New tool to help detect problems in your solar panel performance
Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 26 May 2015 at 10:30 am
Sheffield Solar Farm has developed an online tool to help you detect problems in your solar panel performance.
The tool works by comparing the last six month’s data from your system with that of the surrounding hundred systems. If the data from any one month differs from other local systems by more than a threshold amount then the tool flags your system as failing.
Sheffield Solar Farm were motivated to develop the tool, which uses a traffic light warning system to flag up potential problems, after it became apparent that many owners of the UK’s half a million domestic solar PV installations have no idea whether their systems are working well or not.
“PV systems are generally reliable, with the breakdown of a component being very unlikely for several years,” says Aldous Everard from Sheffield Solar Farm. “But breakdowns do occur. If a fault causes a system to go offline completely, say from the loss of the inverter, then it is relatively easy to spot, so long as you keep an eye on your generation meter or web monitoring platform. But what if your system continues to generate but at a reduced level? Some faults cause partial loss of generation, and these are much harder to spot, especially with the UK’s variable weather.
There are cases of people losing out on significant feed-in tariff returns from their systems due to unidentified faults.”
The tool requires you to input your system’s performance data into the Microgen Database, which then compares that data with data from surrounding installations whose owners also log their performance data on the site. If a problem is flagged, system owners can then get more details about the performance loss in the form of comparative graphs.
On these graphs, the ouput lines drawn for the systems that are performing satisfactorily will tend to cluster and gravitate towards each other, leaving any underperforming system looking obviously exposed.
“Sheffield Solar have been working on performance reporting for PV systems since the early days of the feed-in tariff,” say Aldous. “This tool is the first of its kind and will help to keep the electricity flowing from domestic UK systems. The checker shows one of three lights: a green light for normal performance, a red light for a failing system and an amber warning if there is insufficient data.
If your system is flagged as underperforming then it may be for a number of reasons. These reasons may include system faults, or environmental problems. Some examples of system faults are:
- one or several strings of a multi-string array not functioning.
- a fuse blown or trip switch on a string.
- excessive soiling
- significant shading
See this blog for details of what you can do if you suspect your system is underperforming.
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