Fumihiko Arima: why Solar Frontier has never changed its O&M strategy

Fumihiko Arima, manager of the planning group at Solar Frontier KK’s engineering division, talks company know-how gained in Japan along with the O&M lessons taken on board as a manufacturer involved in plant management across the globe.

Solar Frontier’s Fumihiko Arima: “We are able to monitor, analyse and...

What is the best way to deliver solar PV operations and maintenance (O&M)? This question is becoming more important with the maturing of solar markets worldwide. And module manufacturers that manage large plants are uniquely placed to provide an answer.

Manufacturers can view O&M in the context of the full solar technology life cycle, from initial cell research and development to end-of-life disposal. Their experience in plant operations can feed back into product improvements and process enhancements.

And among manufacturers, Solar Frontier is considered an undisputed market stalwart.

Besides achieving a 20.9% conversion efficiency for its copper indium selenide (CIS) technology, the company supplies panels for projects as far afield as the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, USA, and Banwell in Somerset, United Kingdom.

Solar Frontier also manages a number of ‘megasolar’ or utility-scale plants of its own, such as a 13MW project at the world heritage town of Hiraizumi or an 11.6MW plant at Kansai International Airport.

While these projects are predominantly in Japan, the O&M experience that First Solar has gained from them is of value to plant developers in other key solar markets, such as those in Europe or the Middle East and North Africa.

Here Fumihiko Arima, manager of the planning group at Solar Frontier KK’s engineering division, talks to PV Insider about the know-how that his company has gained in its native country, along with the O&M lessons that it has learned as a manufacturer involved in plant management.

Q. Now you have been operating plants for a number of years, what O&M strategies have you found to be most successful?

A:Solar Frontier provides O&M services for solar power plants across Japan, ranging from several hundred kilowatt-peak in size to larger projects, such as the 11.6MW Kansai International Airport Solar Power Plant.

We have tailored our O&M package for the Japanese investor based on years of experience servicing the Japan and global solar energy markets. Our O&M package includes core services of monitoring, maintenance, site management and emergency response.

As a solar energy system solutions provider with operations from R&D through manufacturing to system services, Solar Frontier’s in-depth understanding of CIS also differentiates us from the others.

We are able to monitor, analyse and understand the hourly yield of solar power plants to ensure we can rapidly respond in the event of any downtime, ensuring maximised power plant output profiles.

Q. In contrast, what former practices have you abandoned?

A: Solar Frontier has maintained the same strategy since opening our O&M services to the Japanese market.

Q. What pricing strategies work best in O&M? Does it make sense to seek economies?

A:Solar Frontier offers customers in Japan with a one-stop system solution, from module supply through to system solutions and O&M. In this sense, the one-stop solution we provide enables cost savings.

More specifically to O&M, while we offer our core package of monitoring, maintenance, site management and emergency response, we can tailor our offering based on the needs of the customer.

Q. How confident are you in your warranty conditions? Can you give details of the levels of work carried out under/outside warranty?

A:In Japan, system warranties are generally offered by engineering, construction and procurement service providers.

To ensure reliability, Solar Frontier works closely with established, sustainable companies, including the Showa Shell Sekiyu group company Shoseki Engineering.

Q. What are the main supply issues you are finding in O&M, and how are you dealing with them?

A:We are not experiencing any supply issues in O&M.

Q. What new technologies are helping to improve O&M?

A:Solar Frontier provides sophisticated software that monitors the performance of the power plant and provides real-time updates and alerts to registered customers and personnel. This is part of the response we offer to maximise solar power plant output profiles.