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Photovoltaic Systems Training

Session 3 ‐ Plant Operation

Javier Relancio & Luis Recuero
Generalia Group

September 21st 2010
Design, Execution, Operation & Maintenance


Javier Relancio. Generalia Group.  21/09/2010

Control & Telecommunication system

Control system components & infrastructures

Control system gathered data management

Plant security

Security systems


Control & Telecommunication system

Control system components & infrastructures

Control system gathered data management

Plant security

Security systems

Control & Telecommunication Systems:


To control, using specially designed devices,

the state & evolution of one or various
physiologic (or others) parameters to detect
possible malfunctions

Remote control:

Group of devices which allow us to modify the state of the equipments and devices of the
plant, from a remote location

Reasons for monitoring & control:

1.- To invoice the produced energy

2.- To detect incidences & malfunctions

a) Availability
3.- To guarantee the plant owner b) Performance Ratio
c) Production (kWh./kWp)
Control & Telecommunication Systems:

This presentation is based in Grid Connected PV Facilities

ƒ Both the meters and the inverters have communications outputs to allow the monitoring
of their parameters

ƒ We can also use: calibrated cells, temperature sensors, etc

Energy Transformer
Photovoltaic DC / AC Meter
Array Inverter Electricity

The remote control and monitoring depend on the available mechanisms.

Both in grid connected and stand alone PV facilities, electronic devices with communication
ports and dataloggers are used in order to gather the information from the different
equipment more important parameters

Monitoring System

The monitoring system features will depend on the capability for

each plant to afford its cost

ƒ Requirements:

ƒ Reliability: redundancy. Stable communications (wire)

ƒ Robustness: gathering errors, incidences & alarms

ƒ Solutions:

ƒ To be found in the market

ƒ Already developed.

ƒ From each manufacturer or generic (Many inverter & meter


ƒ Customized solutions

ƒ They are more scalable and can be updated


Control & Telecommunication system

Control system components & infrastructures

Control system gathered data management

Plant security

Security systems

PV Facility main elements

Element Parameters Incidences

Panels ‐ String current ‐ Module malfunctioning

‐ Irradiance ‐ Isolating error

Inverter ‐ Instant power ‐ Electronic failure (low 

‐ Produced energy performance)

‐ CO2 Emissions  ‐ Electric failure (stop)

Meter ‐ Produced kWh ‐ Meter stop

‐ Load profile

Transformer ‐ Phase voltage ‐ grid out of range

grid ‐ Frequency
Other elements within a PV facility

Element Parameter Alerts / Warnings

Calibrated cell ‐ Radiation ‐ Low production, when high 


Meteo Station ‐ Wind speed ‐ High wind speed

‐ Temperature

Current sensors ‐ Current ‐ Overvoltage

‐ Voltage ‐ System breakdown

Protections ‐ State (ON / OFF) ‐ Trigger
Monitoring System. Topology

Sensors Communications Control Room Alarms

Options: Server 1. Locals:

1.Data gathering
1. Design
2. SMS
2.Data Analysis
- Wire
3.Alert 3. E-mail
Inverter - Wireless
Datalogger 2. Logic 4.Internet
RS232/485 - Without logic: communication
Ethernet Converter 5.Logs
2. Web

Meter - With logic: 3. Tunnel

Datalogger 1. VPN
Visualization 2. VNC
Monitoring system: Routine

Data gathering & Analysis

Performance: lightly Performance: lower than
average or
lower than average average
higher than
Parameter analysis Alarm

Actions/Modifications on the system

- In situ or by Remote control

Include modifications in - Report generation

preventive maintenance - Corrective maintenance order

Correct Incidences &

parameters log

Remote control system. Basic topology

ON/OFF switches for system reclosing (i.e. in case of breakdown)

Tracker Control


Monitoring System

Gateway Server
Security system

Remote control system. Advanced topology

An advanced remote control system requires larger bandwidth and robustness

- Updates
Tracker - Modifications
REMOTO - Configurations

INTERNET - Updates
Monitoring - Modifications
system - Configuration
- New meters &
Gateway Server

- Updates
- Modifications
- Configuration


Internal communications

ƒ Data transference between devices, dataloggers, Server & Gateway.

ƒ Topology:

ƒ Wireless: Bluetooth, wifi, GSM/GPRS/UMTS, etc..

ƒ Wired: RS232, RS485, Ethernet, Optical Fiber, etc..

ƒ Converters’ usage: Moxa, etc..

External communications

ƒ To communicate remotely

ƒ Topologies: RTB, ADSL, Satellite, GSM/GPRS/UMTS…

ƒ Redundancy & robustness


Telephone  GPRS UMTS Radio Satellite

Network (PSTN)



Reliability / 


Remote Meter Reading
(From the electrical company)

The electrical company remote meter reading, which is already being done in some countries,
as Spain, allows the electrical company (or the grid manager):

ƒ Avoid having dedicated staff to read the meter locally for invoicing

ƒ Receiving data from the meters, that well processed, can improve the grid performance

GSM Modem RS232/485

Meter BUS
Modem GSM


Gateway Gateway Ethernet – Meter BUS

Electrical company Generator

* In the future PLC communications could be applied
Usual problems

Using the same system in different facilities

ƒ A system that works perfectly for a solar facility, may not work properly in a different one
due to different devices, SW versions, communication buses, countries, etc..

Solutions compatibility

ƒ Mixing commercial solutions from different manufacturers may produce system

malfunctions due to devices response times, transference times, bandwidths, etc..

ƒ Many solutions are still under development.

Coverage failure

ƒ Isolated areas. Without Telephone Network (PSTN), ADSL, UMTS or GPRS coverage

ƒ Losing the communication channel would mean losing 90% of the system features


Control & Telecommunication system

Control system components & infrastructures

Control system gathered data management

Plant security

Security systems

Operation orientated monitoring

The most important device is the meter

ƒ It is the last device in the system. The one that meters the energy
Objective: injected to the grid

Maximize ƒ We have to control that we are injecting the maximum energy to the
productivity grid

ƒ We need references:

ƒ Radiation (calibrated cell) & temperature

ƒ Others: experience, reference facilities, etc

The inverter can help to prevent future malfunctions

ƒ Example: If the temperature is raising continuously, it could mean:

ƒ A sporadic technical failure – REPAIR

ƒ A design failure – REDESIGN

ƒ The plant could stop.
Operation Key points

ƒ To detect incidences as soon as possible (Real Time)

ƒ To predict some incidences & breakdowns

ƒ To solve some incidences & breakdowns

ƒ To warn the staff in the plant

ƒ The local plant staff can NEVER be replaced by any software or remote

ƒ It is essential to have spare parts and equipments at the plant

ƒ High electrical risk: training and protections

Operation orientated monitoring

Example: Valdecarábanos Solar Plant. Spain
Remote control system

Used to remotely control the devices in the plant

ƒ Devices:

ƒ Inverter, suntracker, protections, monitoring system, security system

ƒ NEVER the meters

ƒ Reasons:

1. Save costs.

2. Legal requirement:

ƒ Requirement from the Electric Company: remote control of the

isolation cells (of the transformer)

ƒ Depending on each country regulations, the PV plants over a

certain output power could be obliged to be attached to a
generation control center

23 It will usually be linked with the monitoring system

Data sending for maintenance

Maintenance types

ƒ Corrective: to solve an incidence

ƒ Preventive: to prevent a possible incidence, before it happens.

Elements to maintain

ƒ Inverter

ƒ Suntracker

ƒ Panels (maintenance is required to a lesser extent): cleaning up,


Inverter maintenance

Failure classification:

According to its seriousness:

ƒ Warning: minor failures. Many warnings can be expected. Generally, not


ƒ Alarm: serious failures. They should be minimized. They are important, and
could imply the plant stop

According to its origin:

ƒ Internal: from the inverter

ƒ External: from the plant.

ƒ DC side: from the panels to the inverter.

ƒ AC side: from the inverter to the grid

Inverter maintenance

Usual incidences:

ƒ Isolation failure (cable without enough protection)

ƒ External failure: from the plant.

ƒ Low DC Voltage:

ƒ External failure: AC side problem (in the modules array)

ƒ MPP Tracking failure

ƒ External failure: a wrong configuration could produce a

deviation from the MPPT

ƒ Internal failure: Programming/Firmware problem

ƒ Grid voltage or frequency out of range

ƒ External failure: from the inverter to the grid

ƒ Temperature limit

Suntracking maintenance

Orientation/Position failure

ƒ To check if it is synchronized or not

ƒ In case of strong wind, to check if it is in

protection state or not

Motor overvoltage failure.

ƒ Reducer breakdown

Limiting movement sensor

ƒ Overpass the end charging sensors without

activating the stop signal


Control & Telecommunication system

Control system components & infrastructures

Control system gathered data management

Plant security

Security systems

Security in the plant: Introduction


ƒ Expensive elements: inverters, panels, cable, etc

ƒ Many thefts

ƒ To avoid production losses (there are insurances which cover these losses)

ƒ Isolated areas

ƒ Long unattended periods (unless local staff is employed)

ƒ Great communication problems

The perfect solution does not exist.

ƒ But the best would be the combination of:

ƒ Local staff

ƒ Remote security systems
Security in the plant: Possibilities

The possible security systems could be:

ƒ Local staff

ƒ Video surveillance system (CCTV)

ƒ Perimeter sensors

ƒ Panel sewing

ƒ String controllers

ƒ Infrared / Microwave controllers

The security systems keep evolving as the thieves develop new

Security in the Plan: General scheme

Solar plant security system
Real time internet  Real time mobile 
access phone access

Acoustic & 
Domo video  Luminous 
camera waning
Video analysis. 
ADSL /  Intrusion 
GPRS detection

Night mode 
Control  video cameras

Optical Fiber Local authorities 
warning system

Source: PYSEC Seguridad

Control & Telecommunication system

Control system components & infrastructures

Control system gathered data management

Plant security

Security systems

Local staff (In the plant)


ƒ Very dissuasive solution


ƒ The most expensive solution (in the Long Term)

ƒ It may reduce the plant profitability


ƒ Employees

ƒ Outsourcing

The optimal solution would be Local Staff & Video surveillance
Video surveillance system


ƒ Closed TV Circuit
ƒ It requires dedicated
transmission buses

IP - based

ƒ Versatility

ƒ Good quality

ƒ Good transmission

ƒ Less wiring

Recommended: IP
Source: Condev
Video Surveillance System: elements

Digital Video Recorder (Encoder/Decoder)

ƒ D1 Real Time Quality

ƒ Great storage capacity D1 Quality

- Full D1 video is 720x480.
ƒ Alarms & relays management - Cropped D1 is 704x480.
- Half D1 video is 352x480
ƒ Remote control

ƒ Video analyzer

ƒ Using specialized software

ƒ Expensive

ƒ Movement detection
Video Surveillance System: elements

Video camera
ƒ They can be IP or analogical
ƒ Quality: Up to D1 (Real time)

Long distance(Several Km*)

ƒ Optical Zoom: 60x

ƒ Long distance
ƒ Night viewing (when the risk is higher)
ƒ Range: 1.5Km (0.00001 lux).

PTZ Control
ƒ Automatic or Manual orientation & zoom control (Joystick).

* According to specs, up to 15 km.

Anti – Intrusion systems

Perimeter sensor system

Best solution: optical fiber system

ƒ Passive system: immune to storms or electrical


ƒ False alarms discrimination

ƒ Alarm if the fiber is cut

ƒ Alarm if a movement is detected

ƒ Options:

ƒ At the wall. More vulnerable Movement/Passage

ƒ Buried. More expensive (trench)

ƒ Temperature range: -30º to 75º

Rubber tube Metallic tube
Anti-intrusion system

Presence sensor

ƒ Detects:

ƒ Infrared: thermal energy variations

ƒ Microwaves: movements

ƒ Configurable:

ƒ Alarm only if double detection

ƒ Problems in foggy areas

ƒ Alarm if any detection

ƒ False alarms
Anti-theft system

Panel sewing (with optical fiber)

ƒ Attached to every panel (at the backside)

ƒ Alarm if the fiber is cut

ƒ Difficult execution

ƒ Temperature range: -30º a +75º

ƒ Another option could be a conductive wire system

ƒ Depending on the wire impedance

ƒ Immune to sabotage
Anti-theft system

String Controller

ƒ Both for monitoring and security systems

During the days

ƒ It controls the power (Current/Voltage) on the panel strings

ƒ It protects the plant with integrated fuses

During the night

ƒ It detects if the electrical cable is cut/broken

ƒ Even if there is no voltage or current

This is quite a new system
Alarm management

Local alarm:

ƒ Siren, Lighting, Speakers

Study the inputs
ƒ Dissuasive

-Plant visibility
-Distance to the
Local staff:
security entity
ƒ SMS, E-Mail, Phone call -Etc.
Two options:
ƒ To control, or to warn the authorities Siren
- Dissuasive: to
avoid being stolen

Warning the authorities: - To try to catch the

ƒ Private entity or the public authorities

ƒ We have to consider the distance from the authorities to

the plant
Other possibilities

Virtual patrols

ƒ Nowadays, a possibility that can mean an important saving in physical surveillance is the
called "virtual patrol“

ƒ The virtual patrol simulates an ordinary guard patrol, but it is done from a remote central
of the surveillance company using a system of video cameras

Security for rooftop facilities

ƒ Usually, for this type of projects, no surveillance system is installed but the ones already
used by the clients, as this facilities are normally located in urban zones.

ƒ If the facility is located in an isolated area and the roof is not very high or difficult to
access, it is recommended to apply one of the security systems described within this

ƒ It is also recommended to have the “all risk insurance” in force.
End of Session 3

Thank you for attending