If you own or operate a solar plant, there are probably 3 questions that your organization ask regularly.
- Is my plant generating energy?
- What does the future of my plant look like?
- Am I leaving any money on the table?
On the surface of it, solar energy production is very straight-forward, but take a step back and think about the data you might need to answer these questions. As they say, data is the new gold and, just like gold, data needs to be sourced, extracted, and transformed before it can become useful.
If you operate a solar plant, there is good news and bad news. The good news it that you are sitting on a gold mine! You’ve already solved your data sourcing problem just by having a monitoring system in place along with a weather kit, and you’re likely sitting on a wealth of information. The bad news is that there is still plenty more work to do before you can get value out of the data. Wading through the swathes of data and extracting it other then the basics can be a tedious, but worthwhile, task. Luckily, there are many automated solutions available which makes this task easier. However, transforming and understanding the data is where the real value is kept. So where exactly do you start?
Asking the right questions and utilizing an analytical approach can go a long way. The questions at the top are good, but they don’t get to the root of any potential problems. Sure, every plant is recording energy generation (which implicitly answers our first question), but ask yourself:
- What is my threshold for a “good” day of energy generation? What about a “bad” day?
- How are my daily expectations generated?
- How does my data compare to the previous year?
- How does the data compare to a plant in similar scope?
- What is my potential loss from internal factors like mean to repair downtime?
- What are percentage differences between modeled, weather adjusted and actual performance?
- How are modules, combiner boxes, inverters performing. Are other brands performing better?
- What is the difference between my weather data from the site and satellite data?
In the broader scheme of things:
- What are my year-over-year projections?
- Am I on track to meet my goals? By how much am I over/under my targets?
- What are my paint points and to what extent are they hampering operations?
The theme between these questions is that they dig deeper past what you are measuring and further into how you are measuring your success. More importantly, answering questions like these means developing quantitative answers and adds far more depth to your solar plant management. In the end, time is money and quantifiable solutions give actionable results.
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