Smarter Asset Management with Solar IoT Solutions
Co-founder and CTO
Internet of Things is increasingly gaining ground with advances in technology of internet, data and communication.
This has spurred a lot of innovative business practices and applications across sectors, especially in Industrial automation, healthcare, transportation & logistics, energy. One such industry where IoT will play a significant role in coming years is Solar.
India is a signatory of Paris climate accord and committed to reduce carbon emissions. It had set an ambitious target of achieving over 50% of power production from renewable sources by 2027. India also leads an International Solar Alliance, consisting of 121 countries, to collaborate on increasing solar energy use around the world.
Till March 2017, solar plant projects with 20GW of power production capacity were allocated and 12GW installed and running. Most of these projects are done on power purchasing agreements with Indian utilities, where they agree to buy the output at a specific price called, feed in tariff. These prices have come down from more than Rs.6 per unit in the past to less than Rs.3 per unit now. Much of that is attributed to falling prices of panels as market become more competitive and the technology more economical.
Consequently, the investment returns of solar plants have come down and became more sensitive to the plant’s performance. While investors have no control on macro-economic factors, they can ensure the plant performs at its best to get more energy generation and consequently better returns. Plus solar requires significant maintenance. A few hours of plant downtime can cause significant revenue loss.
Most of Solar management is currently done using intensive manual processes and excel based reporting. For the technical details on the operations of the plant, localized data acquisition and control automation systems (SCADA) are installed in the plants to collect information and provide a dashboard view to plant managers on the overall functioning of the plant.
Often this becomes a challenging task due to lack of real-time transparent data, consistent communication, remoteness of the plant location, availability of trained and skilled engineers, transit losses in fixing things during down-times.
These challenges in Solar Asset Management can be addressed extremely well by IoT based solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence. Such solutions can help asset managers work more efficiently by improving the business processes at multiple levels by
-Bringing in new paradigms in managing a solar asset portfolio
-Ensuring solar plant infrastructure is well maintained for a life-time based on technology driven key actionable insights-
-Increasing the life-time energy generation and improve investment returns
-Mitigating adverse effects of optimistic estimates and overlooked risks taken by solar plant developers and investors
IoT based preventive actions help to increase the uptime and it is established that such platforms can improve the generation by up to 10-15%. Moreover, these platforms reduce the requirement of large teams at the plants, reducing the personnel costs, save water costs for cleaning, help warranty enforcement.
The overall impact of implementing IoT solutions in solar is that managing a large portfolio of solar investments become much simpler and the return on investment on these plants can be improved by up to 10-15%. Ensuring usage of IoT solutions in managing solar can help solar investors mitigate losses due to unforeseen events and get adequate returns as planned during investment stages.
About the Author
Tanuja is Co-founder and CTO at DataGlen. DataGlen is a startup part of cohort 2 of Cisco LaunchPad initiative at Cisco Bangalore.
DataGlen provides IoT Cloud Platform for managing Distributed Energy Resources such as Solar (grid tied/ off-grid systems), Mini grids, battery management and others. DataGlen is helping efficiently manage more than 200MWp capacity solar plants in India and Europe at more than 125 sites (plant capacity range of 15kWp to 50MWp) and is growing very rapidly.