By Laura Holt
As the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar subside, clean energy companies face increased pressure to boost profitability from their assets. Knowing what you own and managing operations efficiently remains critical to success, whether in wind or solar farm development, commercial operations, or asset management.
Global leaders in renewables harness technology to connect employees with real-time data and a common visual language, in order to simplify land asset management. The following five examples highlight how they make their organizations smarter, using land management and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software to combine mapping and advanced analytics.
Leading renewable companies democratize GIS data across their organizations; location-based analytics offer insights impossible to perceive via tabular data alone.
One renewable utility, with more than 500,000 electric customers, depends on GIS when setting up renewable projects. An acquisition project involves multiple workflows - often running in parallel - from appraisal and survey work, to environmental planning and contract negotiation. Each project has multiple tracts of land, each at a different stage in each workflow. That makes determining overall project status difficult.
Maps solve that challenge. They can show each workflow as a series of color-coded tasks, and allow each tract to display in the color of the last task completed in that workflow. Workflows can be toggled to instantly view where each tract is in the appraisal process, contract negotiation, etc. With map data live-linked to land records data, the company gets real-time project status maps.
Integrating land management and GIS does more than keep maps real-time; it can reduce time setting up new wind farms.
Another renewables company, with over 30 years of experience and 15 GW in development, took the innovative approach of using GIS tax parcel information to create new records in the land system. A simple interface allows users to select tax parcels in the GIS. Users can then choose which tax parcel attributes to import and populate with optional data. Data entry time was reduced by a factor of nine. Now they can load multiple parcels to create new wind farm projects in minutes - complete with polygons, landowner details, and legal descriptions.
Organizations with hundreds of leases, easements, or power purchase agreements need a land records system that allows for extraction of meaningful data insights without investing in technical staff. At a minimum, land management software should have robust search capabilities to query and return a list of matching records that can export to a spreadsheet, using a command such as “Show me all the wind leases where I have the right to renew.”
Beyond sorted and filtered spreadsheet lists, one of the world’s largest wind power producers, with operations on three continents, uses first tier querying to drive both canned and custom reports so they can drill down to the data view they want. Dashboards roll up data from all levels of reporting and display it in lists, graphs, and charts, to answer timely questions like “What is the status of my assets today?” and “What tasks do I need to complete to maintain my land rights?”
Few aspects of land management are as complex as royalty clauses. Often based on multiple variables, these calculations typically escalate over time, and may include minimum amounts or true up payments. Many operators still use spreadsheets for these convoluted payment calculations. By using land management software, it just takes seconds for industry leaders to leverage those spreadsheets to create digital payment records in a repeatable process.
A major North American company, with about 30 GW of solar and wind projects, uses land management software to automatically import production and sales data to generate production royalties. The company runs the sales and production numbers through calculation spreadsheets attached to each lease to auto-calculate what each payee should receive. By incorporating spreadsheets into the land records database, payments are created automatically, with all payment variables available for reporting and inclusion in payee remittance letters.
Acquiring and maintaining land rights requires regular communication with landowners. Land management software should provide easy ways to record landowner communications, create letters, and let payees know how royalty payments are calculated.
One producer, with wind farms in six states, uses its land system to auto-generate payee remittance letters. For each wind farm, all the royalty payments for the quarter are processed with the click of a button. The system writes the payments to a history table, outputs a list of payment details that is consumed by accounting software, and automatically generates a letter to each payee that includes details about how the payment was calculated. These payment variables and their values are pulled directly from the database, and the letters are customized with the company logo and wind farm name.
The land management and GIS software you choose can affect how much time you spend inputting its data and extracting any actionable meaning from that data. The software should help you stay competitive by providing diverse ways to view and manipulate information about land rights and facilities, without requiring database expertise.
Laura Holt is Manager, U.S. Software Operations for Pandell, which delivers Software-as-a-Services (SaaS) products and services to 500+ energy companies worldwide. Pandell’s cloud-hosted product suites help finance, land, and operations teams conduct business more effectively.