Advanced Monitoring to Bypass DowntimesFri, 02/01/2019 - 15:58
Utility-scale renewable energy project developers are facing increased pressure to make good on their power-output projections throughout the entire life of their projects, set at 15-20 years. The road to accurate yield measurement can be paved by new metering technologies integrated in the early stages of the project but Alexander Wolf, General Manager of meteocontrol Central America, says many developers do not place enough importance on this aspect in advance.
“The different companies involved across the development phases of a PV project prioritize primary components, such as panels, inverters and mounting structures,” he says. “More often than not, less attention is put on the selection of an effective monitoring system, which can make a difference by significantly reducing downtimes. This could equate to hundredfold cost reductions for O&M in the utility-scale, commercial and industrial sectors.”
Germany-based meteocontrol started supplying PV monitoring residential systems in the late 1990s to secure the yield of PV systems and to regulate feed-in management. “Meteorological metering is crucial to determine with certainty a particular location’s irradiation levels,” says Wolf. “A PV project’s financial analysis is usually limited to yield reports.” Although he says these are important, they fall short in predicting the sun’s behavior on a particular day or a specific point in time. “A yearly average still encompasses future uncertainty,” he says.
To counter this uncertainty, meteocontrol uses irradiation sensors to collect valuable data for comparison with a PV plant’s power output. “Modules, inverters and cables are components that can translate into energy loss,” he says. “Our solutions depict a digital twin of the PV plant and can accurately calculate the critical performance ratio (PR) factor. In doing so, our customers can provide PR warranties to their clients against actual energy production to reduce the uncertainty factor.”
While the company’s first steps in Germany involved residential solutions, meteocontrol is solely focused on commercial, industrial and utility-scale sectors due to the economies of scale inherent to the size of these projects. “A single client can use our platform to monitor between 200 and 500 assets in one place in a user-friendly and efficient way,” he says. “We provide maintenance alerts, a specialized O&M application for the onsite technicians and fully-automated reports. Our platform is a centralized command center to realize preventive and corrective maintenance as time and cost efficient as possible.” Today, 45,000 installations worldwide are monitored by meteocontrol’s platform, equivalent to 13GW of renewable energy installed capacity.
Besides existing offices in the US and Chile meteocontrol extended its coverage in the Americas in 2017 by establishing a subsidiary to cover Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean, with presence in El Salvador and Mexico. Wolf is looking to promote its Blue Log X-Series Data Logger and Power Plant Controller, which is also able to limit the plant production under the concept of peak shaving or zero injection where needed. “The core of our business is to provide a one-stop-shop with our Data Logger for energy production, secure data transfer and evaluation,” he says. “At the same time, we offer all the required peripherals, including sensors, energy meters, local SCADA and remote-monitoring, all directed at C&I and utility-scale projects.” He says there is a gap between 500kW distributed generation projects and utility-scale projects that meteocontrol looks to fill. As Mexico’s market matures, he expects to see development of PV parks with 1-10MW of installed capacity to become more common.
Another of meteocontrol’s products that Wolf considers ideal for Mexico’s utility-scale PV projects as the market matures is its Solar Power Forecast in conjunction with its PV plant performance assessment as an independent third-party service provider. “This service enables us to provide technical due diligence in cases like ownership transfers. We analyze the state of all components and audit the PV plant for international certification, provide construction supervision and can ensure the technical solidity of the project.”