Solar operators should follow KPIs to overcome data deluge – pv magazine International
We are all aware of the scale of the data challenge in renewable energy. The sheer volume of data produced is a major obstacle for operators in the sector. In the wind industry alone, more than 400 billion data points are generated each year. Solar may have fewer variables to measure than wind, but typical solar wallets contain a much larger number of assets, so operators always have to deal with a mountain of information.
Also, it doesn’t help that data quality and reliability is a huge issue in the solar industry. This can make it extremely difficult to find useful data and gain a holistic view of the performance of solar and wind assets.
Indeed, the “data deluge” constitutes a particular challenge for solar operators and solar asset managers. Browsing through huge amounts of project performance data, while tackling gaps in solar project data caused by unreliable collection practices, is never ideal and often results in solar operators missing out on information. reviews.
The next question is: how can solar asset managers efficiently and effectively uncover actionable insights embedded in their performance data that actually add value while avoiding sifting through the mass of unusable information? This is an area where the right key performance indicators (KPIs) can provide significant added value.
KPIs quickly reveal underperformance issues and empower asset managers to resolve them, ultimately delivering a host of benefits to project owners, including improved performance, lifespan and return. on investment of assets, as well as reduced downtime and more efficient business decision-making.
To ensure solar operators are supported with informative and valuable data, the industry should consider implementing additional KPIs that can help project owners.
In short, asset managers need:
- The right KPIs in place that can quickly point to underperformance that matters and is actionable.
- KPIs based on reliable and up-to-date data. This was traditionally done by improving data infrastructure and measuring devices, but today robust software solutions must also be put in place to automatically identify faulty data in real time and replace that faulty data with data. reliable substitutes.
- The ability to break down KPIs in a simple and intuitive way, and to know what action to take on which assets
As an asset manager, if you can achieve the above, then you have solved the problem of managing complex solar assets on a large scale using data. In this article, we’ll focus on the KPIs that you need to make sure you follow.
Investment performance ratio (IPR) or energy index
IPR is a key financial performance metric for solar operators and investors as it can measure the performance of a project’s solar inverters by demonstrating how actual production relates to the energy budget. This allows solar operators to calculate whether the project’s financial expectations are being met or not, as the case may be.
For this, the formula IPR = [Actual energy production (Energy)] / [Reference energy production (Default energy budget)] is used.
IPR can therefore be essential for solar operators looking to understand if a solar power plant is underperforming and then provide the information needed to quickly identify the cause of the problem, whether the problem is due to an asset failure or to the energy budget.
If a solar farm is consistently underperforming or even outperforming, adjustments may be needed to ensure that the budget reflects real world conditions, thereby improving budget decision making.
Resource index (inverter) or meteorological index
This KPI measures the output power of a photovoltaic inverter against the expected production from the expected sunshine given the current weather conditions at the site. It provides crucial information to operators and investors as it allows them to calculate whether lower than expected production was due to low irradiation levels or problems with the inverters in the project.
Eliminating doubt as to the cause of a solar asset’s underperformance can dramatically reduce costs for site managers, thereby reducing the need for costly ad-hoc operations and maintenance teams.
For this, the Resource Index = Solar Irradiation Reference / Solar Irradiation Forecast (at device level) equation is used.
Weather is a key variable in the performance of a solar project, and a better understanding of on-site climatic conditions can help operators and asset managers be transparent with investors about the causes of solar production. energy below expectations.
Energy budget (adjusted according to weather conditions)
To shed light on the remaining losses that solar operators and asset managers can take action on, rather than issues caused by external factors such as weather, the energy budget KPI can correct the resource budget. of a photovoltaic inverter with real irradiance data.
Simply put, this means that the volume of electricity generated by an inverter can be compared to the weather-adjusted energy budget, highlighting when the inverters produced more or less power than budgeted. – taking into account the weather forecast on a given day.
This metric follows the formula: Energy budget (adjusted for weather conditions) = Energy budget (default) * RI.
Solar operators and investors must have their understanding of the financial performance of their assets based on real conditions. When there is less sun, solar panels will receive less energy and budgets will either have to be adjusted downward to meet these expectations or to remove the expected “missing” energy.
Energy balances can thus allow operators to calculate losses due to the lack of available resources. Without being able to calculate whether inverters produce 100% of the expected electricity under given weather conditions, operators will not be able to confirm to investors if they are on track to meet their expected returns.
Operational performance ratio (OPR) or energy index adjusted according to weather conditions
It is essential to ensure that operators and asset managers can measure whether inverters are consistently operating at 100% capacity in all weather conditions. By measuring UPS performance during actual weather events, the Operational Performance Ratio can link real-world conditions to UPS performance and highlight areas where more could have been done to improve the management of these assets during these events. periods.
This formula compares the actual performance ratio of the plant to the benchmark performance ratio: OPR = Energy Actual / Energy Budget (adjusted for weather conditions) = IPR / RI.
If a solar inverter is operating at less than 100%, as is the case with the majority of solar farms, then the operating performance ratio can help solar operators and asset managers identify if improvements are needed. with their physical assets or their asset management processes – or both.
Another approach that can be very effective is filtered KPIs designed to highlight specific aspects of asset health. Solar generators are subject to a wide variety of external performance degradations that do not necessarily represent the health or capacity of the asset. Examples include network failures, reduction, shading, and clipping. The ability to automate the detection and classification of these types of events unlocks additional KPIs, such as a filtered temperature-corrected performance report, which makes it easier to quickly (and automatically) identify actionable issues, such as tracker blockages, chain failures and soiling.
Information overload is a growing challenge for operators and solar investors and KPIs will become an increasingly essential tool to help select important data and improve the productivity of a project.
Ensuring transparency and achieving the expected return on investment is key to keeping investors satisfied and having the right KPIs in place that are based on reliable and trustworthy data and can be broken down to identify exploitable gaps will allow for the big picture. overall performance and support for a solar project. investor reports.
As solar technology continues to adapt and evolve, greater complexities will undoubtedly follow, but the industry is well on its way to solving the deluge of data.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of pv magazine.
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