High Tech Solar O&M

November 27, 2017

Insights from the SolarPower Europe Digitalisation & Solar Report

In this digital age, data becomes almost as important as the energy produced by the systems, particularly as it relates to how the systems are maintained and managed and how they interact with the grid.

The first report in the world to look at the intersection of solar PV and digitalisation was issued by SolarPower Europe this past October 2017.  With multiple media articles and a swell of report downloads and interest from within the industry, the report warranted more attention and is being enhanced and repackaged for further promotion at the upcoming Digital Solar & Storage event, December 4-5 in Munich.

Put together by over 25 members of the SolarPower Europe Digitalisation & Solar Task Force the report, “seeks to answer how solar can make the most of the market opportunities of digitalisation, and how digitalisation can be a driver for more solar deployment. It looks at new and improved business models, the digitalisation of the entire solar value chain from manufacturing to operations and maintenance, and digital integration of the technology into the grid.”

To get insights into the solar operations and maintenance (O&M) aspects of the report, Solar O&M Insider talked with Task Force members about how their company offerings are shaping the future of optimization of big data in solar PV.

This Solar O&M Insider episode features, in alpha order:

  • Sonia Dunlop, Policy Advisor, SolarPower Europe; Lead for Digitalisation and Solar Task Force
  • Alison Finch, Chief Marketing Officer, Huawei Solar Europe
  • Vassilis Papaeconomou, Managing Director, Alectris; SolarPower Europe’s O&M Task Force Leader, and
  • Rubén Ron, Head of Section for the Solar Unit, DNV GL

For the full Solar O&M Insider discussion listen to the podcast.

The Impact of Digitalisation on Solar Operations, Maintenance and Asset Management

The solar O&M sector is already highly digitalized, but new digital technologies become viable as their cost decrease.

“The section on operations and maintenance and asset management is one of the ones that’s gained a lot of interest because this is a segment of the PV value chain that’s the most digitalized, and where there is the most activity in terms of the application and the creation of new digital solutions,” said task force lead, Sonia Dunlop.

“Monitoring systems already measure and process a huge amount of data from large-scale solar plants: energy meter data, irradiance, module temperatures, weather data, string level monitoring and AC and DC side inverter measurements. As technologies mature only data that can generate value and be monetised will be collected, thereby reducing the data collection costs and making processes more efficient.

Advanced software is also used in the management of operational data: interventions, reaction and resolution times, event types, final diagnosis of cause and cost of interventions (both in terms of labour and materials).” Source:  Digitalisation and Solar

Key areas for the application of digital solar O&M and asset management advances outlined in the report include improved asset lifecycle management, predictive maintenance, remote sensoring and control, cloud computing, digital field workers, drones, satellite forecasting and 3D printing.

Three high tech innovations in digitalisation for solar O&M and asset management that showcase cloud computing prowess and developments in the software arena include:

  1. Huawei FusionSolar® Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis
  2. ACTIS, Solar ERP, Integrated Digital Platform for Operations, Maintenance and Asset Management
  3. Veracity, a Digital Ecosystem by DNV GL

 Alison Finch Huawei Solar EU High Tech O&M Solar O&M Insider T

Huawei FusionSolar® Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis

“Digitalisation is absolutely key to helping us reach the point where the solar industry can be competitive with all forms of energy generation,” said Alison Finch of Huawei.  “We’re not just talking about renewables but all forms of energy generation.”

One example of Huawei innovating to enable competitiveness and lower solar’s LCOE (levelized cost of electricity) is a unique piece of software called the Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis. As Finch explains, “It’s highly digitalized. It can be managed remotely from the PV plants and we can detect faults at string level.”

“You can quite significantly reduce your LCOE with solar PV by using this, because you’re not sending electricians on site, in remote places, to do sporadic testing to see if the plant’s performing. Instead you just run it from a remote office to check if the plant is performing and if the yields are what you expect. If you do detect a problem, then you can get the right resource, into the right place, very quickly to sort it out,” she said.

ACTIS, Solar ERP, Integrated Digital Platform for Operations, Maintenance and Asset Management

“One of the basic considerations that we’ve done in the very beginning when we were starting in this market, , was how could we possibly manage the data and our activities in the most efficient way with a target to bring the optimum results to our customer. And by optimum, I don’t just mean the technically optimum, but the financially optimum,” said Vassilis Papaeconomou of Alectris.

“We developed and use internally a platform [ACTIS] that integrates all sources of information in one single database in order to draw informed conclusions and decisions, including what is financially optimum for operating an asset.”

ACTIS is called a Solar ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software because it is an integrated platform, “integrating information from monitoring systems, from field activities, from the cost perspective. Anything that relates to data and information relating to operational assets,” he explained.

“There’s going to be basically three types of solar software,” said Papaeconomou. Those will include “grid-related, operations-related, and technical predictive maintenance and technically-related software packages, that will, by definition, have to communicate with each other and exchange data and information.”

 Ruben Ron DNV GL High Tech O&M Solar O&M InsiderDNV GL’s Veracity

“DNV GL is totally committed with the digitalisation of services and we support our customers in the digitalisation path. I will say that we are providing offerings related to all trends mentioned in the report,” said Rubén Ron for the company.

DNV GL, which acquired GreenPowerMonitor last year, has recently introduced the new Veracity ecosystem.  Ron explains, “Veracity is a platform that includes a marketplace where customers can access all DNV GL’s digital services and applications, but also services from third parties. Veracity also includes a community for developers to make it easier to develop new applications and analytics. It was launched in early November, and hopefully it will be one of the most important digital tools in the market soon.”

As described on the website, “Veracity is designed to help companies unlock, qualify, combine and prepare data for analytics and benchmarking. Veracity will give you access to industrial applications and data analytics services that can help you make better use of your data to optimize your data. Here you can combine your own data with other data sets available for purchase or subscription, to create new insights or solutions.”