Editorial Feature

The Benefits of Digital Twin Technology for Solar Plants

Earth is experiencing the impact of global warming, such as more frequent and intense storms, heat waves and drought, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and warming oceans. If significant action is not taken, climate change will change the planet, making it challenging for humans and animals to survive. 

solar industry, solar panel, digital twin

Image Credit: Fly_and_Dive/Shutterstock.com

Given the significant role of burning fossil fuels, there is pressure to move away from this non-renewable source to clean, renewable sources. Many alternative forms of renewable power have already become well-established, including wind, solar, bio-fuels, hydrogen, hydropower, tidal energy, ocean thermal, and geothermal.

Solar power generates less than 4% of the world’s energy. However, it is the fastest-growing form of renewable energy. Its use is projected to grow five-fold by 2050 due to its relatively low cost, low maintenance, ease of installation, and dependable energy source, amongst other benefits.

With solar power on the rise and poised to play an essential role in helping the world to reduce emissions associated with human activity, the technology must be optimized.

Massachusetts-based leader in lifecycle management software for the solar industry, Raptor Maps, has developed solutions that support the solar industry’s growth by allowing it to scale efficiently. The solutions offered by Raptor Maps are vital in helping the solar industry overcome pain points that could hinder its global large-scale adoption.

Analytics Improve the Efficiency of Solar Power

Raptor Maps, an MIT-born startup that creates software to manage the solar lifecycle, aims to ‘enable the solar industry to scale efficiently’.

It is the solar industry’s leading provider of lifecycle management software. The US company designs technology to increase the performance of solar technology, reduce its costs, and standardize and compare solar photovoltaic assets across a company’s portfolio.

MIT engineers Nikhil Vadhavkar and Eddie Obropta founded Raptor Maps in 2015. They received investment from Y Combinator to fund their cutting-edge software development that converts data collected via aerial inspections and on-site sensors into actionable high-value system analytics and reports.

Through this software, anomalies that impact solar energy production can be accurately identified and localized to enhance the efficiency of large-scale solar operations.

The advanced solar analytics, insights and productivity software offers vital features, including:

  • Allowing solar companies to access a digital twin of their solar sites (a dynamic model that provides a system of record for solar assets)
  • Aerial thermal inspections and analytics
  • Year-over-year comparisons to enable the extraction of degradation measurement and financial analysis
  • Solar analytics
  • Report sharing tools
  • Aerial solar site inspections
  • Data normalization
  • Serial number mapping
  • Equipment records
  • Warranty claim feature
  • Mobile tools

These features enable the standardization and comparison of data collected from solar panels across different installations, the analysis of which helps to increase performance, reduce risk, and increase return on investment.

Solar Lifecycle Management Software Identifies Underperformance

Raptor Maps analytics and benchmarking software has demonstrated that it can effectively increase solar output by identifying areas of underperformance.

The system was used to analyze 2021 data collected from manned and unmanned aircraft inspections carried out across 20 GW of utility spanning 32 countries and 66 million solar modules produced by various manufacturers.

The analysis revealed that there had been an uplift in power affected anomalies from 1.85% in 2020 to 2.63% in 2021, translating to an impact of 100 MW worth of energy production.

The analytical report classified sources of the anomalies as environmental conditions, such as overgrown vegetation, off-nominal inverters, and activated bypass diodes.

The report produced by Raptor maps arranges the anomalies at the level of the system, module, and sub-module. This information enhances solar power output and reduces operating expenses via root-cause anomaly analysis.

The report produced in 2021 reveals that anomalies are becoming more frequent across solar assets each year. This increase in anomalies, alongside the increasing costs of supply chains due to various economic factors, highlights the need for advanced analytical solutions, such as that offered by Raptor Maps, to maximize solar power output.

It is essential for upscaling solar projects that key stakeholders leverage data and analytics to help them make informed actions that increase efficiency and reduce overheads.

The Future of Solar Plant Digital Twin Technology

In the coming years, it is predicted that the global capacity of solar power generation will rapidly increase. However, there are several barriers it must overcome to enable it to reach its full potential.

The solar industry will need to leverage solutions, such as Raptor Maps, to overcome key barriers to the widespread adoption and upscaling of solar power.

The world must shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Solar shows great potential to provide a considerable portion of the world’s energy supply. However, to ensure its success, it must be optimized, and costs must be kept to a minimum - intelligent analytics are a solution.

Efficiency is not the only hurdle that the solar industry must consider. For example, the true ‘greenness’ of the sector has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.

While the energy they harness is renewable, constructing solar panels is not entirely green. The mining and transportation of materials used in solar panels contributes to greenhouse gases. The carbon footprint of a single solar panel is estimated to be between 14-73 g of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This will also need to be addressed before solar power can reach its full potential as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The success of the growing solar industry will, therefore, rely on innovation and input from different areas to overcome all significant challenges.

References and Further Reading

About Raptor Maps [online]. Raptor Maps. Available at: https://raptormaps.com/about/ (Last Accessed January 2023)

Advanced Analytics, Insights & Productivity Software for the Entire Solar Lifecycle [online]. Raptor Maps. Available at: https://raptormaps.com/ (Last Accessed January 2023)

Beth Howell. 2023. Whats The Carbon Footprint of Solar Panels? [online]. The Eco Experts. Available at: https://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/solar-panels/how-eco-friendly-are-they (Last Accessed January 2023)

Ima Jackson-Obot. 2022. Energy crisis is making solar power more attractive [online]. FT Advisor. Available at: https://www.ftadviser.com/investments/2022/10/05/energy-crisis-is-making-solar-power-more-attractive/ (Last Accessed January 2023)

Renewable Energy Is Growing Quickly Worldwide - Here Are The Industry Trends Investors Pay Attention To [online]. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/qai/2023/01/18/renewable-energy-is-growing-quickly-worldwidehere-are-the-industry-trends-investors-pay-attention-to/ (Last Accessed January 2023)

Shane Carey. 2022. Raptor Maps Publishes 2022 Global Solar Inspection Report [online]. Raptor Maps. Available at: https://raptormaps.com/press-release-solar-energy-aerial-inspection-report-2022/ (Last Accessed January 2023)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.

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Comments

  1. GSL Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd. GSL Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd. India says:

    Digital twin technology has many potential benefits for solar plants, including:

    Improved Performance: Digital twins can help optimize solar plant performance by simulating various operating scenarios and predicting the impact of changes in factors such as weather, equipment failure, and maintenance schedules. By identifying potential issues before they occur, digital twins can help reduce downtime and improve energy output.

    Cost Savings: By providing insights into plant performance and maintenance needs, digital twins can help reduce costs associated with equipment failures and downtime. Additionally, they can help identify opportunities for process optimization, reducing operational costs over time.

    Better Asset Management: Digital twins provide a virtual representation of a solar plant's assets, allowing for improved monitoring, maintenance, and management. By integrating data from various sources, such as sensors, SCADA systems, and weather forecasts, digital twins can provide a comprehensive view of the plant's performance and help identify potential issues before they become major problems.

    Increased Safety: Digital twins can help improve safety by allowing operators to simulate hazardous scenarios and develop response plans. This can help minimize the risk of accidents and improve overall safety at the plant.

    Sustainability: By optimizing energy production and reducing downtime, digital twins can help improve the overall sustainability of a solar plant. This can help reduce the environmental impact of the plant and support the transition to a cleaner energy system.

    Overall, digital twin technology has the potential to provide significant benefits for solar plants, improving performance, reducing costs, and supporting sustainability efforts.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoCleantech.com.

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