The solar inverter is the workhorse of a photovoltaic array. Although often evaluated in terms of constraints in system design, string size, and points of failure, the inverter has evolved into a gateway to the operations and health of the solar PV plant. It provides information about and access to the facility to an ever-expanding circle of stakeholders.
Adrian de Luca, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Locus Energy, says analyzing the vast qualities of data supplied by inverters and module-level electronics from PV plants is the key to being able to use it effectively for O&M and asset management. “Software companies can add value in distributed PV by not just collecting data, but really crunching the numbers,” de Luca says.
Moreover, de Luca says, plant performance data needs to be cross-referenced with environmental and solar irradiance data in order to pinpoint specific loss factors. Waterfall analysis, using a range of algorithms and empirical models, can remotely determine the root causes of a solar PV system’s performance shortfalls. These reasons may include factors such as weather uncertainty, snow downtime, shading, equipment downtime, equipment degradation and inverter problems.