Real-Time Monitoring for Solar Plants and Rooftops: Maximize Production and Reduce Costs

Published on 21 Oct, 2023
Free photo beautiful alternative energy plant with solar panels

As more nations strive to meet their Net-Zero goals, there is a rising need for a transition from non-renewable to renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy sources currently generate 29% of all power produced worldwide, and their share is rapidly increasing. By 2021, solar PV installations had a combined installed capacity of 842.14 GV, according to a Fortune Business research. Solar power is the second largest renewable energy source after wind. This growing market presents a great opportunity for Facilities Management companies who are looking to diversify into new industries. To manage this growing demand there needs to be increased focus on innovation and technology. Real-Time Monitoring in Solar plants presents a broader scope for asset performance management.

Real-time monitoring in the context of solar plants refers to the continuous and instantaneous tracking of different parameters and performance metrics of a solar power generation system. It involves gathering, analysing, and presenting data from the solar plant instantly and without any delays. This real-time data is essential for ensuring the efficient and reliable operation of solar power installations. 

The benefits of real time monitoring in solar plants

For the efficient and effective functioning of the solar power generation system, real-time monitoring in solar plants offers a number of significant advantages. Here are a few key benefits:

Performance Optimisation: Real-time monitoring makes it possible to continuously track the efficiency of solar panels and inverters. By rapidly recognising concerns such as shading, soiling, or equipment malfunctions, operators may optimise the energy output of the solar plant, ensuring that it performs at top efficiency.

Quick Fault Detection: Through continuous real-time monitoring, any anomalies or problems in the solar system can be rapidly detected. Early detection enables timely intervention, reducing system downtime and minimizing repair costs.

Enhanced Maintenance Planning: Data on the system's performance and health are collected continuously. This data can be used to plan maintenance activities more effectively. Predictive maintenance strategies based on real-time data analysis help avoid unexpected failures and reduce operational disruptions.

Accurate Energy Forecasting: Real-time monitoring helps in accurate forecasting of energy production. In order to manage the integration of solar power into the electrical grid and maintain grid stability and reliability, this information is essential for grid operators and utilities.

Safety Improvement: Real-time monitoring can improve safety by alerting operators to potential hazards, such as overheating components. This early warning system guarantees worker and equipment safety while preventing accidents.

Remote Monitoring: Real-time monitoring frequently comes with remote access features that let operators check on the status of the plant and make changes from any location with an internet connection. This is especially useful for extensive solar installations spread across a big geographic area.

Cost Reduction: By identifying and addressing issues quickly, real-time monitoring can help reduce operational and maintenance costs. Additionally, it can boost energy output, maximising the return on investment (ROI) for owners of solar power plants.

Implementing a real-time monitoring strategy for solar plants

To ensure the effective and consistent operation of the system, real-time monitoring strategies for solar power plants must be implemented in a number of crucial steps. Here is a detailed explanation of how to put such a plan into action:

  • Define Objectives and Requirements:

Start by clearly defining the objectives of your real-time monitoring strategy. What specific parameters and metrics do you want to monitor in your solar plant? Think about aspects like energy output, the state of the equipment, the environment, and safety.

  • Select Monitoring Equipment:

Considering your established objectives, pick the monitoring tools and sensors that are most appropriate. This may include solar irradiance meters, weather stations, power meters, temperature sensors, and data loggers. Make sure the equipment you choose works with your monitoring system.

  • Select Monitoring Software or Platform:

Invest in a real-time monitoring software or platform that can collect, process, and display data in real-time. Although there are many commercial options available, open-source alternatives can also be taken into account for cost-effectiveness.

  • Install Sensors and Data Loggers:

Install sensors and data loggers at important locations within the solar plant. Critical parameters like solar irradiance, temperature, voltage, and current should be monitored with the help of these. Make sure the installation is carried out accurately and safely.

  • Documentation and User Training:

Train your team in charge of system monitoring how to use the monitoring software efficiently. Provide clear instructions and documentation for analysing data and troubleshooting.

Future Trends and Growth Opportunities of Real-Time Monitoring in Solar plants

Real-time monitoring in solar plants has a promising future because of technological improvements, the growing use of renewable energy sources, and the demand for more sustainable and efficient energy production. Following are some projected trends and areas for expansion in this industry:

Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML):

Real-time monitoring is anticipated to be significantly influenced by AI and ML algorithms. With the use of these technologies, it is possible to predict equipment breakdowns, maximise energy production, and improve system efficiency.

Predictive Analytics:

The use of predictive analytics will become more prevalent. Operators of solar power plants will rely on predictive models to foresee problems and arrange maintenance in advance, minimising downtime and repair expenses.

Digital Twins:

Digital twin technology will be used to create virtual replicas of solar plants. By simulating different scenarios, these digital twins can aid operators in enhancing plant performance and troubleshooting problems before they arise.

Energy Storage Integration:

As energy storage systems (e.g., batteries) become more common in solar plants, real-time monitoring will expand to include these components. For grid stability and energy reliability, monitoring and controlling the charge and discharge cycles of energy storage systems will be essential.

IoT Sensors and Connectivity:

The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to expand in solar plants, with more sensors and devices connected to monitor various parameters. This will give a deeper understanding of how the plant is operating.

Grid Integration Solutions:

Real-time monitoring technologies will advance to give grid operators more thorough and precise information about solar plant output, enabling improved grid management. This is due to an increasing focus on the integration of renewable energy into the grid.

Hybrid Energy Systems:

Real-time monitoring will be adapted to accommodate hybrid energy systems that combine solar with other renewable sources, such as wind or hydroelectric power. Optimizing the performance of these hybrid systems will be an emerging area.

In conclusion, real-time monitoring in solar plants has potential for continued growth and innovation, driven by technological advancements, increasing renewable energy integration, and a focus on optimizing energy production, reducing costs, and enhancing sustainability. For Facility management companies and professionals in the renewable energy and monitoring sectors, these changes present a wide range of opportunities.

Set up a Real-time Monitoring System at Your Solar Plant

Xempla as a real-time monitoring solution helps you bring live visibility into solar plant operations and maintenance. It establishes a single source of truth for your asset performance and maintenance data. With Xempla, you can identify problems in real-time and fix them before they compromise plant productivity or curtail the useful life of PVs.

Automate workflows, troubleshoot faster

Access a built-in library of automated workflows for use cases specific to asset classes like chillers, AHUs, FCUs, cooling towers and more. Or, with no programming at all, build your own workflows that determine what counts as a deviation or opportunity in the context of your facility.

Precision monitoring at speed and scale

Pull up crucial data points through real time monitoring of your assets and facilities by connecting diverse data sources across different sites. Implement best practices throughout your portfolio with standardized workflows for similar asset configurations. Scale with precision and speed, streamline operations effortlessly.

Multiple integrations, one platform for efficiency

Xempla integrates with BMS, CMMS, sensors and work order management systems vendor agnostically, helping you make the most out of your building data. Organize and manage your O&M activities, leverage Xempla’s insights and recommendations to pave the way for highly proactive teams and fuel business wide efficiency - all under one roof.

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