US EPC uses SenseHawk Software to process more than 3000 warranty claims during commissioning

6 min read

It was 2019, late November, at a sleepy town in eastern Alabama; a town that would soon be home to one of the  largest solar farms in the state. The EPC that was constructing this project was grappling with a problem that has  become all too common in the solar industry. The plant was fully built and the hot-commissioning deadline was  just around the corner, but for one major hurdle. The owner had requested for a thermal study of the plant; the EPC  was expected to resolve all major PV and electrical defects found during the study as part of punch list activity  prior to commissioning. With the worst of winter yet to come, the EPC needed a quick and easy solution – to both  identify and remediate thermal issues on the solar plant. Delays, what with cliff dates and liquidated damages  built into EPC contracts, would prove to be extremely costly.  
While aerial thermography studies performed post-commissioning (usually done by O&M, 6-12 months into the life of the asset) was quite common even 5 years ago, pre-commissioning studies are just starting to become de-rigueur. Owners recognize the benefit of catching thermal and electrical failures early, right after construction has been completed; more importantly – OEMs are increasingly recognizing the validity of these studies in processing warranty claims, subject, of course, to rigorous on-field analysis. Aerial thermography reports, after all, can only reveal a symptom – the root cause (which ultimately determines the validity of a warranty claim) needs to be ascertained on the field, either through visual inspection for damage, or IV curve tracing on defective modules. Most providers that perform aerial thermography provide simple PDF or CSV reports of thermal defects-the translation of these reports to action on field is a laborious process that involves print-outs, guesswork regarding the defect location, and a lot of heartburn.
SenseHawk’s software was being used for several activities during construction at the same site (including earth moving and construction monitoring); the EPC wanted SenseHawk to use it’s Therm software to tackle this problem. Since the site had already been on-boarded onto the platform, the Digital Twin of the asset, along with all the components and inverter-combiner box-string labels, was already available in the Core application.

Figure 1: The Digital Twin of the Solar Plant was present on the SenseHawk platform right from start of construction

The EPC had also completed an important activity that would prove to be very useful for warranty claims – during  the final stages of construction, serial numbers of every installed module had been captured and saved onto the  Digital Twin using the SenseHawk Scan app. 
Figure 2: Module serial numbers had been captured for all installed PV modules using the SenseHawk Scan App
The EPC had three weeks to identify, classify and remediate PV and electrical defects, on a 130MW site. The first two steps (identify and classify) were completed in one week – SenseHawk’s pilots completed drone data collection and uploaded images to the Therm platform (this took four days). Therm reports were available on the platform three days later – the reports indicated over 5000 defects, of various types, spread out over 900 acres. Two weeks remained for the EPC to fix these and closeout the punch list

Figure 3: The SenseHawk Therm application identified and classified over 3500 defects on the plant

SenseHawk had recently introduced SenseHawk Work – a suite of productivity tools specifically designed for management of tasks and workflows on the field. One important feature of the platform that can drastically reduce the time for remediation is the tight integration of SenseHawk Therm with the task management function. Each defect resulted in the creation of individual tasks that could be assigned to field teams, with detailed checklists for remediation, option to add attachments to help guide field personnel, and more.

Figure 4: Each defect resulted in the creation of a task that could be assigned to members of the field team

Figure 5: Each defect could have detailed checklists for remediation, attachments to help guide field personnel, and more
Each task contained the defect type, string number and temperature delta of the hotspot. The Project Manager was able to attach custom checklists to the tasks, one for each defect type. Defects were classified based on severity (string related issues were tackled first, followed by module related and finally by cell related issues). Multiple field teams were created; defects were assigned to each of them to enable quick investigation on field. These tasks would then show up on the SenseHawk mobile application – users were able to navigate to the exact locations of defects using their mobile GPS.
Figure 6: Field users could navigate to the exact defect location using the mobile application
Technicians went to individual defects on the map, and carried out investigations based on the task list. For instance, a large number of defects were found to be caused by cracked modules – something that seemed to be caused by a bad batch from the PV supplier. Photographs of these damaged modules were attached to each defect.

Figure 7: Field investigation for this defect revealed broken glass on the module – a manufacturing defect. Photographs of the damaged modules were attached to the associated task.

Another large set of modules had abnormally hot cells, most likely caused by a manufacturing defect. These defects were verified on the field through IV curve tracing, and screenshots of the IV trace were added to the task associated with the defect. The EPC was able to export the results of on-field defect investigation to excel, complete with attachments

Figure 8: Results of the field investigation were summarized in excel for easy reporting to the Owner and to the OEM for warranty claims

The excel clearly indicated the resolution status of each defect – some of them were resolved on the field, while many others (over 3500) were liable for warranty claims (the photos and other attachments made to each defect provided a quick and easy way to verify this). The EPC therefore submitted the excel file to the owner, who was satisfied that the defects were either already rectified or would be rectified through warranty claims, and cleared this particular punch list item from the EPC’s list. All this was done within 10 days of the thermal reports being made available to the EPC, well within the commissioning deadline.

Post-commissioning, the actual task of warranty claims remained. The serial numbers that had been meticulously cataloged prior to the thermal scan, proved to be very useful. Each defect had the corresponding module serial number associated with it. The owner was able to simply send a list of defective serial numbers to the OEM, who was able to quickly verify the claims using evidence already gathered during the on-field investigation.

Figure 9: Module serial numbers were available for each tracker row, making the warranty claims process seamless with the supplier

In this manner, a seemingly gargantuan task was completed in less than three weeks. The plant was operating at maximum efficiency from day one, and the usually complicated task of warranty claims was reduced to a simple checklist activity.

SenseHawk’s unique technology stack incorporates elements of drone mapping, machine learning, and lightweight mobile applications that can transform the way you run your solar plant. To know more, contact us today.
SenseHawk

SenseHawk

SenseHawk, Inc. is a provider of cloud based drone data analytics and productivity tools for the solar industry. With customers in 15 countries, SenseHawk solutions are used by solar & EPC companies for terrain analytics, construction monitoring, thermography and task management on solar sites

Sign up for insights and opinions from the best in the solar.

Leave a Comment