The amount and complexity of data generated by renewable energy sources is increasing, as are the regulatory requirements for its collection and delivery. This is how modern asset management systems can offer better functionality and control to project operators and owners.
At the same time, interaction with the network and maintaining stability become more complicated when service providers have to find ways to ensure the reliable operation of numerous devices, sometimes at great distances, with limited data.
In addition, regulation is becoming more stringent each year, as evidenced by recent changes in the United States, such as the upcoming mandatory requirement to report generation performance data to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) through the Generating Availability-Data System (GADS). , starting in January.
Fortunately, asset monitoring software designed specifically for the renewable energy industry makes it easy for generators to connect, monitor and manage so they can significantly improve performance and reliability. The best of these solutions can integrate all assets into a single system, provide better access to information, and help producers improve the management of their operations over the lifecycle of an individual asset or the entire fleet.
Renewable energy producers have the opportunity to buy solar electric devices from several different suppliers. Each component from a different vendor comes with its own original equipment manufacturer (OEM) control system and asset management application, each with unique features and limitations. If an organization later decides to purchase another brand, expand software to meet new network requirements, or build an accurate solution as part of a replacement or expansion project, all new resources have their own OEM software and maintenance team. complexity increases.
Control and asset management systems from multiple manufacturers typically use completely different interfaces and dashboards. Operators must either switch between multiple applications to manage their assets or find a way to create a complex user interface that combines two or more different brands of devices into a single display.
The complexity continues to grow as companies build their renewable energy portfolios and add other energy sources to it. Operators and technicians must be trained in multiple interfaces, and must move between them and interpret information presented in different formats.
Comprehensive asset and energy management software can help Teams circumvent such complex issues by integrating many different types of systems into the fleet. The most advanced solutions are vendor independent and can manage assets from any manufacturer.
With an asset management platform designed specifically for renewable energy production, teams can more easily connect multiple asset bases so that they can be monitored from a single central control or remote control center. These systems can also be used with batteries and other devices through a single dashboard. Built-in NERC GADS reporting can also be integrated with asset management software.
One of the main drawbacks of the software that comes with most solar components is that it is very limited in design. Most manufacturers protect the information provided by their products, and as a result they restrict user access to many data sources. For operations teams to effectively support their networks and maximize production, personnel need far more information than is available through most OEM-provided tools.
For example, operations and maintenance groups may want to use temperature readings from installed modules. If they also use battery storage, they want more access to temperature data for those assets as well, but with standard OEM management tools, that essential information is often hidden and unavailable.
Missing this and other critical information means that functionality visibility is not complete, which reduces reliability and uptime. When a team can’t see the data used to illustrate how its assets are working, it’s likely to see problems that require more extensive information to identify. Such teams are also unable to track and target patterns to isolate and identify recurring issues.
A comprehensive renewable energy asset management platform can easily provide 10-50 times the parameters compared to typical OEM software, and these parameters are critical for monitoring system fluctuations. Whether it’s supporting the grid by managing active power, reactive power and frequency control – or improving reserves to ensure customers don’t experience blackouts – operators need access to deep and reliable data.
Taking back control
The asset monitoring technology for renewable energy sources must be ready for use and the facility’s own personnel must be able to maintain it independently. This should reduce the on-site engineering required for new resources, each of which will appear in pre-configured dashboards once a connection is established.
Users should also be able to customize the systems if desired by adding new charts and creating dashboard elements to highlight key information and make comparisons. For example, if an organization with three solar farms has one plant with sensor problems, it can compare the performance of that location to plants that are working properly to identify the trigger for those problems.
In addition, key alerts can be added to a custom dashboard designed to help sites achieve specific goals. Some factories remove unused dashboards and replace them with tools that display important information such as emergency numbers.
Trending asset performance can also help Technical Teams more easily intervene when an asset is running and make changes to optimize operations across the site. Teams can better schedule maintenance and changes, which ultimately lowers life-cycle maintenance costs and increases revenue from production over the life of the system.
About the author: Thomas Andersen has more than 30 years of experience in controlling and optimizing renewable energy sources. He started his career as an electrical technician with Mita-Teknik, a pioneer in wind power control. Andersen is now Emerson’s Director of Renewable Energy Technologies, leading the expansion into renewable energy sources through innovative software and technologies that increase reliability and energy production while lowering operating and maintenance costs. His extensive experience helps customers accelerate the digital transformation to smarter and more sustainable operations.