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Professional or in-house PV monitoring solution?

Guest blog post by Michael Kondula, bos.ten AG

Michael Kondula is the head of IT at O&M provider bos.ten from Regensburg, Germany. About a year ago, he learnt of Solytic. Previously, Kondula was long convinced that no one from outside could better display their internal IT processes, as they themselves. He changed this opinion after a test phase with Solytic for three of their PV plants.

The company bos.ten is officially certified by TÜV Rheinland for the operation and maintenance of PV systems. We have repeatedly tested offerings from various monitoring providers hoping to find a solution where we could integrate and monitor all our assets from one platform. Partly a conversion of the hardware would have been necessary. However, that would have been associated with a financial overhead that we did not want our customers to bear. In turn, without retrofitting, it would have been very expensive to integrate the PV systems into the software at all.

Too many different systems

One potential monitoring provider worked with open interfaces and would have been able to integrate our assets. However, the cost of onboarding and implementing a sub-user structure for our customers was very high, far too high in the current market scenario. After all, all costs must be earned back by the solar asset.

For us, it was very important that the colourful bouquet of PV systems with different technologies and components could be integrated into a portal without horrendous costs. That’s why we needed a hardware-independent monitoring solution. The portfolio of our operational systems alone comprises ten different inverter manufacturers, each with several different models. In addition, since the commissioning of our oldest power plant in 2003, the technical standard of solar parks has evolved considerably. Solytic was able to meet these requirements with ease and at a price that was extremely attractive compared to the other offerings available in the market.

The variety of technology and integration of different component manufacturers was not the only challenge that faced bos.ten.

Define users and assign earnings separately

One of bos.ten’s solar parks is owned by more than 20 different investors, all of whom have to receive independent reports. So there is no classic participation model as with most other operators. This unique feature also means a higher effort. We have to be able to map this for each investor accordingly and correctly assign differentiated returns.

Solytic was able to address this challenge too. The Berlin-based startup that prides itself in offering tailor-made solutions and was able to provide bos.ten with client and investor access as specifically required.

After a short test phase with three assets, it became clear that the Solytic software was well suited to our requirements. The attractive price-performance ratio also played a role in our decision.

Synergies through generalization

Of course, having your own DIY solution also has its advantages; you can map everything just as it seems important and meaningful to your own company. For example, our clients require validated forecasting from yield assessments to finance their PV system. Accordingly, these commercial target values ​​in our previous portal solution were compared with the generated earnings. These commercial values ​​are irrelevant to Solytic’s technical plant monitoring. Therefore, you have to make a few small compromises with such an open solution. You have to wait for certain wishes because the focus from the viewpoint of the programmers is always on a generalization and not on a specialization. Nevertheless, our assessment was clearly in favour of Solytic. Finally, we save ourselves the time and the costs for the further development of the software. And for our sister companies, there were even greater synergies than originally expected: The partnership relationship with Solytic enables us to receive inquiries on nearly all of the bos.ten Group’s services, including plant control, PV substructures, and construction and maintenance services.

An internal cost-benefit calculation made this clear to us. Because we save a lot of work every day if PV monitoring is becoming more automated. Because of this decision-making process, we have now got a good overview of the internal costs of our monitoring, uncovered potential savings and realized that the documentation of our facilities was not always as complete as we thought before. Monitoring is now much more intuitive and faster. Our employees do not need to have such a deep technical understanding of the equipment on site. As a result, the same team size can serve a much larger portfolio, and that drives our planned growth.

Interface to CRM built-in

A bidirectional interface between the monitoring software and our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was particularly important to us. All tickets are managed there so that the bookkeeping and customer service have access. Solytic made it possible. We did not have to adapt our company to the software, Solytic provided a tailor-made solution. Last but not least, we also play an active role in the development of new features that add value to both sides.

Advantages of a professional software solution outweigh

For each decision, the pros and cons need to be weighed and that’s exactly what we did in this case. In the first step, we looked at and tested all relevant professional software solutions and compared the best of them with our in-house developed solution. In our case, we decided on Solytic, as we saw the greatest cost/benefit efficiency for us, especially in the long term.