A solar installation is a big investment. When you’ve made the decision to own a system outright you want to ensure it is performing at optimal levels so that you get the best return on investment (ROI). But how do you even approach the issue of optimal production? How are you supposed to know when maintenance is required? The answer is simple; you monitor it – closely.
As a part of Solect’s Customer Services department, we have created a system monitoring process to ensure our customers’ solar installations are performing at the highest level, so they don’t have to worry about it themselves. The main goal of a monitoring program is to be able to recognize an operating issue as soon as possible, and rectify it before it has a substantial impact on production – and on your bottom line.
How does monitoring work?
So how does a company juggle the monitoring of hundreds of systems? It requires a keen eye, lots of data, and multiple methods of problem identification.
At Solect, we monitor over 200 solar energy systems ranging from 10 kilowatts (kW) to 2.75 megawatts (MW) in size. Our systems monitoring team works out of a Network Operations Center (NOC) located in our main office. A series of algorithms in the NOC provides 24-hour tracking and scans real-time data from each monitored system through a web-based secure portal. If a system is not producing electricity at optimal levels, Solect receives immediate notification from the NOC that atypical production levels in any part of a solar system have been detected.
Once a production discrepancy is detected, our monitoring analyst takes a deeper dive into the situation, looking for a specific reason the system or its subsection is not functioning properly. This includes a series of various tests;
- If the discrepancy is coming from one part of the system (i.e. one inverter, one panel cluster), the monitoring analyst will compare the under-producing section to other parts of the same system. If the problem section is performing significantly differently from the rest of the system, there is likely a technical issue that needs resolution.
- If the entire system is performing at sub-optimal levels, the analyst will compare the under-producing system to systems of the same size and general location that should be performing similarly. If the problem array is performing significantly differently from similarly-sized systems in the surrounding area, there is likely a technical issue that needs resolution.
- If the situation cannot be explained through performance comparisons, the analyst will check the location of the system with a radar weather map, to check if the production fluctuation could be caused by weather patterns, such as accumulated snow or a series of clouds. In a state like Massachusetts, this check is especially important.
Once the analyst has a better idea of the issue at hand, s/he will pass the information to our services dispatcher, who will assign a services technician to the site to promptly rectify the issue. Solect’s real-time monitoring process allows our team to quickly identify potential problems, and resolve any issues in the most efficient way possible before causing major losses.
As with any complex technology, solar PV systems can experience technical malfunctions that can affect performance. With a robust monitoring system in place, an experienced solar developer can help ensure that customers’ solar investment produces at optimal levels, protecting return on investment and keeping the solar power flowing.