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New Field Approach to Solar Array Troubleshooting, Fault Isolation, & Maintenance

solar power monitoring

This is a special guest post from Ray Burgess, CEO of Solar Power Technologies. It covers some more minute (but very important) aspects of solar power that I think are worth a quick read, or, if you are involved in solar at this level, more than just a quick read…. Enjoy the piece and let us know if you have more on this in the comments below!

by Ray Burgess

When it comes to managing the performance of large-scale solar plants, a variety of questions must be answered to address whether a solar system is performing well in terms of energy harvest, as well as whether or not it is cost-effective, safe, and achieving ROI expectations.

As solar systems grow in scale and complexity, engineers and field service technicians who are responsible for the operations and maintenance (O&M) of large commercial and utility-scale PV arrays must answer the following:

  • How do I know that the array is producing the maximum power possible at initial commissioning?
  • How do I know that the array is producing the maximum power potential on an ongoing basis?
  • How do I rapidly identify and correct faults to minimize energy loss and system downtime prior to and during on-site troubleshooting?
  • How do I develop a proactive and site-specific O & M plan?
  • How do I maximize and prove the value (ROI) of each service dispatch?
  • How do I minimize safety risks for equipment and personnel?

Delivering timely and accurate answers to these questions remains a systems and process challenge for site engineers and operators. Existing solar monitoring systems are based on single-dimensional, and largely passive data architectures. Such systems provide robust logging, visualization and reporting; however, their alarm management, diagnostics, and asset management capabilities are limited. Information islands exist because there is limited or even no integration between PV monitoring systems and in-house business systems. In short, there is an overwhelming amount of information coming from the monitoring systems, but the data are not directly linked to the business rules that the site owners have put in place — just a mountain of data that must be manually sifted through, deciphered and analyzed.

Next-generation, enterprise-ready PV management solutions enable array operators to readily answer the questions above and improve on current challenges.

These solutions, such as the Solar Power Technologies Clarity™ System, combine comprehensive and high-precision DC monitoring capabilities with innovative and multi-dimensional data architectures that cross-integrate logged array performance and environmental data with design-driven analytics, business and financial rules, O & M best practices, and inventory management. The value and benefits delivered to both field staff and management are significant and, most importantly, quantifiable.

Ray Burgess joined the Solar Power Technologies team as President and CEO in July 2009. He has over 30 years of leadership experience in the technology industry, spanning semiconductors, software and micro-mechanical systems.  Ray can be reached at:

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