Solar energy is the fastest-growing electricity source today and an increasingly significant market for IoT developers. This article highlights the rapidly expanding role of IoT in solar power systems.
Renewable energy has been growing at a remarkable rate in recent years. Despite the pandemic, the world's renewable energy capacity rose by 45% in 2020, the largest annual increase rate since 1999. This growth was largely attributed to the ongoing boom in wind and solar energy. Last year, global wind power production increased by an exceptional 90%, while solar installations expanded by 23%. According to the International Energy Agency, the post-pandemic future will see even greater capacity gains in renewables.
In addition to signaling better times ahead for the environment and climate, this phenomenal growth establishes renewable energy as the go-to market for tech companies. IoT solutions providers, for instance, stand to gain heavily by developing systems that streamline the renewable energy supply chain.
The Internet of Things offers seamless remote monitoring, communication, and control through sensors, data platforms, and end-user interfaces, all tied together by internet connectivity. For operations like solar energy production, IoT connectivity enhances real-time monitoring, uninterrupted data collection, and analytics. Furthermore, when integrated with new-age technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, IoT can support compelling automation activities in solar farms and mini-grids.
If you are an IoT developer eyeing the promising solar energy market, you have come to the right place. Read on to uncover how IoT solutions can add value to solar systems.
The Challenges of Solar Energy Systems
Installing and running a solar system can be a time- and resource-intensive endeavor. Although photovoltaic solar energy is a relatively mature technology today, it still comes with significant unpredictability.
Weather conditions like temperature and solar radiation often cause output fluctuations and instability, putting more pressure on control systems to maintain consistent supply. Without effective continuous environmental monitoring, controllers run the risk of inaccurately adjusting power generation parameters to match physical changes.
Besides a dependence on external conditions, overall solar system efficiency requires all panels to operate at peak capacity. Although meters can measure total power output without issues, the challenge comes when operators want to record what is happening at individual modules.
The situation becomes even more challenging in farms with hundreds of on-field PV panels. As a result, even if faults and inefficiencies are noted on a network level, operators often struggle to trace their root causes and deploy timely repair and maintenance.
How Can IoT Solutions Improve Solar Power Systems?
Thanks to low-cost sensors and reliable connectivity, IoT solutions have become ideal real-time monitoring options for all sizes of solar projects. With IoT networks, operators can collect critical data from internal and external data points panel-by-panel and easily access the data from convenient end-user interfaces. This capability unveils exciting improvement possibilities for solar systems.
1. Optimal Performance
Remote sensors on solar panels can help gather a wide range of data, including temperature, solar radiation, wind speed, air particulates, and energy outputs. When interfaced with central control systems, all these sensors can deliver data to one platform, giving operators a complete view of critical parameters as they vary in real-time.
With these comprehensive real-time monitoring platforms, technicians can see how changes in relevant parameters affect the performance and output of each panel and initiate accurate adjustments. Tweaks like tilt-tracking can even be done automatically through direct sensor-actuator interfaces.
Timely and accurate response to variables optimizes solar panel performance to ensure peak output and minimal operating costs.
2. Proactive Maintenance
IoT-based panel-by-panel monitoring enables operators to see the outputs of individual panels. When overall output drops, low-performing units can be easily identified, shortening the time it takes to fix issues. Additionally, by interfacing sensors with end-user devices, IoT monitoring systems can alert technicians the moment system parameters deviate from acceptable ranges, improving fault detection, diagnosis, and fixing rates.
Real-time IoT monitoring can also make routine maintenance more efficient. Tracking unit performance in real-time gives operators the data they need to create inspection and maintenance schedules that maximize the chances of achieving the target output. Technicians can decide to prioritize high-performing panels for maximum overall output, struggling panels to minimize efficiency losses, or adopt a balanced approach.
3. Demand Planning
Beyond fault management, IoT can also contribute to better power generation forecasts and a more stable supply. Connected sensors are the ideal solutions for gathering data from a diverse range of solar assets. With data analytics and predictive models, solar power managers can derive insights into the relationship between output and factors like the weather, maintenance schedules, and even panel brands.
By knowing how influencing factors affect system performance, system administrators can anticipate how much solar energy will be produced on a particular day, week, or month. With this information, they can accurately adjust other energy resource inputs to balance demand and supply down the road.
4. Asset Security
IoT sensors can do more than just monitor system performance. When deployed strategically, they can also be effective tools for dealing with theft and vandalism, especially in rural areas, where lower grid electrification rates make solar panels a hot commodity. For instance, connected sensors within solar panels can detect suspicious movement or unit dismantling and trigger an alarm even before the criminal touches them.
Farms can also use CCTV cameras linked to their hand-held devices to monitor the establishment remotely and catch wrongdoings as they happen. That way, operators can quickly intervene to prevent costly property losses.
What Can Solar Energy Offer IoT Suppliers?
IoT has boundless potential in renewable energy. By leveraging IoT solutions, solar energy players can attain full visibility into every unit's output and the factors that influence its performance. This granulated monitoring enables power providers to drive performance, maintenance, forecasting, and security with a more focused and effective approach.
For IoT solutions providers, developing solar power monitoring and control technologies gives them a chance to exploit a rapidly growing market for high returns while contributing to a cleaner planet. With IoT2Market
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