TaiyangNews Special Focus Webinar: Solar Getting Smart

Growing Enthusiasm For Digitalization In Solar PV Industry, Now Need To Explore Opportunities & Tackle Challenges It Poses

TaiyangNews Special Focus Webinar: Solar Getting Smart

The panel discussion moderated by Michael Schmela of TaiyangNews had PVcase’s Miguel Herrero, TrinaTracker’s Sun Kai and SolarPower Europe’s Jan Osenberg in attendance. (Photo Credit: TaiyangNews)

  • TaiyangNews Solar Getting Smart Special Focus Webinar had the discussion revolving around the increasing need for digitalization in the solar PV industry 
  • As digitalization gradually becomes a necessity, the PV industry needs to devise sector-specific guidelines to bring everyone on the same page 
  • It will reduce complexity in the industry, especially with regard to self-consumption space helping the segment realize its true potential 

Like any other industry today, solar energy too is not untouched by digitalization. In fact, it is fast becoming an integral part of managing and operating an entire PV system in terms of monitoring and optimization, predictive maintenance and demand response. 

However, its use is not limited to the management of a power plant alone. The use of smart trackers, for instance, represents digital technology. Similarly, players in the field are working towards incorporating digital tools right from the design stage of a solar power plant. This digitalized ecosystem is aimed at making solar smart. 

To discuss the growing need and scope for digitalization in the PV industry, TaiyangNews brought together an interesting mix of speakers to a Special Focus Webinar on Solar Getting Smart on November 14, 2023. 

SolarPower Europe’s Jan Osenberg believes said the solar industry should see the upcoming EU Data Act as an opportunity to prepare for a digitalized ecosystem. (Photo Credit: TaiyangNews)

Reflecting at the evolving policy framework nudging the industry towards digitalization on the field, SolarPower Europe’s (SPE) Policy Advisor Jan Osenberg delved into the opportunities it presents for PV system integration and optimization. 

All of this becomes extremely important, explained Osenberg, as solar power capacity continues to grow with new installations globally expected to reach 341 GW in 2023. According to SPE’s medium scenario, the world should comfortably cross the 2 TW landmark in early 2025. The EU alone will double its total installed capacity from the 260 GW expected at the end of 2023 to almost 600 GW DC by 2027. Rooftop solar too offers a potential of 1 TW in the bloc. 

Anticipating this growth, the industry as well as the governments need to step up their efforts to streamline this growth in an orderly manner. Osenberg explained that this could be done by enhancing digital permitting procedures using harmonized, digital platforms that can help share information, for instance about grid availability. 

Availability of data via digital platforms will make it easier for developers as well as authorities to compare various projects to see what works and what doesn’t. 

Similarly, municipalities at the front line need to go digital to enable project developers to plan and design their facilities with accurate information fed into the system. It will also reduce complexity in the smart energy boom by optimizing self-consumption and remove barriers to new market models for better and enhanced solar integration. However, lack of manpower and budget are big impediments for municipalities to go digital. 

Digitalization will also become a necessity going forward as the EU finalizes its EU Data Act that’s current in national transposition. It will make it mandatory for the data holder to make data available upon user request. It would need to be in machine-readable format and in real-time.  

Osenberg said exemptions will of course be made keeping in mind trade secrets, cyber security, etc.; however, it brings into focus the importance of fool-proof technology since a digitalized system will be vulnerable to digital security lapses. In case of a terrorist attack shutting down a solar power plant, for instance, it can reboot itself via the inverter, but these capabilities are generally ensured by big manufacturers. 

Hence, going forward, the solar PV industry must prepare itself before the act comes into force to define sector-specific guidelines and show what it should mean for the entire value chain in terms of roles, rights, responsibilities, standards and communication protocols. 

TrinaTracker’s Sun Kai said using the company’s smart technology tools, it can offer customized solutions for the end users, thus proving the benefits of a digitalized solar system. (Photo Credit: TaiyangNews)

While Osenberg talked about rules and regulations for digitalization of the solar PV industry, Chinese solar tracker manufacturer TrinaTracker’s Head of Smart Tracker Control System Sun Kai shared his company’s digitalized tracker technology to show how it can increase reliability and yields. 

Kai pointed to the role of digitalization of Big Data that has implications for the entire lifecycle of solar power plants, right from design, construction and installation, commissioning, extending into operation and maintenance (O&M). All of this leads to the realization of a smart energy system. 

While traditional tracking systems cannot give full play to the power generation potential of a tracker, Kai said Trina Smart Tracking Solution, with its Smart Control System, ensures high reliability, performance & efficiency for solar power plants in times of growing need for quick and customized solutions. 

Trina’s Smart Control System has smart controllers that it claims can track and boost energy, and is managed via Smart Cloud, lending it remote monitoring and smart O&M capabilities. The Smart Cloud helps the operator collect, store and forward relevant data, diagnose fault alert, create 3D digital map, thereby ensuring a secure and stable system, shared Kai. 

He shared that TrinaTracker uses 2 core algorithms for its patented SuperTrack technology—Smart Tracking Algorithm (STA) that can improve power generation on a cloudy day, and Smart Backtracking Algorithm (SBA) that can lower generation losses due to row-to-row shading. 

Kai stressed that these digital competences ensure TrinaTracker’s smart controllers, SuperTrack and Smart Cloud tools deliver high reliability, high performance and high efficiency while delivering customized solutions for the users. 

Miguel Herrero of PVcase sees digital twins becoming the key to increase process efficiencies of solar power systems. (Photo Credit: TaiyangNews)

Pointing to the growing complexity of solar power plants with all new technologies, use of trackers, increasing use of bifacial modules, the Market and Insights Analyst of Lithuania’s PVcase Miguel Herrero stressed that the industry needs to manage data risks in the development and engineering phases of solar PV projects. 

In the last few years, as the demand for solar PV has grown tremendously, the industry has had to execute projects in a time-bound manner within a competitive environment at lower costs. So far, the software tools the industry has mostly relied on focus on specific project development steps, not using coordinated data format and structures, according to Herrero. It is usually a static file format like the PDF that encapsulates the information. 

He believes this limited information collection on the equipment used, processes followed, etc., are soon lost and shared indiscriminately, exposing a plant and its developer to significant data risks. 

The need for the industry today, he explained, is to have a sophisticated, comprehensive suite of software tools that can improve a project’s design standards and increase process efficiency. Sharing PVcase’s suite of software services, Herrero said its technology can intuitively and quickly identify and analyze sites for developers to build their projects by adding a layer of automation to the latter’s Geographic Information System (GIS), thus making the best use of digitalization. 

Users are able to see the simulation of their project design, difficult terrains, trackers and bifacial modules and their impact on the facility’s performance, even before breaking ground on site. The information is fully transferred between tools and across project lifecycle stages, lending trustworthiness to the data authenticity. 

In the near future, Herrero sees digital twins becoming the key to increase process efficiencies. An emerging technology, PVcase describes digital twin as a digital representation of a system in a 2D/3D model, containing all biological information to simulate the behavior and performance of the real PV plant it represents. 

Herrero believes there is huge potential for the solar PV industry to utilize digital twin capabilities when it comes to digitalization, which can be used throughout the lifecycle of a PV plant for its optimization. 

Panel discussion  

Moderated by TaiyangNews Managing Director Michael Schmela, the panel discussion revolved around using digitalization to bring PV power plants to the next level. 

TrinaTracker’s Sun Kai said while there is immense scope for digitalization, right from design to the final O&M stage, it is still taking baby steps. The good thing is, as Kai explained, there is a growing awareness about it since people do not just think about SCADA when it comes to digitalization. 

What is important is that the industry needs to see that digitalization-based technologies like TrinaTracker’s SuperTrack, among others, can help bring down labor costs and improve yield, thus saving overall costs for project owners. 

Agreeing with Kai, PVcase’s Miguel Herrero said there is growing enthusiasm and acceptance in the industry for the use of digital tools as companies see how this can save them a lot of time, sweat and money. 

It needs to tackle some challenges still, like the grid distribution system data which on paper is ample but not readily available in reality, like in Spain. This hampers grid connection plans for developers. A digital platform for such information is the growing need for countries seeking quick energy transition. 

SPE’s Jan Osenberg echoed Herrero’s thoughts saying the municipalities and grid operators across the board need to be made digitally sound to enable easy availability of data and permitting processing. Solar PV companies too need to invest in digital tools to make the most of the benefits these offer.  

However, he added that there needs to be an incentive for companies or government authorities to invest in digitalization. Full deployment of digital solutions in the solar PV ecosystem will need at least 7 to 8 years to manifest. 

Moving forward, block your date on November 21, 2023 when TaiyangNews hosts another Special Focus Webinar on Stunning Solar Aesthetics & Highest Efficiency Back Contact PV Module Technology For Rooftop Applications. Registrations are free and can be done here.

About The Author

Anu Bhambhani

Senior News Editor: Anu Bhambhani is the Senior News Editor of TaiyangNews. --Email : [email protected] --

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