As the interest in renewable energy grows globally, solar energy has increased in popularity with both consumers and businesses. The Solar Energies Industry Association reported that in 2012, the U.S. markets installed a record-breaking 3,313 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity. And large, well-known companies such as Apple are making the news for their increased interest in using alternative energy to power facilities. As of March 2013, the mega-sized tech firm is depending 100 percent on renewable energy sources to power its data centers, according to a Bloomberg news story. A neighboring 100 acre solar farm powers Apple’s largest data center in Maiden, N.C., and they have plans for another nearby solar farm to open later in 2013.
So what does this growing and large-scale adoption of solar power by big business mean for solar energy providers? Major opportunity to grow and expand. However, it also means increased responsibility to organize, store, and manage vast amounts of data.
Turn Your Data Storage Requirements into Business Opportunities
Solar energy enterprises (like other renewable energy companies such as wind power businesses) may need centralized organization, easy data retrieval, and protection of sensitive data as part of federal or state regulated records management. Since you’re required to keep all this data anyways, why not use it to make better business decisions, help customers, and find potential business opportunities? After all, there’s a ton of useful information hiding in all that data. Here are five ways big data and analytics can help solar energy providers.
Help Your Customers Get Their Solar Power Rebates
Solar energy has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, leading to interest from a growing number of homeowners. In some parts of the United States, homeowners and business owners are encouraged to install solar panels to generate electricity for their own use, as well as to sell it back to the local power authorities to power “the grid.” The process, known as “net metering,” requires careful monitoring of energy consumption to track who generates energy, as well as how much.
Homeowners and business owners who take advantage of installing solar power and net metering may qualify for tax rebates or grants, as well as reduced energy costs. However, to claim their incentives, they usually have to show documentation showing what they’ve installed, and how it’s improved their energy efficiency or reduced their costs.
Cloud-Based Records Management Speeds Up Data Recovery for Solar Clients
Solar energy businesses providing the equipment and services to customers must keep careful records of each transaction. You should be ready to give the information to your customers when requested. Finding that information quickly and easily with a cloud-based records management system saves the time, money and hassle of searching through paper-based records.
Save Time and Money Preparing for Energy Audits…or Litigation
While no one enjoys the prospect of a regulatory or government audit or being part of a legal inquiry or litigation, a solid records management system really cuts down the time, work, and cost of locating and retrieving the necessary documents, images and data required in such action – no matter what industry you’re in!
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Comply With Alternative Energy Federal and State Regulations
Record-keeping to meet legal and regulatory requirements is a fact of life in most industries today. Depending on the location of a solar power enterprise, you may be required to meet state Renewable Energy Standards also known as Renewable Portfolio Standards — which are likely to change over time. A cloud-based records management system for your solar big data will help make sure your business is meeting the current requirements, and can also save a lot of time over paper-based records when the standards change.
As of March 2013, 29 states, Washington D.C. and two American territories have Renewable Portfolio Standards in place. (As of January 2012, the Solar Energy Industries Association merged with Solar Alliance, a group operating at the state level.)
Legacy Records for Solar Energy Performance Evaluation
Solar powered energy has come a long way in the past 20 years. But just how far is “a long way?” To quantify improvements in energy efficiency, data going back many years is collected and analyzed – basically, a solar energy analytics program is applied to the big data over a set time period to find trends.
Convert records of activities such as panel performance improvements, customer utility cost reduction, and increased efficiency into new formats to compare data from different time periods seamlessly. Again, the technology of big data and analytics for solar saves time and money for providers.
Analytics Uncovers Global Solar Opportunities
Are you running a global solar provider? If so, centralized data storage allows comparisons across regions, countries and continents to evaluate opportunities and performance worldwide.
Find New Markets and Product Lines
Well-organized data is more than simply large quantities of information; it may very well hold the keys to identifying new product lines, areas for improvement, potential new sales campaigns, new target markets, and future trouble areas in your own solar business as well as in the solar energy sector as a whole. And thinking of data in these terms may point to profitable opportunities in the solar industry. However to find the opportunities, your data must be organized in a sensible and methodical records management system, so data retrieval is easy, efficiently delivering the information needed to feed new and developing analytics programs.
Members of the solar industry are becoming aware of the importance and opportunity of data extraction, and they continue to voice concerns over several issues directly related to records management in the solar energy sector. For example, at the Solar Power International 2012 general session, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) president and CEO Julia Hamm mentioned performance monitoring, metering equipment and forecasting software as important technological issues that will affect the advancement and adoption of solar power in the future. But in the meantime, take a look at your records management program. If it isn’t optimized to easily apply an analytics program that will help you help your customers, meet regulatory requirements, and uncover new sales opportunities, it’s time to look at a new system to organize your solar big data.