According to the Photovoltaic Yearbook, in 2017 there was more than 400 GW of photovoltaic power installed in the world. As this number increases, its production is more and more dispersed around the world. That’s why technologies such as the Internet of Things can be a great support for power generators.
The growth in PV power generation is mainly due to a greater awareness of the need to have clean energies that respect the environment and help to limit global warming. Also, there are several international agreements that have to be fullfilled. In this context, photovoltaic (PV) has become one of the best alternatives and is now supplying energy at many points on the map. The power PV plants generate serves to feed electricity grids and self-consumption networks in a decentralized manner.
With this new distributed and intermittent (when it is sunny) generation framework, we need to have mechanisms that allow to monitor and control energy exchanges precisely, to guarantee the stability of the network. This puts the Internet of Things in the spotlight because it is the basis for the gathering, monitoring, visualization and analysis of the necessary data to enable real-time decision making.
Advantages of implementing IoT in PV systems
In brief, IoT has a series of advantages over the tools and techniques that have been used so far:
- IoT reduces or even eliminates the work of having to visit the plant frequently and register the efficiency data and the monitoring of faults, deviations or failures. It also helps to identify effectively and effortlessly the reasons why the availability and performance decrease.
- The Internet of Things enables continuous recording of operating data, events and alarms. So, it helps to forecast and predict in the future what the data will be for power generation, income, etc.
- At the same time, it generates efficiencies in the PV systems, as it is a tool to achieve predictive maintenance, and not reactive.
- This technology allows to obtain reliable data on energy production, letting producers charge for what they actually produce, and avoiding gaps between measurements and payments.
- The fundamental role of the IoT is that it makes it possible to access and control of the PV system remotely and in the cloud, regardless of where in the world the plant is located with respect to the control center.
- Last, but not least, IoT reduces operating costs and generates industrial efficiencies, by helping to collect data and its subsequent analysis.
Models of IoT implementation in photovoltaic systems.
PV system has many different ways to implement IoT technology. In any case, all of them need to take into account a hardware and a software perspective.
At the hardware level, things can be distributed all around the plant to gather different data on different locations. Examples of these devices are radiation and climate measurement sensors can be installed in the plants, intelligent performance meters at the point of connection to the network, sensors for monitoring the components and machinery in the plant, perimeter security systems or data encryption servers, etc.
On the other hand, these sensors and measurement and surveillance systems must incorporate software that allows collecting, processing and visualizing the hardware data in real time. For this, it seems appropriate to have an Operating System that integrates into each of these devices and that enables the collection of data safely. These data must be visible from different devices by the managers and producers through visualization tools adapted to their needs.
In short, the Internet of Things, through its two aspects (hardware and operating technologies) and, on the other hand, software and information and communication technologies, facilitates those involved in the PV system to access data in a reliable and in real-time. In addition, it allows managing assets efficiently and remotely what makes it a very powerful tool for the global power generation market.
For all these reasons, we believe that the use of the Internet of Things in the sector of the production and distribution of photovoltaic energy should be promoted in a remarkable way. However, we cannot forget that, when connecting the devices to the network, it is necessary to have a very strong layer of security, which goes beyond the physical, to cover any vulnerability that may occur. Bear in mind that the generation, distribution and consumption data of a power grid is sensitive information that must be ensured over any possible incident.
Article written by Cristina Marcos, Marketing Manager at Barbara IoT.
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