solar panels on a field

Solar farms are typically located in remote, harsh, and inaccessible environments such as desert plains and rooftops.1, 2 These factors create unique challenges for the maintenance of photovoltaic (PV) panels, including soiling (the accumulation of debris on the surface of the PV panel) and the high cost of periodic cleaning.2 Real-time diagnostics and early fault detection are also imperative for lowering cost, avoiding energy loss, equipment damage and safety hazards.1 There is a shift happening from a culture of breakdown maintenance to one of preventative maintenance, and IoT is becoming a popular way to address this.3

Remote Monitoring Systems

A remote sensing solution would be an ideal fit for this problem. Many different sensing modalities are available in the market. For example, a drone fitted with a thermal camera could be deployed. Another idea would be to use cameras coupled with AI that are distributed across the field. This system would reduce costs by monitoring soiling of PV panels. An alert would be generated when the panels need to be cleaned, minimizing unnecessary periodic cleaning and targeting cleaning to when it’s necessary, i.e. after a dust storm.

Deploying Cameras with HDR Technology

Daylight cameras would be more acceptable and effective, as PV plants can reduce maintenance costs and increase efficiency by more accurately alerting to soiling or defects compared to the current thermal monitoring techniques. PV panels are naturally situated in areas with bright sunlight and are reflective by default. This creates an imaging problem that can be solved using the latest High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques. HDR also allows high quality images to be taken in low light settings, such as at night.4

Sensors can also be integrated into existing IoT frameworks. This will allow real-time alerts to be transmitted back to home base and management of remote sensors. An example of such a framework when applied to PV panels can be found in 5.

How Labforge Utilizes IoT for Solar Panel Maintenance

Labforge’s Bottlenose and ICTN products are time and cost-effective means of mitigating these solar farm challenges. Multiple Bottlenose units could be positioned throughout the PV plant and could be programmed to alert for an array of issues, including damaged PV panels and soiling. By utilizing fixed mounted sensors, Labforge could drastically reduce the 30% error margin that’s recorded when using drone carried thermal cameras for automatic defects detection. Our cameras use dual 4K HDR, which would also increase accurate defect classification, when compared to poor resolution thermal cameras.1

To learn more about our cameras, please contact us.

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