An Introduction to the Portfolio Case Study

An Introduction to the Portfolio Case Study

 

Raptor Maps recently released a case study that reports on five heavily impacted sites owned and managed by a large, U.S.-based asset owner. The owner’s solar portfolio totals more than 410 MW of PV assets across the United States. This case study analyzes five PV systems of over 280 MWs, ranging in size from 1 to 200 MWs, and site locations distributed across the U.S. The data capture (aerial inspection) and analysis (data processing and deliverables) was performed via a mixture of internal drone operations by the O&M subcontractor and turnkey aerial services delivered via Raptor Maps. The article below is an overview of each PV system covered in much greater detail in the full Portfolio Case Study.

0.86MW Rooftop Solar PV System in New Jersey

 

This rooftop PV system was inspected for the asset owner by Raptor Maps’ local turnkey services. The inspection took one hour to complete including set up, flight, and demobilization. This inspection uncovered 4 hot cells, 6 cracked modules, and 1 offline inverter. These anomalies were impacting more than 5% of the site’s production capacity and estimated to result in $1,800 of annual revenue loss if not addressed. Performing the rooftop inspection via aerial thermography prevented any inspection related injuries and greatly minimized the amount of time required by the field technicians to be onsite for their inspection and repairs. The O&M subcontractor utilized Raptor Maps’ platform and the detailed anomalies map to quickly identify the modules and inverter requiring a further look and send the exact number of repairmen and supplies to remediate all issues.

6 MW Ground Mount DG Solar PV System in Minnesota

 

This 6 MW PV system was inspected as part of the annual preventative maintenance scope of work using Raptor Maps turnkey services and local, professional, and experienced drone pilots. The inspection uncovered 490 anomalies, categorized into 16 anomaly types, and amounting to 2,853 affected modules. Instances of shading due to the tree line was one of a few major issues identified by the drone inspection, impacting the performance of more than 2,200 modules. Equipped with this data, the O&M team was able to quickly and accurately create a detailed plan to resolve all major PV system anomalies causing performance issues and impacting revenue.

 

raptor maps inspection shading anomaly

RGB Imagery of shading impacting the PV system

13 MW DG Solar PV System in South Carolina

 

This site was inspected by the O&M subcontractor responsible for operating and maintaining this plant. The O&M team had built an internal drone program in 2019. They found the large amounts of data generated by the drone inspection difficult to analyze and organize and began using the Raptor Maps data-processing and reporting platform shortly after launching their drone program. Using Raptor Maps’ Flight Guidelines and Data Requirements, the O&M’s internal pilot managed all data capture (flights) and uploaded the imagery for automated data processing and report generation. The thermal drone inspection and reports uncovered 1,826 anomalies, across 9 categories, totaling more than 2,300 affected modules. The final reports identified and localized 10 malfunctioning strings, 379 diode faults, and over 400 cases of vegetation problems across the northwest side. The detailed reports and HD color imagery (RGB) enabled the O&M team to effectively assess all 400 cases of vegetation and is now utilizing Raptor Maps flight guidelines and data processing software to perform regular aerial inspections to maintain optimal site conditions.

 

raptor maps anomaly vegitation

RGB Imagery of some of the cases of vegetation that impacted the PV system’s production.

79 MW Utility-Scale Solar PV System in Arizona

 

The O&M subcontractor managing this utility-scale plant, as well as other large solar assets in the region, had a very tight timeline to complete all aerial thermography inspections before their site visits. Though this O&M subcontractor had an established internal drone program, they outsourced the aerial inspection to Raptor Maps’ turnkey services to free up their labor resources for other needed activities. By utilizing our turnkey services, we handled the aerial inspection, data analysis, and delivered them a report, allowing the O&M subcontractor to focus on other sites they managed. Upon inspection completion, the report identified 50 inverter faults, resulting in over 4% of annual production loss if left unrepaired. The O&M team knew that the site was facing inverter issues due to internal monitoring signals, but the exact number and locations were unclear. The O&M team prioritized their time onsite to resolve the numerous malfunctioning inverters and were able to reduce labor costs by deploying only the necessary number of technicians and resources to resolve all major issues.

 

199 MW Large Utility-Scale Solar PV System in California

 

This utility-scale PV system’s O&M vendor was alerted by their system monitoring software that the site was significantly underperforming in various blocks. Due to the large size of the site–more than 1000 acres– and difficulty in locating the string and module-level faults using field walks and IV-Curve tracing would be too expensive. In addition to the costs of these methods in both time and labor resources, they decided to use the faster and cheaper drone inspection option. The O&M subcontractor consulted with Raptor Maps regarding what level of aerial inspection would be appropriate for this investigative inspection and chose a two-phase inspection. The first aerial PV inspection would be a high-level, Raptor Overview level inspection to quickly identify and localize major issues impacting performance as well as heavy concentrations of lower priority faults. After the completion of the first phase, the second deployment would be a Raptor Comprehensive level inspection, targeting heavily impacted areas of the site to collect more detailed analytics on the anomalies causing the performance issues. The report identified thousands of performance issues across 6 categories, totaling 3,114 anomalies. There were almost 20,000 impacted modules resulting in over 7 MW of production lost and almost $300,000 of annual revenue loss if left unresolved for the next 12 months. The O&M team utilized Raptor Maps interactive map and a printed out copy of both the .PDF and Excel spreadsheet reports to create a detailed remediation plan. The site manager was able to deploy their team to every anomaly without wasting time locating the box or module. The team was able to resolve all major issues impacting system performance within a few weeks and return the PV system to optimum production levels.

 

RGB Imagery of tracker issues discovered in the aerial inspection.

In Conclusion

 

The client added Raptor Maps’ turnkey services and to support their O&M subcontractors in early 2019. Within nine months, over 340 MW of sites were flown, analyzed, and reported on. They utilized the versatility of aerial thermography and data analysis through both turnkey services and software. In addition, the asset owner decided to add their O&M subcontractors that self-perform drone inspections to their Raptor Maps account. This enabled the O&M subcontractors to upload, analyze, review, share, and host their drone inspection imagery in a central place and access it as needed.

 

Download the full case study here!

Rooftop Solar PV Construction: The Benefits of Aerial Planning Surveys

Rooftop Solar PV Construction: The Benefits of Aerial Planning Surveys

Design the site right the first time with precise aerial data and prevent unexpected costs later in the project.

 

How to Plan Rooftop Solar PV Systems Faster, Cheaper, and More Accurately

Technology to improve the speed, efficiency, and safety of PV system construction is always advancing, with Aerial Planning Surveys as one of the most recent developments. Aerial surveys of rooftop sites enable teams to properly plan installation and remotely confirm project progress. Teams can quickly and safely view obstacles, accurately plan measuring missions and have a precise base inspection map. Read about the solution’s advantages, effectiveness, and deliverables, as well as an industry use case below. 

Quickly Gained Advantages

In order for teams to begin constructing a rooftop PV system, there are several developer bottlenecks that need to be overcome. These include finding recent imagery of the roof or a rooftop site survey, gathering measurements of parapets, offsets, and obstructions, accurately plan the PV system using dated imagery to plan the design/layout, and obtaining the necessary permits. Aerial Planning Surveys enable teams to quickly overcome these challenges and move into the construction stage faster while avoiding hazardous man-hours climbing up onto the roof to analyze the site.

Accuracy: When a site is surveyed with a UAV (drone), the measurements of parapets, offsets, and obstructions are exact and remove any potential error encountered by using generic and outdated imagery. This prevents any incorrect initial measurements from postponing or increasing the cost of the construction.

Speed: Aerial rooftop surveying is 75% faster and cheaper than manual rooftop surveying, enabling teams to obtain permits faster. Aerial Planning Surveys also allow teams to be more efficient and inspect more rooftops in a shorter period of time.

Safety: Performing an Aerial Rooftop Survey eliminates the numerous safety hazards of a manual site assessment. By removing the need for engineers to visit the rooftop site it eliminates the risk of injuries.

These inspections equip teams with the technology needed to design the site right the first time and prevent unexpected delays and costs later in the project. The initial design greatly influences the final cost of the project, making an accurate design a key part of an efficient and seamless rooftop PV system construction.

These deliverables are provided with a fast turnaround time, often in less than 48 hours. A turnkey project includes a professional pilot deployed to the site to perform the data collection survey within days of a PO generated. Deliverables arrive shortly after the survey completion to enable construction project progress.

 

The Deliverables from an Aerial Site Assessment

Upon the completion of the Aerial Rooftop Survey, teams are equipped with multiple files that enable them to properly plan and design the PV system. Deliverables include:

Orthomosaic: An orthomosaic map is a detailed and accurate photo representation of the surveyed area.

Digital Surface Model: The files hold representations of the surfaces and features that are elevated above the ground/roof surface, offering teams precise height measurements.

Point Cloud: The point cloud file is the most complete set of raw measurements of the site, enabling teams to create an accurate CAD model.

Ortho Scale Factor: The necessary conversion factor for all units of measurement in the deliverables.

3D Mesh Files: In this packet of deliverables, teams receive mesh material, the 3D mesh file, and the texture file.

Though all of the above-mentioned files aren’t AutoCAD files, they are AutoCAD compatible. 

AutoCAD Files: The AutoCAD file deliverable is available as an upgraded deliverable and provides engineers measurements of parapets, wall offsets to IFC Standards, and rooftop obstructions.

 

 

Conclusion

Raptor Maps’ aerial site assessment turnkey services and deliverables enable teams to properly plan the installation and remotely confirm project progress. Aerial inspections are 75% faster and cheaper than manual inspections, allowing teams to obtain necessary permits faster and inspect and survey more sites in a shorter period of time. Teams are able to view obstacles, accurately plan measurement missions and gain a precise base inspection map. The aerial surveys eliminate safety risks and hazards by eliminating the need for manual rooftop visits. Design the site right the first time with precise aerial data and prevent unexpected costs later in the project.

 

 

If you would like to learn more about Aerial Rooftop Surveys please contact us HERE or email us directly through info@raptormaps.com.

Raptor Maps Releases 2020 Global Solar Aerial Thermography Report

Raptor Maps Releases 2020 Global Solar Aerial Thermography Report

Raptor Maps overview aerial inspection

Download the report below.

BOSTON, MA, January 29, 2020—Raptor Maps, the global leader in aerial thermography software and analytics, released its annual report on factors affecting production in PV systems. The company leveraged a subset of its data repository of PV system “digital twins” to query 7,880 MW across 25 countries and 6 continents to help PV system owners and operators benchmark and improve their portfolios.

 

Aerial thermography is the practice of assessing and monitoring photovoltaic (PV) system conditions using data captured via an aircraft equipped with a thermal camera. The technique is increasingly required by asset owners and financiers for performance verification and risk mitigation.

 

The study encompassed 31 million modules across more than 800 PV systems and showed that on average, 1.6% of power production is affected (compared with 1.7% from the previous year). Classifications included in the study include equipment (e.g., inverter, combiner, tracker), environmental (e.g., shadowing, soiling), and module-level findings (e.g., cracking, delamination, and activated bypass diodes).

 

“The rapid growth in solar PV combined with decreasing PPA prices is forcing the industry to find every MWh of lost production and restore it,” explains Nikhil Vadhavkar, Raptor Maps’ CEO. “Our goal is to ensure that existing solar assets are meeting or exceeding expected returns, while providing critical feedback for new portfolios under development.”

Technical information regarding data collection protocols and API reference available at docs.raptormaps.com.

Complete the form to access the report. 

© 2020 Raptor Maps, Inc.

info@raptormaps.com

444 Somerville Ave.
Somerville, MA 02143

Webinar Recap: Live Q&A with Raptor Maps and FLIR: Thermal Drones and Solar Inspections

Webinar Recap: Live Q&A with Raptor Maps and FLIR: Thermal Drones and Solar Inspections

Raptor Maps partnered with FLIR Systems for a live 5-part webinar series on the use of thermal drones in solar inspections. The 5th part was a live Q&A webinar, the following summary of the questions asked and our answers can be viewed below. 

The first 4 parts of the webinar series are free on-demand videos discussing the following topics:

1. The Value of Adding Thermal for Solar Inspections

2. Thermal Drone Best Practices

3. Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Service Provider

4. Limitations of Thermal Drone Inspections

Part 5: Live Q&A Webinar

 

View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=UTRukkQf9Cw

 

Below, are some of the questions we were able to get to with a summary of our answers given. 

What are some of the general uses of this technology in the solar space? 

There are many uses for thermal drones in the solar space. To start, when a solar farm is built doing a thermal inspection of it will confirm that the site was built correctly and the components are working properly. After that, either quarterly, semi-annually, or annually are also times that the solar PV system can be inspected. Doing this regularly will help the solar PV system be as productive as possible, allow you to know if the anomalies are warranty related issues, and make sure it reaches its full potential lifetime.  

What is the demand for drone companies in the solar industry?

There is a massive demand for drone companies performing thermal inspections on solar PV systems. In the last 6 months we have seen a sharp increase in the number of drone service providers entering the solar space because solar asset owners are demanding them. As the awareness of the benefits that using thermal drones in these inspections grows, more companies will look to adopt the technology in place of other inspection methods. 

One reason for the rapid growth is because currently a lot of solar PV systems are in uncontrolled airspace, allowing for drone service providers to be able to quickly and easily perform the inspection without having to go through regulations.  

 

At what size of a Solar PV system does an aerial solar inspection become valuable?

The answer to this is also very dependent on the age of the solar farm. For instance, a smaller but older solar PV site being inspected could bring considerable value to the ones receiving the report because as the PV systems age, the likelihood of anomalies occurring increases. We have found that anything over 100 kW, or roughly half an acre, is enough of a benchmark to see valuable results. The speed and accuracy that thermal drone inspections offer generates enough ROI to be chosen as the inspection method the next time an inspection is needed. 

For reference, one megawatt is roughly 5 acres in size. 

 

How does Raptor Maps train and qualify drone pilots, and how do I start a drone pilot program? 

For clarity, Raptor Maps does not offer a drone training program. We recommend going to well received places and using our, and FLIR’s resources on drone best practices. 

To start doing solar inspections, we recommend doing hands on drone training with your specific payload. You should take an in field drone training class. This will allow you to fully utilize the features of your equipment.  

 

Are you interested in learning more about UAS, drone inspections of solar assets, and having your data converted PV analytics and system reports? If so, please contact us here and our team will be in touch.

 

About FLIR, FLIR Systems is the world’s largest commercial company specializing in the design and production of thermal imaging cameras, components and imaging sensors, widely used in solar inspections performed by thermal drones. FLIR Systems was established in 1978 to pioneer the development of high-performance, low-cost infrared (thermal) imaging systems for airborne applications. They have serviced the needs of  customers all over the world. 

How Drones can be Used to Support Solar Inspections for Warranties

How Drones can be Used to Support Solar Inspections for Warranties

Using Drones and Software to Support Warranty Inspections

Aerial PV system inspections can be used for a variety of applications and reasons. The purpose of this blog post is to discuss the benefits of using drones and Raptor Maps for the inspections of sites for warranty reasons. Regular inspections of a PV system are a common part of asset management and O&M and need to be done regularly to maintain the validity of the warranty. Regular inspections also create data sets and reference points for future inspections, helping you identify the time period in which the problem started. 

In our experience across more than 10GW of PV inspections, there are 3 common options used for PV system inspections. Option A, Human labor consisting of field walks and visually identifying warrantable issues, option B, manned aircraft (airplane) inspection of a PV system, or option C, the use of drone technology to perform the inspection. Unless your solar PV system is extremely small and can be thoroughly walked and visually checked in a couple of hours, we have found that using a drone is the most efficient, cheapest, and quickest method. The capabilities of even an entry-level industrial drone reduce the inspection process time, and the amount of time it takes until you receive your report.  

Raptor Maps and drone difference

 

Application in Warranty Inspections

For warranty inspections that require a thorough review of every module on a PV system, aerial inspections by drone are completed in a fraction of the time when compared against human labor. The inspection and, which normally takes weeks, will take a drone a day or two (for commercial-scale and utility-scale systems. Once all imagery/data of the site has been collected with the drone, the data analysis and the creation of a detailed, clear, and actionable report with Raptor Maps can be completed in days. The process to identify modules with the warrantable issue is 1000 times faster. Instead of spending valuable time and labor on the inspection to find anomalies, you can spend this time on investigating the problems in more detail and laying out your warranty claim. 

Drones have a wide capability of what can be found. They’re able to detect:

Large scale issues.

Raptor Maps Inverter Anomaly Identified on Solar PV Plant

Inverter Anomaly Identified on Solar PV Plant.

Module defects.

Raptor Maps identified diode anomaly

One of many diodes identified during a warranty inspection.

Cell level anomalies. 

Raptor Maps identifies anomalies to cell level

Cell level anomalies are easily identified with thermal cameras.

If it can be identified visually, a drone will be able to find the problem. The Raptor Maps built report, will localize, and prioritize the defect so you know the severity of issues that are affecting your solar PV site. 

Raptor Maps Report Anomaly map

Image from a Raptor Maps report showing affected modules, and their location and severity.

Drones and Software Benefits

For anomalies that require thermography and can’t be seen by the eye, drones deliver the capability to detect thermal anomalies and accurate temperature deltas of those anomalies. This information enables you to know which modules are functioning correctly, and which are not functioning correctly. The data collected with a thermal drone also enables you to identify where the anomaly is located in the PV system down to the module level. When following the IEC standards for aerial thermography of a PV system, capturing the data at 3cm/px enables very specific detail to be reported on, and gives the warranty claims a stronger foundation as well. The thermal image resolution is critical for the accuracy of the findings. Using a manned aircraft/plane cannot deliver this high-level resolution and detail in thermal image resolution.

Raptor Maps imagery at 3cm/px

High-resolution image of a solar PV system flown at 1cm/px GSD showing module cracking.

Standardization

Inspections are also standardized when using a drone and data analysis software like Raptor Maps for your warranty inspections. We have strict data requirements for acceptable imagery. You’ll receive the same level of quality in each inspection analyzed through this process. Standardizing the inspection will allow you to build a database of more in-depth reference points, and create a higher level of certainty of correct anomalies because all inspections were performed and analyzed the same way, each time. 

When every aerial inspection of a PV system is performed the same standardized way and all data is reviewed by the same tool such as Raptor Maps, you are able to find recurring issues. This also enables you to take note of anomaly trends and further diagnose root causes including issues that could be due to a manufacturer defect or installation error.  Properly identifying the root cause with standardized data and reports enables you to file a warranty claim and replace the component instead of constantly addressing the same problems and increasing labor onsite. 

We have heard from several companies that own, manage, and maintain solar assets that the need for regular inspections up O&M costs. PV systems built with components that have known issues and require these regular inspections to catch new warrantable issues consumes significant time and labor bandwidth. Though the costs can be calculated and possibly budgeted for, using drones for these ongoing inspections and a credible software solution will reduce the amount of labor required. However, drones combat this and allow for time to be spent on other matters, and/or further investigating or field addressing the anomalies. 

Conclusion

In close, applying drones and software technology is an easier, less expensive, and more efficient way to inspect your solar PV system for warranties. The accuracy of the thermal cameras allows you to identify anomalies and track trends to build a robust case for the warranty claims. 

If you want a more in-depth breakdown of thermal drones application in solar inspections, check out our free 5-part webinar series created with FLIR!

If you would like to learn more about how using drones and software can support solar inspections for warranties please contact us HERE or email us directly through info@raptormaps.com. We can also help you learn more about our software that converts your inspection imagery into final reports that are accurate and easy to use for asset management and maintenance.

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Limitations of Thermal Drone Inspections

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Limitations of Thermal Drone Inspections

Raptor Maps partnered with FLIR for a five-part series with four videos and a live Q&A webinar on the use of thermal drones for solar inspection. The 4 part video series covers a variety of topics, such as the benefits of thermal cameras in solar inspections, best practices for inspections, questions to ask before hiring a service provider, and the limitations of thermal drones in solar inspections.

 

Video 4: Planning For a Successful Thermal Inspection

This video covers:

  • Camera and Environmental Limitations
  • Irradiance & Operating Status
  • Coverage & Flight Times

In the last part of the video series before the live webinar, the current limitations of the hardware are discussed. You will learn about the limitations of the actual hardware, like the camera’s themselves. You will also learn about outside factors that can be limiting, like environmental limitations, and irradiance and operating issues. Lastly, the video will discuss limitations within coverage and flight times. 

Check out the other videos in the series!

1                2               3               4

Are you interested in learning more about thermal drone inspections of solar assets, and having your data converted PV analytics and system reports? If so, please contact us here and our team will be in touch.