At Solar Data Systems, we understand how important it is to have a reliable product supplier and service provider when working in the solar industry. Products need to arrive on time, questions need to be answered quickly, and solar professionals need to know that their current supplier will be there to support them in the long-run. Longevity in this market is exceptional. This is why, we are proud to say that Solar Data Systems, Inc. is celebrating 10 years in business!
Establishing Solar-Log® in North America
10 years ago, the founders of Solar-Log® had a vision of providing solar professionals in North America with the same highly accurate performance monitoring solutions already in use around the globe.
Joerg Karwath invented the original Solar-Log® in Germany in 2005, “Back then, the simple motivation behind developing the product was to develop the best monitoring solution for solar PV plants. Low-cost, easy to install, web-based, manufacturer-independent, and with the best functionality,” says Joerg.
In 2007, Solar-Log’s global headquarters, Solare Datensysteme GmbH was founded in Binsdorf, Germany.
When asked how he envisioned the product benefiting the U.S. market specifically, Joerg answered, “From a technical standpoint, one huge advantage to Solar-Log® back in 2010 was the capability to read data directly from all the major PV inverter manufacturers on the market. This remains key for an outstanding monitoring system.”
Solar-Log® Founding Partner Thomas Preuhs adds, “As the market leader in neutral data logging and monitoring, it was a must for us to have a business location in the U.S. We knew Solar-Log® would help solar professionals worldwide. The U.S. solar market is one of the largest in the world, with great future potential in solar PV.”
Solar Data Systems, Inc. was founded as the U.S. Headquarters of Solar-Log® in Bethel, CT in September 2010.
“We decided on the East Coast location mainly due to the time difference between Germany and the USA, although we struggled with this decision at first,” says Thomas, “The biggest solar market in the U.S. was and still is California. We have many industry partnerships with European and German companies that were already established in California. Given these partnerships, we decided that we could best serve the entire market with an East Coast location.”
Solar Industry Lessons Learned and Challenges Overcome
Guy Thouin joined Joerg and Thomas as one of the founding partners in 2009. He was instrumental in helping to establish the original sales and marketing structure of Solar Data Systems.
“Breaking into a new market is a challenge for any brand,” says Guy, “Solar-Log® was practically a household name in Germany, but few people had heard of the product in the U.S. One of the first challenges we faced was establishing a team of qualified people to be able to handle both Sales and Marketing in a brand-new territory.”
Joerg Karwath spent 2 years in Bethel, CT helping the Solar Data Systems team establish the Solar-Log® brand in the market and develop U.S. focused products.
When it comes to lessons learned and the challenges that the team faced, Joerg says, “For me, most surprising from a business standpoint was the enormous diversity of grid and utility requirements throughout the U.S. which made the development of one simple product very difficult. Many states required the installation of a revenue-grade meter in addition to inverter-based monitoring. This led to the development of the socket meter product line with an integrated cellular modem in 2015.”
The Solar-Log® socket meters quickly became a popular product, especially for states with PBI programs like SRECs. This product line will be replaced in 2020 with Solar Data Systems’ own ArrayMeter, a highly accurate, plug & play revenue-grade meter.
Thomas Preuhs also found the difference in state by state requirements to be a challenge, “There have been and still are a wide variety of solar incentives and subsidies in the individual States and also in some larger cities. This means that the level of new construction varies greatly across the country in the U.S. You have to look at it state by state.”
From a sales and marketing standpoint, Guy found that consistency was key, “Once we started marketing the product, we needed to make sure that the message was consistent and constant. The Solar-Log® product line can do so much, and our job was to make sure the right features were promoted in the right territories.”
Late 2018, Solar Data Systems became an independently owned Service Partner of Solar-Log®. Silvia Blumenschein (Blumi), formerly the Global VP of Sales for Solare Datensysteme, is now the current CEO and General Manager of Solar Data Systems. She has been with Solar-Log® for over 10 years and now leads the Solar-Log® business in the U.S. Blumi is confident that the Solar-Log® products are the best way to protect the investment made in solar.
“I’ve learned a lot of new and interesting things over the last year and a half,” says Blumi, “I am very grateful for that. One thing remains the same, Solar-Log® significantly reduces the pain points for the installer and O&M service providers.”
Solar-Log® is a neutral and all-encompassing approach to solar plant monitoring. This professional energy monitoring and management system ensures that all of the relevant plant details are available to troubleshoot plants and reduce plant downtime.
“A neutral monitoring system, no matter how extensive it is, is initially associated with costs, of course,” says Blumi, “One of the challenges we need to overcome is educating the market. This initial investment is a long-term solution. It protects against losing money due to plant failures. Nobody likes losing money and it seems that everyone is short on time. Solar-Log® reduces the time it takes to detect malfunctions and makes sure that you don’t lose money with malfunctioning plants. The value speaks for itself.”
A Look to the Future
Solar-Log® products have evolved so much over the past 10 years. When asked about the new ways that Solar-Log® customers benefit from the products, Brigitte Beck, CEO of Solare Datensysteme, answered, “Today, Solar-Log® provides plant operators with an even faster and deeper fault analysis. It saves them considerable time and expenditure. Solar-Log® has been one of the few global companies to define a high, neutral and qualified level of protecting PV investments.”
“In addition to this,” Brigitte continues, “Customers benefit from our long-term and broad practical experience in the global solar industry.” Today, more than 326,000 plant owners, installers, and O&M managers trust in Solar-Log® to protect the investment that they made in solar.
When asked about her vision for Solar Data Systems in the future, Blumi says, “The vision for Solar Data Systems as a company is simple and clear: adding value for our customers, combined with a focus on Monitoring as a Service (MaaS). MaaS means that we provide a highly streamlined, data-driven solution through a combination of hardware, software, support, and services, to protect the solar investment. The unique combination of products, backed by superior services, ensures proper performance data collection, accurate analysis, and smooth plant management.”
Solare Data Systems has been expanding its product and service offerings to provide customers with more ways to monitor and troubleshoot solar plants. Most recent additions include a PV analyzer from EmaZys, a grid controller and DG Hybrid system from iPLON, and additional accessories including modems and routers from Teltonika. “Soon, we will introduce aerial inspection services and public displays,” says Blumi, “We also look forward to our portfolio expansion with the new ArrayMeter socket meters.”
“Long story short – at the end of the day, we want to offer our customers a way to save time and money. We also want to help provide additional options and ways to make money through services,” said Blumi.
Message from Solar Data Systems CEO, Silvia Blumenschein
“I would like to see Solar Data Systems be perceived as the go-to, leading service and solution provider for MaaS. We are the pioneers of this approach in the global solar business. Solar Data Systems has a highly motivated team that has made a significant contribution to the North American solar market. We put employees and customers first because when the team does a great job, everyone benefits. A lot has happened over the last 10 years. We have survived numerous consolidation phases within the market. The main constant is that we continue to develop and provide quality, reliable products and services, and top-notch support.”
Advice and Words of Wisdom for Solar Data Systems
From Brigitte Beck, “Solar-Log® has been and will stay a mature, reliable, neutral, and globally well-known, established solution. As the North American market is a very promising and growing market for Solar-Log®, we very much look forward to increasing our cooperation with Solar Data Systems. There are a lot of opportunities out there, so let’s get out there and let Solar-Log® become the installer’s best employee!”
From Thomas Preuhs, “With the new Service Partner setup and cooperation since late 2018, also especially with transferring the management to Silvia Blumenschein, it has been ideally managed to build and strengthen the bridge between the USA and Europe. Solar-Log® is a great system solution – and the U.S. is also a great and promising market. From my point of view, nothing stands in the way of a successful and bright future. I hope that the current team will not change for a long time and that Solar Data Systems’ promising and legitimate approach of becoming THE leading company for Monitoring as a Service, all based on Solar-Log® of course, will continue to further establish successfully.”
From Guy Thouin, “Keep focusing on how your products and services can solve your customers’ problems. When you ease common industry headaches, the products sell themselves.”
From Joerg Karwath, “Work hard, keep focused!”