25 July 2012
As the demand for more abundant and economical solar energy generating installations increases, the demand for technologies supporting solar power continues to grow, too. Solar engineers are developing more sophisticated, cheaper photovoltaic systems, arrays are better designed to complement the environments they’re built in, and inverters are easier to engineer and install. Technological advances in the industry are making solar power cost competitive and increasing the likelihood that solar as an energy source will become more desirable.
Installations consisting of several solar technologies are most successful when the complete system’s inputs and outputs are closely monitored and managed. The successful application of a solar installation monitoring system provides quantifiable measurements that support the continued advancement of solar energy. Tracking the performance data reported by monitoring software is central to achieving milestones in the clean energy industry as a whole.
With the solar energy monitoring display at the Denver Federal Center in Colorado (US), the institution is able to showcase the positive impact they’re making on the city’s environment
Solar energy monitoring companies use several techniques and tools to provide quantified information to engineers that can then be turned into proof points for investors and financiers who are considering a new or expanded installation. When selecting an energy monitoring system, evaluate the following features to best reflect the success of the installation.
Monitor in real time
A main feature to look for in a sophisticated monitoring system is the ability to monitor system data in real-time. Real-time capabilities allow for customized alerts that maximize production, provide a needed level of predictability and makes the system more manageable overall. The real-time data should also be available for managers to view and assess around the clock. Many energy monitoring systems are available in the cloud and can be accessed from mobile devices and tablets. This feature is important should an issue arise during off peak hours. Mobile capability can also prove useful as visualisation during a presentation to potential investors and financiers.
Custom dashboard and reports
The capacity to customize dashboards and reports is also crucial to a solar installation system. Customized dashboards allow installation managers to use the system in a way that best fits their work style and accurately reflects the company. Performance reporting should be tailored to each stakeholder to build solid relationships that can impact future installations. Customized reports should be made available to potential investors, to agencies and others tailored to operations and maintenance. Customizable dashboards and reporting features have proven to be one of the most advantageous tools for operation managers.
Measure performance ratios
As part of customized performance reporting, access to data that can measure performance ratios will drive a successful installation. Many companies have taken advantage of energy monitoring systems that can provide specific data sets to measure the overall performance ratio of their solar installation. A sophisticated monitoring system should provide easy access to this data. Performance ratio data can also be useful when the time comes to commission the system. Yield data can also allow for the detection of operational problems.
Display environmental impact data
When investors are making a decision to support an installation, they often want to leverage data on the positive impact that the system has on the environment. A valuable energy monitoring system should be able to provide this information in an elegant and easy-to-understand way. One way that companies and institutions are making this information available is by displaying dynamic kiosks in areas of high traffic, such as a company lobby. One such example is the solar energy monitoring display at the Denver Federal Center in Denver, Colorado (US). The institution is able to showcase the positive impact they’re making on the city’s environment through interesting environmental information, statistics and real-time monitoring displays. Installers can highlight lobby displays as an important connection to the community.
Capture cost and consumption rates
Other important tracking capabilities of an energy monitoring system should include the ability to capture cost and consumption rates, all aspects of a PV panel’s lifecycle, detailed maintenance needs and security. All of these features, including those noted above, should work together to drive increased revenue and ultimately positively affect the performance of the installation and reputation of the installer.
Technologies related to solar power will continue to advance as demand for alternative energy options increases. The most successful installations will use these advanced technologies by purchasing the best equipment and recruiting a seasoned staff. On top of this, sophisticated energy monitoring systems will measure the most important components of the installation to contribute to the increased use of solar energy.
About the author
Robert Schaefer is Chief Executive Officer of AlsoEnergy, based in Boulder, Colorado (US). AlsoEnergy provides monitoring and financial management software to renewable energy developers, manufacturers, and investors.