6 KPIs for your solar plant’s success

Performance management for solar power plants

As we all know, there has been a shift in the energy industry, what with the federal government’s introduction of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target RET . With such a policy in place, it’s no surprise that renewable energy power plants are springing up left, right and centre. It’s even less of a surprise that the investments being poured into solar power plants are increasing dramatically. Being in such a position of responsibility means that those of us in the renewable energy scene need to find ways to ensure that our operations and maintenance management meet the guarantee requirements. As well as that, we need to think about the solar power plant performance and the economic life of it to maximise our revenue.

It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of operating and managing a power plant, so we at T4E have collated six key solar power plant performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to guide yourself towards a successful solar plant operation.

  1.  Performance Ratio (PR)

Your performance ratio (PR) is a KPI of your plant’s efficiency  — and perhaps one of the most important parameters for monitoring your solar power plant performance. It is the ratio between your plant’s theoretical production of power and its actual production. This ratio can also help you compare your power production, regardless of location.

You can calculate your actual solar production by using irradiance data, which is gathered by sensors that should be located on site. These sensors need to be installed at the same orientation as the PV module to correctly gather data.

Identifying deviations in your PR can help you quantify the efficiency and quality of your solar production. There are, however, some factors that may affect your PR. Below are just a few of them:

  • The temperature of the PV module
  • Solar irradiance
  • Power dissipation
  • Shaded sensors
  • Sensor failures
  • Incorrect orientation of the sensor
  • The efficiency of PV modules
  • Inverters
  • Energy losses in the system
  1. Capacity Factor (CF)

Your capacity factor is a KPI of how long your plant actively produces energy over a certain period of time, taking into consideration factors such as cloudy days and device failures, among other things. It is the ratio between your actual energy production and your maximum ideal production over a period of time. This parameter is very useful to see how long your solar power plant is under operation and to see its efficiency.  You can see Figure 1 in which PR (%) and CF(%)  are listed on the monitoring system screenshot.

The Monitoring of Solar Power Plant Performance Ratio and Capacity Factor

Figure 1: The Monitoring of Solar Power Plant Performance Ratio and Capacity Factor

  1.  The deviation between Actual and Expected Production

The above is KPI of your system’s efficiency. It is a ratio of the deviation between your actual and expected production of power.

Your expected production can be calculated by using weather forecast data, which is generally be sourced from weather stations located at solar power plants.

Bear in mind that this ratio can be affected by the quality of your weather data. The quality of your weather data can, in turn, be affected by the location of your weather stations doing the data collection — where they are, and how far they are away from one another. The location of the weather station, for example, should not be close enough to the PV panels, such that there is a loss in the solar production due to shaded areas. This will lead to the reduction in solar power plant performance. Figure 2 shows the expected solar production (the red line on the graph) and the actual solar production (the grey area on the graph) to understand your solar power plant performance easily. You can plan your operations based on the weather forecast data as well.

Figure 2: The Monitoring of deviation between Actual and Expected Solar Power Production

  1. Inverter Efficiency

Inverter efficiency is a KPI of how efficiently your power is being converted, from the DC power that your plant produces into AC power. The conversion process happens via an inverter. As such, the quality of your inverter can directly affect your solar power plant’s performance.

Keeping an eye on your inverter is important, as you never know what can be causing bumps in the efficiency of the conversion process. The clipping of an inverter, for example, can lead to losses in energy during the process. Clipping happens when your DC power is higher than the rated power of the inverter.

The use of this ratio can help you determine how efficiently your power is being converted, and whether or not your changing your inverter becomes an issue that you need to address. Figure 3 explains which inverter`s performance needs to be investigated and gives the comparison of their performance.

Figure 3: The Monitoring of  Inverters Performance and Comprising Their Performance

  1.  Power Factor (PF)

Power factor is a good KPI of your solar system’s health and can help you to ascertain whether or not you meet grid requirements. Failure to adhere to said requirements could lead to penalties. Your power factor represents the relationship between real and apparent power. Figure 4 gives more visibility about your system`s power factor, reactive and active power values.

Figure 4: The Monitoring of Power Factor, Active and Reactive Power

  1. Efficient Work Force Management

Efficient workforce management is a KPI of response times of on-staff site to critical failures and malfunctions in a system. Response time is a crucial aspect of a successful operation, and slow response times could mean wasted time and money for a number of stakeholders. On top of coordinating your people, it’s important to ensure that you track and follow up on your issues. Use this information to reduce the time it takes to respond to situations. Introduction a targeted variety of tickets will help you to maintain control over these issues.

These six KPIs are just a few tools that can help you improve your solar plant’s performance and its efficiency and in areas that are crucial to your operation and maintenance management. If you can smooth out any bumps in the aforementioned places, you can reduce your ROI, maximise your revenue, and ultimately enjoy a successful operation.

Want to hear more about the things that you can do to improve the success of your operation and increase your solar power plant performance? T4E is one of the world’s leading companies in researching, developing, and delivering world-class energy management solutions on residential, commercial and industrial scales.  if you want to reach out to us for more guidance, feel free to contact us at info@t4e.io.

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