The climate crisis requires urgent action as we need to significantly reduce our CO2 emissions to curb climate change and limit the average temperature increase to about 1.5°C. Here, Austrian ORF meteorologist, Marcus Wadsack writes: We are the first generation to feel climate change and the last to do something about it. We have the technology and the money, it would be negligent if we do nothing.
Nature itself provides climate-neutral energy in abundance. Year after year, the sun alone supplies more than 10,000 times the annual energy demand of the entire human race. The task of photovoltaic power plants is to convert the sun’s rays into electricity. But the optimal management of the huge number of components like PV panels, converters or switchgear requires advanced techniques and methods.
Using the sun’s energy with automation
Whether small solar PV systems with an electrical output of 1MW or large ones with well over 100MW, they should all be operated as close as possible to the optimum and must therefore be monitored. In addition, when such large outputs are fed into the power grid, they must be continuously reported to the entity responsible for the grid. The feeding point is usually a substation with special features in terms of switching reliability and remote monitoring. But not only online monitoring and control is important, retrospective monitoring of key indicators should also be possible. After all, the operator wants to know what return his investment is delivering or where there is a need for optimization.
To meet all these requirements, COPA-DATA has developed the Solar PV Application Set based on its zenon software platform. An Application Set is an application template that helps integrators and operators alike to create a specific process visualization quickly and easily.
For solar PV systems, the Application Set offers the ideal overview, summarizes all relevant components such as PV modules and strings, combiner boxes and inverters and clearly displays their operating status. In a solar heat map, the service engineer can immediately see which parts of the system are shaded or dirty or have other deviations or errors. This allows continuous maintenance work to be carried out in a simple and targeted manner, but also with foresight.
Another great advantage lies in the integrated reporting functions of zenon. Meaningful statistics can be created based on value archives of any duration and pre-compression. Thus, for example, causes of alarms can be analyzed, or yield figures and benchmarks — for example, according to IEC 61724 — can be formed. The possibility of uncomplicated reporting in zenon, based on an integrated database, means an invaluable advantage in the strategic optimization of system operation.
Accurate forecasting and balancing of the yields in real time is another important aspect of the automation of solar power plants. Corresponding outputs or surpluses must be precisely coordinated with the grid operator. On the other hand, specifications must be received from the grid operators. The data exchange required for this can take place via various industry protocols such as IE C 60870, DNP3 or OPC-UA as well as via REST or MQTT-based web protocols (XML, JSON) and must in any case fulfill a sufficient degree of robustness as well as cyber security.
Switchgear or substations form the bridge between the local power plant and the next higher network level. Here, expensive high-voltage components must be reliably orchestrated and monitored. Several specialized switching and protection systems from different manufacturers are typically used here. Here, zenon provides a comprehensive overview by means of the topological real-time representation of the networks. Powerful functions for the safe execution, but also recording and playback of complex switching operations can be easily used with the zenon software platform.
The possibilities of modern solar PV operation management
The consistent use of renewable energies for the purpose of mitigating the negative consequences of climate change must be made a top priority, especially in view of the effects that are already being clearly felt. Photovoltaic power plants are a supporting pillar for a carbon neutral energy economy. Intelligent automation helps to fully exploit the potential of photovoltaic power plants and to optimize yields over many years. The zenon software platform covers a unique spectrum of tasks for the operational management of photovoltaic power plants as well as surrounding switchgear or substations. The Solar PV Application Set in zenon effectively combines important functions and thus creates the ideal prerequisite for the perfect use of the valuable energy that our sun offers us.