March 5, 2019

PV monitoring: 23% of incidents responsible for 94% of yield losses

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Before we get too far into 2019, we’ve looked back to prepare an analysis of 2018, where 94% of the yield losses were caused by 23% of the incidents.

But what does this mean for operators, and how can smart PV monitoring solutions like Solytic help?

Our research covers 12,500 photovoltaic assets with a total installed capacity of 800 megawatts and with a focus on German-speaking regions. On average, the assets have a peak capacity of 64 kilowatts. Statistically, there are 24 incidents a year. The technical operator thus receives around two error messages per asset per month. He must then decide which of them are yield-relevant and thus which ones have to be fixed promptly.

Communication problems are responsible for over 50% of errors

More than every second fault is a communication problem (see diagram). This means that the internet connection is interrupted and the data logger or inverters are taken offline. It’s normally sufficient to restart the logger or inverter to get everything running smoothly again. However, these malfunctions don’t result in a yield loss. Although no data is transferred to the monitoring software, the asset continues to operate normally. Depending on the hardware, the data is usually stored offline temporarily, so in most cases there are no gaps in the data documentation.

The critical cases – inverter or asset failures

The rare but critical case of a complete asset failure is quite different. Statistically, this happens only once a year, but it’s the cause of around 40 percent of all yield losses. This large-scale failure can occur, for example, due to a technical network problem or extreme weather such as storm damage or lightning. The keyword here is “reaction time”. Immediate help from a solar installer is required as soon as the weather has calmed down.

Another serious event is the failure of an inverter. More than 50 percent of the loss of yield can be attributed to this. However, this category of malfunction only accounts for around 18 percent of the total number of messages. This can be caused by a fault in the insulation or a short-circuit due to corrosion damage. This category also includes a hot inverter due to a technical defect or excessive temperatures. In the cases of both PV asset and inverter failure, fast intervention is absolutely necessary.

Conclusion of the research

23 percent of incidents are responsible for 94 percent of yield losses. Looking at it from the other perspective, 77 percent of malfunction reports cause only 6 percent of yield losses. It’s therefore essential for the technical operators (O&M) to quickly recognize which malfunctions are actually relevant to earnings and which must be rectified quickly by the service partner. This is the only way to avoid major yield losses for asset owners.

In PV monitoring for assets with peaks between 30 kilowatts and ten megawatts, the main objective is to keep processes lean. The software can and must support monotonous tasks such as searching for yield-relevant errors, ticket management and creating reports. Solytic simply filters out hardware errors that aren’t relevant to earnings.

Hardware-independent software solutions such as Solytic combine all assets with multi-brand hardware components in a single software portal. The entire portfolio is monitored in real time. This is important so that the technical operator can meet contractually guaranteed reaction times (usually within 48 hours of the fault occurring).

Case studies on the individual incidents

In upcoming blog posts, we’ll share some case studies to show how operators work with Solytic to find yield-relevant errors faster and to minimize asset downtime.

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Konrad Perenyi

Founder

Digital entrepreneur since 2006, e.g. Rocket Internet, Quandoo and DailyDeal. Stops in USA, China, Singapur. Master at WU Vienna.