Professional O&M service is essential for risk management on PV farms

In an interview with “Insurance Newspaper”, Paweł Czaus, CEO of Nomad Electric, discusses the role of operations and maintenance (O&M) services in the insurance process for renewable energy installations.

paweł czaus ceo nomad electric

What should we know about the photovoltaic market in Poland? What stage are we at, and in which direction are we heading?

Paweł Czaus: – Renewable energy sources in Poland primarily consist of photovoltaics and wind farms, which account for approximately 90% of the market. The remaining 10% comprises biogas, biomass, and hydroelectric power plants. Currently, the installed capacity of photovoltaic power plants is 17 gigawatts, while for wind farms, it is 9.5 gigawatts.

Therefore, photovoltaics have an advantage, which can be divided into two main segments. The photovoltaic market can be divided into two segments: prosumer and professional. The prosumer segment accounts for about two-thirds of the entire market (11 gigawatts) and involves installations on homes or smaller businesses. The remaining 6 gigawatts are produced by professional installations, which are usually ground-mounted or on the roofs of factories and warehouses. Poland currently ranks fourth in Europe in terms of photovoltaic installations, trailing only Germany, Spain, and Italy.

What are the main challenges associated with the maintenance and operation of photovoltaic farms from a risk management perspective?

– Currently, some farms cover even 300 hectares. These are large installations, and their number will continue to increase. As a result, more of them will be connected to the high-voltage grid and PSE’s transmission grid. The risks in this industry primarily concern general issues that could occur during the construction and operation of any large plant. Theft and vandalism have been rare incidents since the construction and commissioning of the plant. The risk of fire has also been reduced by appropriate safety measures.

However, natural disasters and weather phenomena, such as hail or strong winds, pose a significant threat to the photovoltaic farm. They can cause damage, such as tearing off modules. Using suitably durable materials for the construction of these installations and regular servicing by a professional team is very important.

Cybersecurity is also important as PV or wind farms are part of critical infrastructure and they are managed by specialized industrial automation systems. Therefore, the O&M company must use them to ensure appropriate asset security against hacker attacks.

Are there any specific risks unique to photovoltaic farms?

In Poland, renewable energy power plants are relatively new, and as such, there may be specific risks associated with these facilities that emerge over time. These risks are primarily technical and relate to the installation’s execution, including project work, construction, component selection, and materials. While these risks may reveal themselves in the future and impact factors such as fire risk or the installation’s resistance to strong winds, it is important to monitor and address them proactively. Another issue is the quality of service regarding operation and maintenance. An investor’s desire to minimize costs can increase risk or even lead to its realization. For instance, the absence of regular inspections can be detrimental. It is also crucial to mow the area surrounding the farm to prevent fires caused by dry grass.

How does Nomad Electric cooperate with insurance companies?

Our involvement usually starts after the construction is completed. After technical acceptance, we take responsibility for the plant. We carry out all the necessary maintenance and service work. We also verify and fulfill any warranty requirements specified by banks or insurers. If requested by the investor or the above-mentioned parties, we carry out technical audits to assess the condition of the plant before financing or to validate insurance policies. In the event of a claim, we can also participate in the claims process.

We provide documentation to confirm warranty inspections or completed measurements. Additionally, we conduct educational activities on the importance of professional O&M (operation & maintenance) services for photovoltaic farms. We also provide support to insurance companies with our expertise in the analysis of documents such as manufacturers’ warranties.

How large is your team, and what are their specializations?

– More than 150 people are currently employed by Nomad Electric. Project Managers oversee individual portfolios, including communicating with investors and scheduling inspections. Our monitoring center, based in Lodz, operates 24/7. Engineers are responsible for monitoring the farms. We have service engineers throughout the country who carry out inspections and repairs.

There is a team responsible for advanced diagnostics. This team consists of engineers who are authorized to control drones and perform complex measurement and diagnostic works, such as those involving high voltages. Additionally, some engineers conduct PV module tests using electroluminescence.

The company also employs automation engineers who created the proprietary system SCADA Nomad NX for precise real-time management and monitoring of wind and PV installations. Our extensive team enables us to offer a comprehensive range of services while maintaining the highest international standards.

Is the technology related to photovoltaic power plant services changing rapidly?

Photovoltaics is not overly complicated from an engineering perspective. The standard components remain unchanged. However, as the power of installations increases, these components must be upgraded, and then we indeed observe certain technological leaps. We are constantly striving to adapt as well as possible to these changes. The next important trend will be hybridization, which involves combining photovoltaics with wind farms and energy storage. This will require modernization of the electrical infrastructure, leading to the integration of all sources into a more intelligent network.

The interview was carried out by Aleksandra E. Wysocka

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