PV monitoring systems are software-driven devices that track the performance of a solar energy installation. They vary in terms of what they track and how it’s displayed, but most provide real-time and historical data, performance-based alerts, web-based (or cellular) monitoring and some give details on weather and some let you customize the presentation.

But most often, we see that the monitoring solutions at a solar plant are only at the inverter level. Did you know that such a conventional approach to choosing monitoring solutions makes it difficult in detecting losses at the DC-side?

It is assumed by most customers that the inverter provider takes care of monitoring. After all, there are some useful parameters listed on the inverter monitor from time to time. But the depth of monitoring data that typical inverter-level monitoring provides may not be sufficient.

String-level monitoring, which comes with advanced monitoring capabilities through its’ extensive data acquisition can make a big difference to plant performance in the long-term.

A solar plant deployed with a string-level monitoring system gathers inputs from inverters, string combiner boxes, weather station (which comprises pyranometer as well as instruments for measuring cell and ambient temperatures) and net meter. All these add a high degree of reliability and ensures that under-performance of the plant is mitigated.

Through this advanced monitoring capability, a faulty panel or set of panels can be narrowed down to the string level by identifying the reduced power generation in a particular string. For example, if the fault is reduced to a string of 20 panels, it would be pretty straightforward to detect the faulty panel and replace it, unlike in an inverter-level monitoring system.

Rather than increase the energy yield, it would be appropriate to say that a string-level monitoring system helps reduce the maintenance turnaround time. It detects faults faster than a conventional inverter monitoring system thereby preventing energy generation losses, which effectively results in higher electricity generation.

Of course, the cost factor is high when such superior monitoring capabilities are introduced.

But the advanced monitoring capabilities that come with it can help save a lot of money for a solar plant expected to function for 25 years.

Today, distinct monitoring solutions are available for the commercial and industrial solar systems of various sizes and can be customized according to customer needs. For customers interested in going the extra mile, inclusion of superior monitoring solutions as part of the solar system might be a good idea.

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