There has been much talk about the UK’s flourishing secondary solar market, in which investment and management firms have been snapping up assets developed under the now closed RO.
This has also created a rich vein of opportunities for O&M companies who promise to keep those assets ticking over efficiently, however Senseye co-founder Alexander Hill considers the UK’s current O&M market to have stagnated and fallen victim to a lack of innovation.
Would you say O&M is an area where the solar industry hasn't really cracked, or is it somewhere that there could be more development?
I think it's something of a stagnant area. I think more often than not it's not a particular driver for developers themselves to look into too much, and they leave it for whoever's managing the site. There's definitely room for development. Some of the computing products we've seen that do solar farm management are fairly old, not nice to use, don't give you that much useful information and it seems to be difficult for most products to tell you how much money you're earning at a particular point, or how much you could earn next week, and that's entirely possible.
It's important for some solar farm operators, and they've said that they would like this technology but nobody's really doing it. So I'd definitely say the area's a bit stagnant and has been overlooked.
And with various subsidies closing or facing cuts, is the model now changing towards getting the absolute most out of existing sites?
I think it's going to have to change. Everyone's been rushing to develop these farms and then sell them off to somebody who's then got to run them for the next 15, 20 or 25 years, and then of course they're going to want to optimise them and squeeze as much money out of that asset. That's either a tremendously labour intensive task, or you start to look into analytics and prediction. Not all of us are data scientists and not all of us have the time to do that, and that's how we're trying to help.
Senseye claims to be considerably cheaper than other monitoring technologies, is that specifically to target smaller operators?
We absolutey want to see this being used by community schemes and projects and smaller firms. The company's really about solar technology and making it available for SMEs, so it's not going to be £500,000 for something a solar operator might want for something like £200 a month per site, or per inverter. We haven't quite figured out the cost model just yet but we're going to keep the costs very low and go for volume. We want a high number of users rather than a very specialist, tweaked system that will only be sold to a handful of people.
Why have you targeted the solar industry with this software?
We have some experience in the industry and I personally have experience trying to sell products like this to the solar market before. They started at £10,000 upwards and they were difficult, slow, clunky and required a lot of hunting for data. We were therefore aware that there quite a few extensive products, and that product at £10,000 seemed to be quite cheap to a lot of people, but it was difficult to set up and use and irritated a lot of people. We considered that the solar market already expects quite a lot of sensors, and we don't want to go around installing them in places.
We want to make use of data that is already there and we've fond that lots of business collect data. They put it somewhere and they don't really do much with it. This is where we can come along, take data that people are already collecting and try to improve their business with it.