Getting 5 or ten basis points of improvement in a solar panel installation can be the difference between making money and making a lot of money, most of which will then be re-invested back into more capacity. This week Libelium, has partnered with SmartDataSystem, which runs a hardware agnostic cloud platform, to build a system which uses IoT sensors to make solar more profitable.
The idea is to use Libelium Waspmote sensors to report back to a controlling system on Solar outputs, typically the Performance Ratio or PR. This is the percentage the installation is performing at compared to its best possible output from the original design. PR has to be maintained at between 80% and 90% to get sufficient power out of a solar farm. Libelium Waspmote sensors can speak to central controlling systems over WiFi, 4G and LPWAN Sigfox and Lora networks.
PR can be affected by things like the temperature of the module, whether or not any part of the panel is in shade, how strong the Sun is, conduction losses due to the configuration, dirt that has accumulated on the panel surface and how efficient each inverter is. Of course it is no good knowing all these things unless there is something you can do about at least one of them. For instance if one panel is under performing, or gets shading at a certain time of day, or has dirt on it a series of sensors like the Waspmote, can identify this in real time and alert a human.
The idea is to measure module temperature, solar irradiation, ambient temperatures and wind speed and use it to allow a continuous comparison of what the power output should have been, compared to what it actually is.
Given that Solar is going through exponential installation rates right now any sensor business which can hitch a ride on the back of it can experience the same kind of growth – up at the 40% to 50% CAGR globally.
The new kits developed by Libelium and SmartDataSystem allow users to monitor environmental and physical parameters directly related to the photovoltaic modules. Not only can they measure solar radiation, air temperature and temperature of the cell, they also allow direct integration with the photovoltaic inverters. Permitting the collation of information on string voltage and current, AC voltage and current, DC and AC energy generation, alarms, etc.
These kits also allow the integration of other modules such as electrical network analyzers to measure the energy consumed when it is near where the photovoltaic systems are located , for instance in off-grid enterprise applications of solar.
“Adding IoT technology to photovoltaic systems provides tools that help maximize the return on investment (ROI) through a tight tracking of standard solar metrics such as the Performance Ratio, Solar Coverage and Inverter Efficiency among others. For existing systems, it can help detect design errors and optimize solar panels cleaning programs” says Adan Salcedo, Business Development Director at SmartDataSystem.