Kushal Kumar Varshney | CIO -CleanMax Solar Group explains how a SaaS-based business model has turned out to be a game changer during COVID
What is the operating business model of CleanMax Solar and how all does technology drive this business?
We are a turnkey solution provider company, primarily dealing into OPEX/RESCO business model. We also deal in CAPEX. In terms of technology perspective, now IT is no more a business support function, but it is a business enabler. We are monitoring all the sites on real time basis and that is one of the cutting-edges which we offer to all our customers. We also offer them the capability to monitor how the plant is performing.
What are the key technology solutions used by Clean Max Solar and what are their use cases?
We are using SaaS based applications. We use one application for monitoring all our Rooftop sites and another on the sites we are monitoring on real time basis. We are also using SCARA solutions for our open access or solar firm sites. We are having some small SCARA solutions throttle the generation. In case of rooftop also there are some regulations from DISCOMs. So, all those controlling and monitoring and everything else is happening through IT. We also set up a global operations center at CleanMax. We have regional teams, centrally also, and all of us are monitoring on real-time basis to ensure e everything is up and running andgenerations are on the higher side. If there is a reduction in generation, then we analyze it and take corrective action. We are also working on the AI angle.
What are the main technologies used in the energy sector? How are newer technologies like AI, analytics and AR/VR being used in this sector?
We are already using SaaS based applications. The plants are installed in someone else’s premises, and so we are using IoT SIM cards, using data loggers, connecting all our platforms, collecting all the data and monitoring on a real-time basis.
We are also exploring on AI related projects that come under cement and dust industry sector, as we need to increase our cleaning cycle. During a particular day time in-between 3-4, there is a shadow on a particular module. Although it is peak time of generation, but it is on lower side and it is not feasible to monitor manually. We are working on this how through AI & ML we can improve our generation and increase our uptime, which includes breakdown.
How are digital technologies helping CleanMax to tide over the current Corona crisis?
Since the beginning we decided that we would not have anything on-premise. Either we will go with other cloud service providers or use SaaS based applications. That was a very good decision which I still feel proud about t. That is the reason we are able to survive and today we are able to monitor our sites andeverything is controlled.
All the technological points be it Internet connectivity or other aspects were well taken care. User wise, 99% employees were already using remote connectivity. We are using best of the best antivirus at the end points along with ransomware protection, Endpoint Detection and Response solution (EDR).
In terms of collaborating tools, we were already Google Meet, Zoom. We also rolled out some other solutions which are available during pandemic. We are VPN ready so that those people who want to join can do through VPN.
What is your Energy Sale model and what is the role of technology in this model?
We are interested in generating maximum energy. If we are generating more energy, it means our revenue is more. Primarily, it is energy which we are selling under the OPEX/RESCO model. We are also doing CAPEX protect, where our revenue model is through O&M services.
Earlier it used to be a joint meter reading, where physically our person used to visit customer premises along with them and click a picture and then send it to the team or someone who was generating invoice. It was all a manual process. As the sites are scattered across India, they had to travel and good amount of manpower was involved and good amount of money was invested for doing all those things.
We developed an in-house CleanMax solution through an outsourced vendor. We developed a billing application through which automatically we are generating invoice. Anyway we are already collecting data for monitoring. There are now no revenue slippages, and on real-time basis we are having all the details available.
Clean Max offers both the build-own-operate model as well as the CAPEX model? What are the relative advantages of both and what role does technology play in each situation?
There is no upfront cost in OPEX model. It will come at a zero investment initially and you can use that money to invest in the core business. If you want to roll out to your project location, your sites, factories or offices, you do not have to wait for CAPEX approval, because it takes time. You need lots of in-house expertise if you want to do it on your own.
OPEX model makes more sense to the end user because their saving meter will start from day 1. In OPEX, the regulatory perspective and other approvals perspective are all taken care of by CleanMax. It is the customer’s choice, how they want to take it. We have shared the comparison on our website also.
Which are some of the major deployments done by CleanMax?
Tata, Mahindra, IIT, Amity, Denube, Dubai, India weather departments are all our customers. We also have many data centers in India as customers.
How does solar energy compare to other renewable sources of energy? What role do advanced technologies play in optimal harnessing of solar energy?
In India, we are having abundant solar energy available which is not the case with many other countries. We can install it onsite or we can have open access or solar farm kind of thing as well.
For other renewable sector like wind, it cannot be installed on site. There are particular areas where there is a good amount of wind energy available, and only there it can be installed. Also, the initial investment is very high. It has lots of technicality & maintenance issues because of moveable parts. However, in Solar it has solar panels having lifetime warranty. That way solar energy is more viable.
What is the technology behind Net metering? How does it benefit the consumers? How are technologies like AI or analytics used in Net metering?
Net metering is an incentive which is offered by Government. It is not offered by DISCOM to encourage them to use solar. Like if you are generating more solar energy in comparison to your actually consumption, what will you do with the excess energy? If you have net metering permitted and supported by DISCOM, then you can pump that extra energy into the grid and when your consumption is higher than the generation, that time you can pump out that extra energy from the grid.