Are you an EPC looking for Superior Solar Monitoring Solutions?
Talk to Solar Mango Sourcing Team to Get the Best Solution!
Solar Monitoring Systems analyze various performance parameters, supervise the functioning of critical components and report the progress of each of them for a solar power plant.
Solar power plants, especially large solar farms, today have sophisticated monitoring systems. These systems enable solar power plant operators to streamline operations and monitor the critical activities on a continuous basis.
Solar Mango, the #1 Solar Guide, can assist you in this.
Importance of Choosing the Right Monitoring Solutions
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The selection of monitoring systems is an endeavor that is often overlooked during power plant design. Superior monitoring solutions ensures the following:
Effective O & M+–
Ensuring that an effective O&M framework is in place, is what decides the future performance of these plants. With an effective Monitoring system, O & M Company can get a bird’s eye view of the different power plants he is operating through a single-login portal.
It compiles, analyses and manages massive quantities of time-series data generated by sensors such as pyranometers, string monitoring units, energy meters, inverter data units, etc. and update you through cloud based system.
String Level Monitoring+–
Reduced Turnaround Time+–
Minimal Energy Losses
Now, just think of the losses that could happen if similar faults remain unchecked for a longer period of time.
How to Ensure You Are Adopting a Superior Solar Monitoring Solution?
There are many monitoring solution providers offering a range of solutions varying from PLC-based to ones that employ embedded systems.
With EPCs partnering mostly with inverter manufacturers for their monitoring solutions, they miss out on the best solutions in the market.
Take Solar Mango Assistance in Choosing the Right Vendor for Solar Monitoring Solutions
Solar Mango can be of invaluable assistance to you in selecting the optimal vendor for supplying solar monitoring solutions.
Solar Mango’s Expertise in the Solar Sector
Solar Mango is one of the most respected brands in the Indian solar sector. Considered the #1 solar guide, our expertise in the technical, market and commercial aspects of solar energy has benefitted over 1500 stakeholders – ranging from industries, commercial establishments, small businesses, entrepreneurs, government, educational institutes and more.
Through our focused consulting assignments and research reports, and our team of industry specialists, we bring in in-depth expertise in many critical aspects of solar power, especially solar PV.
Solar Mango’s Contacts in the Indian Solar Sector
Being a pioneer in solar power industry research and consulting (we have been serving the Indian solar power market since 2009 when the solar power growth was just beginning), and also owning some of the leading online resources for solar energy in India, Solar Mango has one of the most extensive contact networks with vendors, specialists and experts in the field.
Vendors We Work With
Over the last decade, we have interacted extensively with monitoring solution providers in the country and have an exceptional understanding of the market. Our interactions with these vendors have been in all the key dimensions – technical, strategic, operational and marketing.
During this period, based on our work, we have identified select vendors who are the top of the heap when it comes to the key parameters – quality, reliability and flexibility.
We work with vendors both small and large, and having operations in different regions in India. While specifics of our vendors vary, all of them have some things in common – very high quality and reliability.
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Monitoring Solutions – FAQs
What is a PV monitoring system?
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. A PV monitoring system essentially involves
- Capturing the power plant/system performance indicators
- Analyzing the plant/system performance indicators
- Identifying the problems affecting the performance of the PV power plant
- Reconfiguring/Re-calibrating the plant as required, eliminating the performance bottleneck.
The first is done using sensors/meters and data loggers. Quite a few data loggers and inverters have the ability to export data and let the operators look at it visually over the web.
What are the benefits offered by PV monitoring systems?
The typical monitoring software that comes does a reasonable job of identifying the gross level under-performance. But, plants can definitely benefit from more advanced monitoring solutions. Some benefits are
- Able to see change in the performance and raise a flag before the problem actually happens.
- Monitors not only performance of the plant but also the health of various components.
- Helps the plant owners identify any warranty breach so that they can get compensation from the manufacturers.
What are the types of monitoring solutions available?
Typically , there are 2 kinds of monitoring system solutions.
- On-site/inverter monitoring solution – For many customers, an inverter’s basic display is informative enough. It is easy to access—right on the front of the inverter—and provides a basic level of monitoring, which often includes instantaneous power output, daily energy production, and total to-date energy production.
- Remote monitoring solution – Remote monitoring options offered with some inverters can provide the same basic system performance information in a portable device, allowing homeowners the luxury to view the data anywhere with internet connectivity.
How do solar monitoring systems work?
With some variations, the way most monitoring systems work is through use of a data logger such as that from Solar-Log, which collects performance information at the site of the PV installation. It then sends the information to a server, which processes it and displays it so the homeowner or operations manager (in the case of multiple installations) so they can see how the system is operating and know where and when there are problems.
Principle: The output of a solar panel, essentially current and voltage, are stored in the memory of an inverter. These stored values are sent to a central control unit. Now using different means of communication channels like Ethernet, Internet, dial up access, GSM etc. the data is transmitted to a server from where alerts or status messages are sent to the users via SMS, email etc.
What are some of the unique features offered by premium monitoring solution providers?
- Easy-to-use dashboards that provide EPCs a common platform to view the performance of all their power plants
- Better alerts and analytics capability that provides stakeholders updates in the form of emails and SMSes
- Spatiotemporal analysis of the generation from panels placed in different directions and thereby providing useful analytics for optimizing solar panel layout
- Mobile platforms (such as android application) wherein information on generation details, historical data and status of inverters can be viewed anywhere.
How does a string-level or modular monitoring system perform over a conventional inverter-level monitoring system?
A solar plant deployed with a string-level monitoring system gathers inputs from inverters, string combiner boxes, weather station and net meter. The weather station comprises pyranometer as well as instruments for measuring cell and ambient temperatures. This adds 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.
What are some of the system parameters that can be viewed on the inverter display?
- PV Input (DC)
- Cabinet Temperature
- Room Temperature
- Active Power
- Apparent Power
- Reactive Power
- Power Factor
- Active Energy
- Power Grid
- Inductive Reactive Energy
- Capacity Reactive Energy
What kind of market do monitoring system providers cater to?
Typically, monitoring solution providers offer separate solutions for the rooftop and ground-mounted solar segment. Even in the rooftop segment, the residential and commercial segments too have distinctly different monitoring solutions.
But, due to the large scalability of ground-mounted solar projects, this is where most of the market lies. Except for the larger residential solar markets like Germany and US, in the rooftop segment, solar monitoring solutions are generally offered for solar project sizes greater that 50 kW in the commercial and industrial segment.
How can monitoring solution providers mitigate the problem of high price barrier, especially for the rooftop segment?
Some innovation driven monitoring solution providers plan to overcome the price barrier by providing a complete open-source platform so that anyone can take and modify the software. Similarly, they also use an open-source hardware by which some drivers can be taken from the monitoring solution provider itself. This adds a certain degree of flexibility due to which EPCs or system designers can further improve the existing solution to provide unique solutions catering to customer-specific needs.
What is the significance of the spatiotemporal analysis feature offered by some solar monitoring solution providers?
This feature enables analysis of generation of panels placed in different directions thereby providing useful analytics for optimizing solar panel layout. For example, a spatiotemporal analysis of energy generated by panels placed along a specified direction (say the north and west) for a particular rooftop plant, can help in identifying differences in generation patterns along the two directions and clearly indicate if the relative generation is lesser in one direction. Providing the site engineer with such insights can significantly reduce the turnaround time.
What is the time period (or frequency) at which the energy generation data is measured in a sophisticated solar monitoring system?
Even a net/gross meter can be typically used to measure the energy produced. But, instead of a monthly basis, a PV monitoring system monitors the amount of energy produced during short time intervals – perhaps every hour or every 5 minutes. The latest solar monitoring solutions can provide high speed monitoring data at interval of 5 seconds.
The recording frequency requires more sophisticated meters than the residential ones called data loggers. Data loggers feed data into a memory system that can be archived for use at a later time. They also have communication interfaces (Ethernet or serial ports), which allow a computer to connect to it and retrieve the data.
What is data logging?
The generation an performance data from a solar power plant can be stored in inverters memory or in external units called data loggers. Data loggers feed data into a database that can be archived for use at a later time. They also have communication interfaces through Ethernet or serial ports that allow computers to access the data.
Different solutions are available on the market. Some producers offer also additional memory increase or upgrade. Better data loggers offer monitoring functions (data logging) for various environmental and additional system related parameters what can give the user detailed overview about the whole system. Additional parameters that can be monitored are module- and ambient temperature, solar radiation, solar irradiation, wind speed (hybrid systems), in some cases also air pressure and air humidity (sophisticated electronic weather station) etc.
What are some of the advanced analytics capabilities offered by IoT-based solar monitoring solution providers?
Some IoT-based solar monitoring platforms provide excellent performance analytics through provisions for the following:
- Calculation of performance parameters like Performance Ratio (PR) and Capacity Utilization Factor (CUF)
- Spatiotemporal analysis of generation
- Root cause analysis to evaluate factors that impact energy production
- Offline analysis in case the data has to be downloaded to your system for a much more in-depth analysis
Can the monitoring data be easily understood by a typical commercial or domestic consumer who does not have professional expertise in analyzing it?
As a matter of fact, the monitoring data can be viewed on the inverter screen or on the web portal in the case of a remote unit, and easily understood by a typical consumer. Easy-to-use dashboards and excellent flexibility through the addition of various customizable features have improved the accessibility of monitoring data.
What are the typical vendor categories for solar monitoring systems?
Solar monitoring systems market is currently split into 2 vendor categories:
- Independent software providers such as AlsoEnergy and Meteocontrol
- Inverter manufacturers such as SMA
- Downstream solar firms such as First Solar
There is trend towards fewer independent monitoring companies in the market. For independent monitoring solution providers to survive they must be able to integrate well with the inverters. There should be a well-tuned interaction between the data acquisition hardware and the software package.
Can third party modifications or upgrades be incorporated into a solar monitoring system?
Many independent service providers of monitoring solutions have superior functionalities in its monitoring unit when compared to an inverter manufacturer that offers in-built monitoring solutions as part of its product. As a result, some inverter manufacturers find it beneficial to offer third party integration of monitoring systems to their inverter solutions. For example, all Delta solar inverters are compatible with the third party monitoring systems Web’log from Meteocontrol and Solar-log from Solare Datensysteme GmbH.
Most independent monitoring solution providers are compatible with a large range of inverters. This offers EPCs/installers an power plant operators a high degree of flexibility.
How much can a string-level monitoring system improve the energy yield of your power plant?
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.
What are the components that are managed/monitored by a comprehensive PV monitoring system?
- Energy Meters – For electricity yield measurements electricity meters or true-rms power meters are used. The inverter integrated instruments are not sufficiently precise especially for utility-scale plants.
- Pyranometers – Incoming radiation measurements are made using pyranometers.
- Weather Station – Measures wind speed, wind direction, ambient temperature, and relative humidity
- Sensors – an array of sensors for making various measurements
- Ambient temperature sensors
- Panel temperature sensors
- String combiners
- AC subsystems
How can the data analytics capability of monitoring systems help in the long-term maintenance of the solar plant?
As the data provided from different input terminals in a monitoring unit accumulates, it can be used to predict production and usage trends and help the investor/owner better plan for future events.
What is the typical cost of a monitoring system?
It is difficult to given exact numbers on cost of monitoring solutions as there is an increased component integration of monitoring solutions due to which it is merged with the inverters and electronics in a PV system.
The investment typically allocated to monitoring and data logging may average 1.5-2 percent of a total plant’s capital expenditure, with that figure somewhat higher in the residential segment, and lower in larger utility-scale installations. The more sophisticated the monitoring system, the better the solar plant performance and the more costly the solution.