Author: Saori Minamino & Marcel Langone, Solarplaza
Worldwide, Operations & Maintenance (O&M) for Solar PV plants is increasingly gaining attention, and rightfully so. However, just like markets can be very different, the companies providing services for operational solar plants can vary greatly as well. Because local presence and market understanding are so key to providing effective service, few companies manage to be successful service providers in more than one or two markets or regions.
Japan is a particular market, with a huge installed capacity (32.4 GW of industrial and utility-scale PV plants with capacity above 10 kW, by the time of writing) and therefore a serious business opportunity for companies specializing in services for operational solar plants. To get a grasp of such specialized companies, we decided to look into the largest O&M providers active in Japan in terms of ‘third party services’, strictly referring to companies that do not own the assets they provide services to (even if O&M is not their only activity). Although it is not simple to draw conclusions - as data and definitions of activities always require a level of interpretation - some interesting findings could be extracted.
Looking at 3rd party O&M services in Japan, the 10 largest service providers take care of approximately 750 MW, or 2.3% of the total installed PV capacity. Comparing these to figures across other (more mature) PV markets worldwide, we can state that market fragmentation in Japan seems relatively high.
The ‘top 3’ O&M providers each take care of a portfolio larger than 100 MW. Their share accounts for 480 MW of the total PV capacity.
6 out of the 10 companies in this overview are ‘completely Japanese’. The other four (juwi Shizen Energy Operation, Solarig Japan G.K., Adler Solar and Next Energy) represent either a foreign company based in Japan, or a joint venture, like the case of Next Energy with Alectris.
In total, 860 MW of solar capacity is expected to be added to these 10 O&M portfolios in 2017, based on the companies that shared their expectations with us. This means that on average each of these O&M providers will be more than doubling their service portfolio. Still, their share of the installed capacity will be just 4.1%, considering an added capacity of 7.3 GW for this year. In other words: it can still be an appropriate moment to become active in the Japanese market, market consolidation is at its very beginning.
The company expected to grow the most was Adler Solar Works, which will increase its O&M portfolio by a factor of 5. Adler Solar Works was followed by Solar Frontier, Ryoshin Maintenance and Technocare, who are all looking to triple their portfolio size this year.
If expectations are met by the end of the year, the top 10 will be significantly reshaped, with Solarig claiming the top spot (343 MW), followed by Omron (300 MW) and Adler Solar Works (240 MW), taking a leap from 7th place.
More than half of the companies profiled in this top 10 focus their services on industrial solar plants, with the average plant size ranging from 0.6 MW to 0.8 MW. Four of these companies however, have an average size plant in the range of megasolar (>1 MW). Currently, Solarig is the company that provides the most O&M services for larger plants on average (7.2 MW).
In terms of O&M employees within the different companies, most of these service providers dedicate 2 to 5 people per MW, while Solar Frontier and Omron are clear outliers, having resp. 9 and 10 people focusing on O&M.
6 out of 10 companies are based in Tokyo, while 2 are headquartered in Osaka, 1 in Nagano and 1 in Kanagawa.
The interviewed Top 10 third-party O&M providers with operations in the Japanese solar market shared with us their background and expertise. These companies range from module/inverter manufacturers to service providers that offer a further variety of services such as project development and plant engineering and construction.
Omron is an inverter manufacturer, providing services from EPC to O&M, both to plants with their own inverters and to plants equipped with inverters from other manufacturers. The company executes remote monitoring, which allows for quick action after detection of power failure, ensuring the stable operation of PV plants. The on-site restoration response service consists of 140 support centers that supply the replacement parts in a short amount of time.
Solarig provides the entire range of services from early development to operation. The company performs remote monitoring through their monitoring center in Tokyo and applies international O&M standards to local facilities spread around the entire country.
juwi Shizen Energy Operation is a service provider specialized both in operation and monitoring from remote location and on site maintenance. The company offers an additional diagnostic service that provides consultancy on inspection acceptance and transaction of solar plants.
Ecolife Engineering offers full O&M services, applying both preventive and corrective maintenance and operating plants remotely. Response time for emergency visits can be as fast as 3 hours. The company additionally provides reporting and advice for stable operation.
Solar Frontier is a CIS PV module manufacturer, with expanded focus on project development and O&M. Inspections and troubleshooting are also provided as a service to plant owners. Another major concern for the company is product quality assurance, which is secured by applying internationally standardized control tests.
Next Energy & Resources is a O&M service provider with a self-developed monitoring software that allows foreseeing and preventing failures as well as offering states-of -art reporting services and efficient inspection services. The company launched its JV with international O&M company Alectris last year.
Adler Solar Works is a full service provider with main focus on engineering/consultancy services and O&M. The company has several mobile labs for PV module quality assurance, in which acceptance tests are conducted. Additional secondary market experience.
Infini is a PV module manufacturer with extended focus on development, EPC and O&M activities. The company’s global monitoring center enables preventative maintenance for plant performance optimization. Fast response time service is available in case of emergency.
Ryoshin Maintenance offers full O&M activities, providing remote monitoring, periodic plant inspection and damage prevention measures. In addition, the company is active in formulating and promoting inspection guidelines and offering training/seminars on PV plants maintenance.
Technocare is a specialized O&M company offering a variety of services ranging from power monitoring to periodic plant inspection and maintenance (grass cutting, module cleaning, components repair and substitution). Provides training for O&M and reports about regulatory framework and market developments.