How digitalisation will boost the value of energy generated by solar PV plants

A new report released by engineering firm DNV explores the global solar PV market and how digitalisation will boost the value of electricity generated by PV plants over the next 30 years.

DNV’s first part of the More than the sun: A solar report series states that as the solar power market continues to grow, to produce a third of all electricity by 2050, digitalisation will play key role to help asset owners to maximise the value of their projects.

The continued decline in PV technology costs and favorable levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) rates are the two key factors expected to drive the solar PV market growth through 2050. DNV forecasts the solar PV market to expand almost 30-fold globally through 2050 to 18.7 PWh in generation capacity per year, and contribute twice as much electricity as from gas and coalfired generation combined.

Over the next five years, the global solar capacity is expected to double.

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However, energy markets are expected to place lower value on the power produced by solar PV resulting in revenue generation challenges for PV plants owners. Moreover, substantial increases in solar generation are expected to result in price cannibalisation over the next decade resulting in revenue challenges for project owners as well. This is where digitalisation will come in for project developers and operators, according to the study.

Richard S. Barnes, executive vice president at DNV, said: “The report series will enable project owners to identify areas where digitalization can help their solar PV projects move to rising levels of efficiency and profitability in a dynamic market, accelerating decarbonisation of the energy industry.

Dana Olson, DNV’s Global Solar Segment Leader, adds: “Digitalisation across PV assets and processes will not only lower costs but also raise the overall value of solar generation in the market.

“It will provide the necessary insights and integration that solar projects will need to operate lucratively in an increasingly competitive environment.”

On the capital expenditure level, advanced analytics and machine learning will lower construction, development, and asset deployment costs for solar PV developers.

On the operational side, digital tools will streamline and continuously improve how power is generated and delivered. Automated inspection, vegetation management, and the processing of thermal imaging will inform preventative and predictive maintenance programmes, further optimising and lowering the cost of operations and maintenance activities.

To optimise revenue collection for project owners, digitalisation can be used to ensure seamless integration of generation and energy storage.

Real-time communication between grid assets will help balance the grid and enable the participation of solar PV capacity in power support services where energy can be sold at higher prices.

The report is available for download.