COO Chat: meteocontrol At REFF

on June 22, 2011 at 2:00 PM

As renewables generation becomes an increasingly significant portion of the American power grid, solar companies are flocking to the United States for business.

Service and analytics firms are following manufacturers from Europe and elsewhere to the burgeoning American market. Ben Compton, COO and VP of Commercial Operations of one of the world’s largest third-party monitoring systems, meteocontrol, told Breaking Energy that he attended the REFF Wall Street conference in order to meet with the American influencers in the solar solar photovoltaic (PV) industry.

“The company has a great reputation but its relatively unknown in the U.S.,” Compton said. “It’s getting that name out there, building up the reputation,” that he said is the “reason for coming to a conference like this.”

You have to show that your value is better, your analytics are better and the graphics, the built-in capabilities of the system, are stronger.

“Just coming to conferences and getting the word out there about what we are doing,” he said is an important part of the strategy and the primary reason he attended REFF Wall Street.

Formed in 1998, meteocontrol, is a solar PV monitoring company that provides analytics, quality control and energy yield analyses reports for its mostly European clients that come to more than 19,000 energy systems. Compton said he hopes to deploy meteocontrol North America, which was formed only in October 2010, in full force in the coming years.

Very few American companies are focusing as much on operations and management to the same extent as meteocontrol, partially because European solar PV companies, which have a lot to gain in the form of feed-in-tariffs, face great losses when their panels are less efficient.

But the technological features that metreocontrol offers, including, what he called, a “one stop shop” for feedback, will, he hopes, encourage American solar PV companies to switch to to meteocontrol’s monitoring systems: Virtual Control Room and Safer Sun.

“It’s not like it was when meteocontrol started in ’98 when no one had any other option,” he said. “Here its weaning people from a platform they may already have, so you have to show that your value is better, your analytics are better and the graphics, the built in capabilities of the system, are stronger.”

He said he hopes that meteocontrol, in the coming years, will be mentioned in the same breath as other major analytics providers in the United States.

To consistently forecast sun power, the company employs its own meteorologist who tries to estimate how sunshine levels. These three-day forecasts are measured against actual electrical output, to monitor solar panels and measure efficiencies of the plant as a whole and also of particular solar panels.

Often, Compton said, a low-performing solar panel just needs to be cleaned of bird droppings to come back to life.

The company is also looking to expand into wind generation monitoring, but is still working out a process that suits the particularities of wind turbine operations.