Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity

Historically, it was necessary to over-design and over-build solar power plants to accommodate and make up for unforeseen generation losses.

Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy

Now, an emerging solar strategy is prompting plant operators to pursue every tenth of a percent of system performance via an improved understanding of the effect of equipment specifications, plant monitoring and maintenance on a plant’s performance ratio (PR); and therefore, on its bottom line.

The solar industry is experiencing a rapid technology boom that is continuously improving the granularity of solar designs, enhancing monitoring and advanced algorithms to fine-tune PV plant operations and management functions from an array of different perspectives.

Granularity in measurement and data analysis facilitates increased efficiency and results in higher energy yields, allowing plant managers to pinpoint substandard functionality better, enabling plant designers to improve systems and operators to improve yield via remedial action.

Solar Energy Performance

Detailed monitoring and analysis often start by addressing the most common environmental problem - the soiling of PV modules.

Kipp & Zonen’s DustIQ is able to monitor the loss of light transmission caused by dust – an issue that can rapidly accumulate and lead to a loss of energy conversion in the solar cells.

Granular monitoring also takes place at the power optimization level via complex smart inverters attuned to subtle deviations from the projected performance. The systems employ technologies such as maximum power point tracking, for example, the new FusionSolar string inverters from Huawei.

Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy

Software to Support Granularity and Bifacial

A key facet of evolving solar technology and a major driver of improved granularity is the development of more advanced software.

The 2019 PV Systems Symposium solar industry meeting in Albuquerque, USA, saw a range of research and development experts come together to explore and discuss solar modeling software advances, building on a foundation of popular plant design programs offered by companies such as PVsyst.

A number of discussions have focused on the advantages of bifacial modules – innovative new designs that collect reflected light from the surface below the module on the rear face and boost yield by double-digit percentages.

Bifacial designs are seeing a trend towards three-dimensional modeling, particularly around the impact of soiling.

These and other emerging technologies were displayed and discussed at the Symposium in May 202, co-sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories, CFV Solar Test Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Australia’s PV Lighthouse was one design solution garnering a great deal of interest. The SunSolve software employs SPICE - an open-source electronic circuit simulator – to deliver high performance ray tracing and advanced software to model bifacial systems.

The models incorporate real-world data sets, including weather measurement feeds from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) –  enabling as many as two billion ray calculations.

Further solar software technology development is taking place at the University of Iowa.

A team at the University has been developing a performance prediction model that employs a reverse ray-tracing method based on Radiance and Python software. This project is funded by the US Department of Energy SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP).

NREL’s V3 Bifacial Radiance software has been employed in the investigation of single-axis tracking bifacial design variables, including tracker table height, table separation and torque tube clearance.

These advanced software programs offer increasingly sophisticated algorithms, ideal for assisting solar system designers and operators in focusing on important data within key timeframes.

Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy

Optimizing Yield Using New Technologies

As more advanced solar arrays continue to be designed and constructed, robust monitoring of system operations and yield can be adopted.

In order to generate as much energy as possible, measurements are logged in terms of seconds, rather than minutes, with individual module performance evaluated against the performance of other modules in an array.

A common issue lies in the build-up of dust, pollen, sand and other soiling. This can rapidly reduce energy yield by double-digit percentages, requiring ongoing detailed analysis on solar modules. Thankfully, new technology like the DustIQ is able to measure a 1% loss of yield caused by soiling.

Fleets of camera drones are seeing increased use, offering real-time monitoring data with the ability to zoom in on specific modules, employing advanced heat-sensing technology to pinpoint hot spots in arrays.

Solar system owners are no longer required to dispatch a technician specifically to identify an issue with the generation system – this can be highlighted remotely, triggering the replacement of individual modules as appropriate.

Advanced Communication for Energy Monitoring

Communicating monitoring data with this level of detail is also opening up new areas of advancing technology.

Rather than utilizing hardwired cable to transmit data, solar plant monitoring systems are increasingly leveraging the power of wireless modes such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee and cellular mobile networks.

Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy

Utility power lines are also a viable option in the transmission of monitoring data, with the Internet of Things playing a key part in advancing monitoring technology.

Smart control systems and home automation offer the potential to alert users, allowing them to remotely engage in energy efficiency measures, such as heating and cooling, battery storage, washing machine operation and EV charging.

These systems often feature an analysis of the utility provider’s most expensive and most inexpensive electricity rates, empowering users to program home operations for maximum energy cost savings. These systems can also be linked with residential solar power generation.

Utility companies are increasingly using detailed solar monitoring data to help stabilize the grid during peak hours. This includes aggregated smart meter data available throughout distributed solar power networks, opening up new real-time relationships between generators, distributors and all sizes of consumers.

These relationships are helping utility companies to optimize the construction of new electrical energy capacity.

Solar-powered microgrids are enabling large buildings, communities and campuses to operate almost entirely autonomously.

As new energy storage systems become available, microgrids that support emergency services are able to switch to backup power immediately so that critical systems remain operational, for example.

Better Design and Detailed Monitoring

This array of technological advances is leading to an overall increase in solar energy plant performance ratios. As these ratios continue to climb, module prices continue to fall.

This combination of improved design and detailed monitoring contributes to solar energy’s increasingly cost-competitiveness compared to other power sources.

Acknowledgments

Produced from materials originally authored by Charles W. Thurston from OTT HydroMet.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy. (2021, September 23). Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity. AZoCleantech. Retrieved on October 19, 2021 from https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1309.

  • MLA

    OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy. "Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity". AZoCleantech. 19 October 2021. <https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1309>.

  • Chicago

    OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy. "Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity". AZoCleantech. https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1309. (accessed October 19, 2021).

  • Harvard

    OTT HydroMet - Solar Energy. 2021. Solar Strategy and the Increase in Solar Modeling and Monitoring Granularity. AZoCleantech, viewed 19 October 2021, https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1309.

Ask A Question

Do you have a question you'd like to ask regarding this article?

Leave your feedback
Submit