Report: Forty-five percent of solar inverters are abandoned just four years after construction

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This report excerpt comes via kWh Analytics’ Solar Risk Assessment — Based on operational data from 2017-2018, 9,984 MWac of PV capacity was powered using inverters made by discontinued manufacturers. These systems reflect “abandoned inverters” whose Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is no longer in business.

Per NovaSource’s 2021 SRA publication, the O&M company’s research found that solar facilities with equipment from discontinued inverter manufacturers saw average inverters perform at 85% technical availability. In contrast, industry standard aims for 97%-99% power plant availability. Technical availability for a PV power plant is defined as the amount of time a system is producing energy, divided by the total amount of time in that period.

Using operational data from 2017-2018, Solar Support estimates that PV plants operating with abandoned inverters lost between 1.9 million and 2.7 million MWh in production per year, costing investors $97m -$174m in missed revenue[1]. Unfortunately, the lost revenue is unrecoverable due to production limits in interconnect agreements.

Owners who are exposed to PV assets powered by abandoned inverters face tremendous pressure to make operational decisions that triage current and future losses. Without active and ongoing inverter OEM help, PV power plants fail to receive sufficient technical support, and battle to find and procure replacement parts as old equipment fails. Of all sites that were operating in 2018, 45% are powered with inverters made by manufacturers who are now discontinued.

Solar repowering — the process of removing old PV technology and replacing it with new — is increasingly becoming the best long-term solution for investors exposed to sites with abandoned inverters. By developing business cases and performing engineering analyses, strategic asset owners are beginning to implement repowering projects through finance and partnership with experienced repowering Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) teams.

As solar PV fleets age and inverter OEMs continue to go out of business, asset owners are forced to develop and deploy new solutions. Industry thought-leaders are refining solutions for the lowest-cost and least-disruptive methods for boosting plant performance. Repowering is now a proven method for addressing discontinued products and project stakeholders have a great opportunity to capitalize on the lost production but acting quickly is paramount before aging Power Purchase Agreements expire.

[1] Model evaluated five scenarios: 1) high production x high PPA price; 2) low production x high PPA price; 3) high production xlow PPA price; 4) low production x low PPA price; 5) average production x median PPA price. Solar Support estimated 1800 MWh per MW per year high production; 1300 MWh per MW per year low production; 1550 MWh per MW per year average production; $150 high PPA price; $40 low PPA price;

By: Noel Myers, Sr. Business Development Manager & Cliff Myers, Co-Founder, Chief Engineering Officer of Solar Support.

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