Many operators are proud of their photovoltaic plants. Not only because they make a meaningful contribution towards climate protection and clean air, but maybe even because they drive environmentally-friendly car. PV yields put one in a good mood since cash can be earned by feeding electricity into the public grid. Many PV plant owners enjoy checking their PV yields every year, exchanging information with other photovoltaic fans and following the latest technological developments. A passion for energy management. However, their disappointment is even greater when something goes wrong and their PV yields are reduced. A photovoltaic breaking down not only is inconvenient, it costs a lot of money.
The picture above: No-one would claim that cats are mainly responsible for faulty PV plants – but if a cat were involved, but it would have every reason to feel guilty – as with our example in the picture above.
A solar year like 2018 produces high PV yields
During a solar year like 2018, photovoltaic plant owners are pleased with the high PV yields. They joyfully discus their high yields in groups, forums and flogs; share tips on the optimization of plants, commissioning and security, as well as monitoring and energy management. However, one also reads and hears about less pleasant stories: When a photovoltaic plant has a fault over a longer period, it can become rather expensive.
A yield loss from a photovoltaic plant can lead to back payments
PV plant operators who feed their solar power completely or partial into the public grid receive a regular feed-in tariff payment throughout the year. The payment amount is often determined by the yield from the previous year. Now if a fault that reduces the plants output develops slowly into a bigger problem throughout the year, the PV yields are also reduced accordingly. The plant operator has to pay back part of the payments received. How annoying: Not only that the summer weather is often variably cloudy. No: There is also back payment to make. Depending on the size of the photovoltaic plant, it could just be a small back payment for residential plant, but in the worse case it could be much more substantial. Not to mention PV plants in the commercial sector: Defectives here can lead to considerable PV yield losses since a large area is covered with PV modules.
Damage from rodents, broken glass, dirt: Risks for a photovoltaic plant
All sorts of things can happen to photovoltaic plants, even when they provide power reliably and maintenance-free for many years in most cases. The natural aging process plays a minor role with photovoltaic plants. More often the defects are due to broken glass, dirt or damage from rodents. It is especially unpleasant when mistakes during the installation and initial set up affect the performance or reliability of a plant.
Risks for a photovoltaic plant
Thermal cameras can detect faults at a photovoltaic plant. Image: Mnolf, Wikipedia, Lizenz GFDL & CC ShareAlike 2.0
Heavily shadowed areas, for example, are problematic. So-called “hot spots” can develop there due to technical reasons despite all of the precautionary measures taken by the manufacturer. They only become noticeable in advanced stages as scorched areas. However, even though they are not visible in early stages, they can be detected by thermographic cameras. Other components can also cause problems. Inverters, for example, may wear out over time. Without inverters, photovoltaic plants cannot feed the generated power into the grid. If one or several inverters break down, PV yields immediately drop drastically. Even minor, small parts can reduce a PV plant’s output and yields. Corrosion can start to develop if moisture gets into the PV plant’s connection boxes. That also reduces yields.
For many years now, the photovoltaic communities on the web have been discussing again and again how operators can recognize that something is wrong with their plant at an early stage. Hardcore PV beginners share their experiences: “I check my meter every day” – at least in the beginning you are motivated and enjoy doing it. Other photovoltaic plant owners are more pragmatic. They do not want to check their plants every day and would rather spend their time on better things. Experience shows: The enthusiasm to check the meter over time drops even for highly-motivated PV fans.
When checking the meter becomes a chore: PV Monitoring
Monitoring a photovoltaic plant with Solar-Log: ensures PV yields and return on investment
“In the beginning, one is rather diligent, writing everything down and checking the meter every day, ” an experienced PV owner writes in the Photovoltaic Forum about his person
al experiences with energy management. “But that goes down over time.” His conclusion about monitoring is: “The data logger that I originally did not want to spend the money on makes checking much easier. Especially since you can just log on from work quickly to take a brief look if everything is running smoothly.” And he already suspects: “In 10 years, I could imagine that one does not look at the meter for weeks and then possible not even notice when it broke down.”
The Solar-Log 50 transfers the PV plant data to the Solar-Log WEB Enerest™ online portal.
Solar-Log™ takes care of this task for photovoltaic plant operators: The system monitors your photovoltaic plant around the clock. It makes little difference whether it is a rodent chewing on the cables, a storm or just components wearing out that causes yield reduction. As soon as there is a noticeable change in the solar plant’s performance, you receive a notification – also when even you are not near your plant.
Back on the grid quicker thanks to monitoring
With a web portal and app, you are always informed with up-to-date information and receive immediately notifications when there are faults. You as the operator and your installer can detect many defects directly online. Experience shows: If a malfunction is detected with the help of Solar-Log™, then the cause is generally taken care of within a few days.
Additional information about PV monitoring with Solar-Log:
• Solar-Log 50 Gateway – optimized for small PV Plants
• Solar-Log WEB Enerest™ – The portal for professionals and end customers
Bernhard Jodeleit ist seit 2008 in PR und Online Marketing tätig, seit 2011 selbstständig und seit 1992 Journalist. Zu seinen Schwerpunkten gehören High-Tech-Themen und die Energiebranche.
Bernhard Jodeleit has been active in PR and online marketing since 2008, self-employed since 2011 and journalist since 1992. His focus is on high-tech topics and the energy industry.