Solar power plants: Driven to IoT, data solutions

Solar power plants: Driven to IoT, data solutions
With more and more solar power plants relying on the Internet of Things and data generated by connected devices for output optimization and management efficiency, systems providers have rolled out solutions to satisfy operators’ needs in this regard.
Since solar plants may be spread across a vast area of land, solutions that remove the need for manual implementation of network infrastructure, which is costly and time-consuming, are called for. “Our solutions address this need by providing zero-touch provisioning, allowing solar power enterprises to remotely and automatically set up their network infrastructure deployments,” said Steve Cummins, Senior Director of Marketing at Opengear.
Furthermore, Opengear has infrastructure management solutions that detect network equipment issues, alert network personnel of these issues and safeguard the connectivity of IoT sensors and devices through a failover-to-cellular capability – maintaining uptime via cellular connectivity if and when primary connections experience outages.
L&T Technology Services, meanwhile, has solutions that gather and analyze data collected from various devices. “We have our indigenously developed IoT platform which has been used to integrate devices at the plant level and transfer data to cloud for analysis. To perform analytics at the gateway level and share information with the existing control systems, we have developed edge gateway models and also offer our solutions under the Platform as a Service (PaaS) model for various clients,” said Keshab Panda, CEO and Managing Director at the company. “Apart from solutions, L&T Technology Services has a complete defined framework for remote monitoring at the plant level which can be deployed across solar farms. Our offering also includes data analytics as service to help clients leverage more from their existing data.”
MachinePulse also helps asset owners and O&M teams to optimize the performance of their utility and rooftop solar PV plants, offering a solution that includes data acquisition hardware, cloud based monitoring software and advanced analytics. “We are an integrated solutions provider. We have our own cloud platform. We have hardware devices which basically sit on the edge and acquire data. Of course our data consumption rate for the hardware is very low; it’s minimized, so that you're not spending too much on using data packages provided by your Internet service providers,” said Agarwal Meenal, Brand Manager at MachinePulse. “Our solution has portfolio management features that give you a visibility over your entire portfolio. This is one of the most important features that people who are involved in operations seek.”
Going forward, solutions providers are confident more and more solar plant operators will incorporate IoT into their operations. “A report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) finds that, as of Q1 2017, the U.S solar market has now added more than two gigawatts of solar capacity for six straight quarters, and that growth is only predicted to continue. With this growth, the solar power industry has quickly reached a size and complexity where manual monitoring and management of installations is no longer practical. This has brought the industry to a moment when the efficiency provided by IoT technology – in the form of proactive monitoring, big data insights, and predictive analytics – is now requisite going forward,” Cummins said.
“With the advent of Machine learning integrated naturally with fast processing and storage of data, the deployment of IoT would continue to increase across solar power plants globally. We will see a considerable change in the way large MW scale solar farms are operated and maintained,” Panda said. “Advanced analytics will help in better decision making by the operators and lead to greater transparency of information leading to better grid management with increased mix of renewable energy as the part of grids. Independent smart micro grids would rely on connected systems to ensure reliable supply at manageable costs.”

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