Fat Spaniel Technologies is beefing up its software and services to target the utility-scale solar energy market.

The San Jose, Calif.-based startup plans to offer software that helps developers analyze data for engineering and building solar power plants, said Tom Tansy, vice president of marketing for Fat Spaniel.

"The industry before has focused on monitoring and maintenance aspects of the solar operations. It turns out there is a tremendous need for data in early stages, when the project is first being conceived," Tansy said. "Project developers are dealing with incomplete, fragmented information."

By the end of the year, Fat Spaniel intends to introduce software that Tansy said would reduce the inefficient ways project developers current use to get information such as the regulator requirements, incentive programs, solar irradiance and other environmental information about proposed sites. The data would enable developers to speed up the development process and carry out better simulations and modeling for designing a solar farm.

Fat Spaniel also is rolling out two new products. One is called Solar Operation Services, in which solar power project owners would contract with Fat Spaniel for running the power plants, Tansy said.

"We would be the eyes and ears of these plants," Tansy said. "As issues occurred, we can do advanced diagnostics, and they can dispatch their own field crews."

The company, founded in 2003, began as a developer of monitoring and reporting software for renewable power plant operators. Many of Fat Spaniel's customers use the company's software because they must provide performance data from a third-party monitoring tool in order to qualify to getting state and other incentives.

For Solar Operation Services, Fat Spaniel would provide both the software and the staff to track energy production, monitor the performance of various pieces of equipment and detect any faulty parts.

With this offering, Fat Spaniel aims to expand its business from a strictly software and data provider to power plant management. The company is introducing this service and planning for the project-development software at a time when American utilities are aggressively signing solar power purchase agreements or building their own solar farms in order to meet state or their own mandates to provide cleaner energy.

Fat Spaniel also is targeting operators of large and distributed solar energy projects, such as companies that install and own systems for a residential community or entire city.

Customers who have signed up for the service include American Capital Energy, Tansy said.

The second new offering is called Solar Plant Vision, which would replace its Insight Manager. Fat Spaniel developed the Insight Manager to enable solar plant operators to do their own energy output monitoring and maintenance.

Solar Plant Vision includes new features to improve plant management, Tansy said. For example, the software could aggregate data about changing weather conditions and equipment failures to provide a more comprehensive analysis of a solar power plant's performance.  

The software could automatically note the addition or removal of solar panels and inverters when those changes are made, Tansy said. Previously, someone would have to configure the software settings manually to note the changes, he added.

Solar Plant Vision also provides billing features and software for educating consumers about solar. The software would display real-time performances of a solar energy system in kiosks in-store or at public places.

Overall, the improved software could reduce maintenance cost by up to 30 percent, Fat Spaniel claims. Roughly 500 of its existing customers in Europe and the United States have upgraded to the new software in recent weeks, Tansy said.

Fat Spaniel is one of many companies that strives to profit from a growing data management market for renewable energy generation. Its competitors include San Francisco-based Energy Recommerce.

The emergence of microinverters and other electronics that aim to monitor and boost power output at the solar panel level will require better management software, said Jim Hines, research director of Gartner.

"The trend for panel-level optimization represents a change in PV system architecture that will increase the data from the system. It will put additional demand on data management capacities," Hines said.

Fat Spaniel makes money from collecting an annual licensing fee for both Solar Operation Services and Solar Plant Vision. Tansy declined to disclose the fee structures.