisition expertise to public sector agencies seeking to procure effective operations and maintenance (O&M) services that ensure the safe and reliable performance of solar PV systems.
What We Research
- What are the essential elements of good operations and maintenance (O&M) practices?
- What role does O&M play in system performance, longevity and economics?
- How can public and private sector entities increase performance of their PV systems with effective O&M services?
- How can standardized procurement tools and guidance assist an organization in the process of creating an O&M plan?
Importance of Solar PV Operations and Maintenance
According to Berkeley Lab’s “Tracking the Sun 2019” report, more than two million distributed solar systems have been installed since 1998 (Barbose and Darghouth 2019). More than 90% were built in the past decade, highlighting the solar industry's tremendous growth. Entities are installing these systems to reduce energy costs, achieve sustainability goals and provide backup power during grid outages, among other reasons. Effective O&M is essential to realizing those aims. No longer do owners and industry professionals think of PV systems as maintenance-free. An O&M plan is crucial to:
- Maximize overall system performance (e.g., energy output per kW of installed capacity)
- Minimize system downtime (e.g., number and length of system outages)
- Ensure the economic viability of a project
- Maintain and increase the expected life of a system (e.g., from a standard 25 years to 30+ years)
- Reduce risks to life and property
- Maintain existing warranties that require regular O&M (e.g., inverter manufacturer requires annual servicing to maintain warranty)
Putting together an O&M plan can be daunting. System owners may not know what services to ask for or how much to purchase. Basic O&M plans typically include the following:
- Continual performance monitoring
- Periodic inspections
- Scheduled preventative maintenance
- Addressing unforeseen repairs and system outages
- Fixing deferred maintenance issues
Solar PV O&M Webinar Series
In partnership with the Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program and the California Energy Commission's Empower Procurement Program, Berkeley lab is offering three trainings regarding solar photovoltaics operations and maintenance. The first two webinars in this series can be found below.
Berkeley lab has created a training that discusses the importance of O&M services, identifies common challenges, highlights key solutions, and describes technical assistance offerings to public sector institutions. In addition, Berkeley Lab has created request-for-proposal (RFP) templates so public and private entities can easily acquire and implement effective O&M plans. These standardized templates provide O&M contract language, reduce the time to put together a contract and avoid “reinventing the wheel” with each PV O&M procurement. These resources and more can be found in the slide deck.
In the second training in this series, Berkeley Lab staff discussed the existing marketplace for solar, how buyers request PV O&M services, and the indication of need for O&M services as well as resources for both buyers and providers to use. The training wrapped up with a discussion between buyers and providers of solar PV O&M services. To access the resources discussed in the training, access the slide deck here.
During this webinar, the Renewables Acquisition team shared insights with solar O&M providers around what types of O&M services buyers were requesting for their solar systems. The information was collected in a similar solicitation review process that Berkeley Lab conducts under the FEMP Energy Efficient Product Procurement program. Assessments and reporting and general electrical and mechanical preventative maintenance measures were among the most commonly requested solar O&M services.
Federal sites host more than 3,000 solar PV installations. With this large fleet of PV systems, agencies need to adopt effective O&M plans to ensure that these systems provide years of safe and reliable energy production. Many agencies lack the resources and personnel to perform O&M services to their PV systems. But agencies easily can secure O&M services with qualified third-party contractors.
The DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) has created the “Operations and Maintenance Request for Proposal (RFP) Template for Government-Owned Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems” document for agencies seeking services from a qualified O&M provider. This contract template is customizable and allows agencies to develop their own versions to meet specific requirements to items such as Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clauses, scope of work and contract term lengths.
Non-federal public and private sector organizations are deploying a significant number of solar PV systems. These organizations also should carefully consider adopting effective O&M plans for the reasons discussed above.
Berkeley Lab, through the sponsorship of the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, has created a procurement template for public (non-federal) and private organizations to acquire O&M services from a qualified O&M provider for their solar PV systems.
Additional Resources for Solar PV O&M
Please see FEMP’s “Optimizing Solar Photovoltaic Performance for Longevity” website for more information on operations and maintenance for solar PV systems.