The world of solar PV monitoring is evolving from traditional data logging to a more sophisticated concept, including robust forecasting and energy management tools. Changes in net metering policies and incentives mean plant operators, now more than ever, must ensure and maintain high solar PV plant performance to get maximized returns on their solar investment. A loss in power production from factors including inverter failure, cable damage, installation errors or dirty modules can often go undetected. Losses could lead to a serious financial impact on plant return, so fast detection of deviations in actual yield is crucial in preventing power loss.
Third-party monitoring can help with that. It ensures ideal and reliable PV plant performance through yield forecasting, real-time monitoring and consumption monitoring. Solar-Log’s goal is to help every installer and plant owner maximize their solar investment.
Yield forecasting provides a benchmark for solar installers to compare expected power output to actual yield. Possible yield forecasting tools include integrated satellite weather data, open source performance data from PVWatts, power produced by nearby plants and optional onsite weather sensors. Using these tools, the installer or plant owner has a more accurate projection of solar irradiance and PV plant power production.
The integrating of third-party monitoring can be seen, for example, on the Solar-Log WEB “Commercial Edition” platform, where the software automatically alerts installers or plant owners of deviations between projected and actual yield. Quick identification allows installers to correct inverter failures or plant issues, minimizing downtime and ultimately saving money. The plant owner benefits by knowing that the PV plant power production is constantly being monitored in relationship to the yield forecast and operating at its full potential.
Real-time, universal, inverter direct monitoring
A third-party monitoring platform with extensive inverter compatibility can also provide one centralized portal for the installer, eliminating the need to manage multiple different monitoring systems. Much like yield forecasting, inverter direct monitoring should be set up with automatic alerts to inform the plant operator of production loss—in real time.
Consumption monitoring is an underused but valuable tool and requires only the simple installation of an additional meter to monitor building load. Now, solar PV monitoring systems are able to measure home energy consumption in addition to solar energy production. They can also control whether a PV plant sends energy to the grid or straight into the building.
The data provided by this additional meter allows plant operators to detect increased homeowner or end-user power consumption. Actual financial savings or earnings can be verified with the data provided by a consumption meter. Plant operators can detect any increases in building power usage, which may be the reason why the solar plant return appears lower than expected. Consumption monitoring is also a useful metric when reporting plant earnings to investors and financing companies.
Third-party monitoring is an additional cost but can be worthwhile to prove high PV performance in the ever-changing regulatory climate.
This installation tip was provided by Anne Nelson, marketing manager, Solar-Log