Article by Kevin Christy, Head of Innovation & Operational Excellence, Americas: 

Increased collaboration in solar hail mitigation is essential. Here’s how we’re doing it at Lightsource bp.

The solar industry is hard at work combatting climate change, and we hope the collective efforts of clean energy allies will eventually help humanity deescalate the climate-driven natural catastrophes that increasingly afflict our world. Still, we will never be able to prevent these hazards altogether. In recent years, it’s become increasingly clear that extreme weather, such as severe hailstorms, has the potential to drag down both clean energy generation at solar farms and stakeholder returns.

Lightsource bp had not yet built projects in West Texas when a major 2019 hailstorm hit other solar projects in that area, but the event proved eye-opening for the industry at large, and certainly the insurers that help protect our assets. The real reckoning for Lightsource bp came at our 2020 insurance renewal on our largest project, when we saw new hail-specific deductibles and coverage in our Operational All Risk policies, transferring significantly more risk exposure from insurer to us, the owner.

The solar industry at large was already seeking solutions; tracker manufacturers were developing protective “hail stow” modes and site operators were exploring the potential of on-site hail sensors. I saw opportunities to be more proactive, more efficient and ultimately, more resilient. Thankfully, I work in an organization where the seeds of innovation germinate easily. It didn’t take much to convince my colleagues that this was a problem worth solving. With that, Lightsource bp’s project management, engineering, IT, and insurance teams got to work.

Enter “Project Whiskeyball,” Lightsource bp’s take on a comprehensive hail mitigation program. Our approach includes a number of innovations, from proactive alerts through post-event assessments, with the goal of creating a fully automated hail mitigation system in 2022. We’ve found that having a proven program to reduce damage and loss can result in better insurance terms for developers and increased confidence for investors. It is also key to ensuring we generate as much clean power energy as possible to help accelerate the decarbonization of the energy sector.

I firmly believe that “rising tides float all boats,” and so I call on my solar energy peers to increase collaboration and information sharing industrywide. In that vein, I published a technical article detailing Lightsource bp’s hail mitigation innovations in PV-Tech Power journal, Volume 27, May 2021. I would encourage solar plant developers, financiers, owners and operators to read this in-depth piece here, share in our lessons learned, and work together to reduce the risk to our plants, their pro formas and our insurance partners’ bottom lines.

Kevin Christy first published this article on LinkedIn in on October 5, 2021. To leave a comment or question, please view the original post here.

What The Hail? Mitigating Hail Damage on Large Scale Solar: Kevin Christy on the Power Players by Origis podcast

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About the author:

Kevin Christy is a veteran renewable energy industry executive. He co-founded and served as COO of utility-scale solar developer Axio Power from 2007, which developed a >1,000MW pipeline of projects and was acquired by SunEdison in 2011. While at SunEdison, Kevin managed the North American utility-scale development portfolio and later served as COO of the North America Utility team. He also served as General Manager of North America for SunEdison’s Global Services O&M and asset management team, negotiated gigawatts of PV O&M agreements, and served on the Advanced Solutions energy storage team developing next-generation commercial applications for battery energy storage. During his tenure as General Manager of SunEdison’s Global Services O&M and asset management team, Kevin oversaw the operation of 3.7GW of assets across North America. Read Kevin’s leadership story here.