The Power of Location Analytics in the Solar and Wind Energy Industry

When wind and solar energy developers need to improve their alternative energy construction and operations, they can turn to Esri partner Aegean Energy Group. Its Maps to Megawatts solution, which is based on the ArcGIS platform, supports development, on-site analysis, site control, and reporting.

Recently, Aegean Energy extended the capabilities of Maps to Megawatts by enhancing it with ArcGIS Insights. This allows the company to streamline field data collection and deepen location analytics.

Field Data Identifies Obstacles to Development

Maps to Megawatts helps Aegean Energy clients with planning, strategy, and development. For developers looking for wind and solar opportunities, Aegean Energy does suitability analyses to identify any costly or challenging obstacles that might arise, such as safety, civil, or environmental issues. But the company needed a more efficient way to gather field data for analysis and promptly make the results available to stakeholders.

A screenshot of an ArcGIS Insights workbook
At Aegean Energy Group, ArcGIS Insights workbooks display inspection statuses for different audiences. For instance, site managers can see open issues and scheduled nacelle deliveries, while site managers can look at the link analysis to make sure data entry is going smoothly.

“Field information is important to us internally,” said Woody Duncan, senior vice president of Aegean Energy. “It also helps clients be strategic and methodical in project development, which is a time-saver and critical in this day and age. We have to have greater insight as we look for energy opportunities.”

How Aegean Energy received information from the field was in need of retooling, though. The company gathers large amounts of data about a project during construction, but processing that data was slow. From project photos that required cataloging and filing to paper forms that staff manually entered into a Microsoft Excel database, the workflow caused a significant lag in distributing information from the field. The company estimated that these sluggish and burdensome processes took around three months to complete. Moreover, Aegean Energy wanted to find a more efficient way to conduct analysis and quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) when analyzing data.

Doing So Much More with Data

In 2018, Aegean Energy implemented ArcGIS Insights to streamline data input, analysis, and reporting. This analytical software allows users to perform data analysis, document their workflows, and share analysis results with others. Now, the company uses Insights in various stages of the assessment process.

“We use Insights for quality control, reporting, tracking schedules, and budgets,” said Clint Cook, senior vice president of engineering and construction at Aegean Energy. “It’s exciting because we can now do so much more with data.”

Maps to Megawatts’ functionality includes construction monitoring that tracks inspection status. Using Survey123 for ArcGIS, field operations teams complete data forms to help Aegean Energy identify potential development issues. Once an operator submits a Survey123 form, the data gets processed in ArcGIS Online and loaded into a dashboard. Insights then automatically flags tasks that are open and ready for inspection. This gives inspectors an easy-to-see visual representation of where work needs to be done. Inspectors can then use Survery123 to update the task’s status, instantly closing the loop, and Insights tracks that change. This simple workflow has improved inspection efficiency.

Aegean Energy also uses the new Link Analysis tool in Insights to trace form entry errors—another aspect of QA/QC. Using a network of interconnected links, the tool identifies and analyzes relationships that are not easily seen in raw data. For instance, say a fieldworker inaccurately enters two locations on an inspection form. Since each inspection status task links to a specific solar pad number or wind turbine location, only one form can be entered for each. A link chart, with a clear graphic representation, shows a pad number with two different statuses, which indicates a data entry error.

“Using this tool saves hours of work,” said Duncan. “Previously, somebody would have to spend many hours trying to dig through the reports and figure out if information had been entered twice or if there was another issue. But with Insights, we can immediately find the problem. It’s like pulling a needle out of a haystack in an instant rather than months later.”

Aegean Energy also uses other products in the Esri suite to publish analysis results and expedite reporting. After staff members conduct suitability analyses, they make the results available to clients via the internet or through ArcGIS Online. Companies then use the results to do constructability assessments in the field.

In addition, Aegean Energy has made its data capture processes more efficient by implementing not only Survey123 but also Collector for ArcGIS. Employees use these apps to collect and organize data, quickly connect to the office, and share it with stakeholders.

“Using Collector and Survey123…allows our field folks to fill out all the information in the field and simply press a button to report results,” said Duncan. “[Viewing] that linkage during construction and across multiple dimensions is tremendous. To have the ability to go through an enormous amount of information and simplify it into what we need to see is terrific.”

Increased Accuracy, Collaboration, and Efficiency

For Aegean Energy, using ArcGIS Insights plays a valuable role in ensuring the accuracy of project-related documents. Fieldworkers and administrative staff simply log in to the app to easily view completed forms and make sure they are correct.

Insights also fosters collaboration by allowing stakeholders—no matter where they’re located—to view data and project-related developments. With web-based data and results available in one location, project managers, senior executives, site administrators, and other stakeholders can quickly pinpoint any issues, as well as whether a project is progressing on time and on budget.

And when it comes to data collection, staff at Aegean Energy no longer have to spend hours at the end of each day sorting through and sending forms and photos. The ease of transmitting field data has boosted efficiency and continues to help the company digitally transform its processes.

The newly streamlined workflows and location intelligence tools benefit employees both inside and outside the office. Fieldworkers now use tablets and mobile devices to complete forms and quickly share information and results on the web, while both the company and its customers have found great value in being able to view issues and track projects in Survey123 and Collector.

By enhancing the Maps to Megawatts solution with tools from Esri, Aegean Energy offers energy companies a clearer understanding of their operations and progress when undertaking wind and solar power development.

“For us, we live in maps. Everything we do is tied to where,” said Cook. “So the spatial data we gain from Insights is incredibly valuable. Otherwise, it’s just data.”