Raptor maps Solar PV system aerial inspection

 

Solar PV Commissioning and Aerial Thermography

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems are the world’s fastest-growing source of renewable energy, holding an annual growth rate of 50% over the last 10 years. Due to the increased number of solar PV systems around the world, we wanted to help teams understand the importance of performing a commissioning inspection upon completion of a site. In this blog, we will highlight the value of correctly performing a commissioning inspection, the role that drones and software analysis have in commissioning a PV system, and tips to perform one correctly. 

The Benefit of Commissioning a PV system

Performing a commissioning inspection when the PV system is first completed creates opportunities for the asset owners and financiers that won’t be present a year or even months down the line. Upon the site’s construction finishing, the data gathered from commissioning inspections can be used to validate the quality of installation, as well as the condition of the plant’s modules. Understanding the state the PV system starts at is especially critical because it allows teams to fix any OEM issues in the warranty window. We’ve seen many clients use this technology at 3-6 month intervals to closely monitor the site while in this window of time. 

Raptor Maps commissioning PV system

The newly constructed PV system was found to have almost $20,000 of lost annual revenue in anomalies.

 

These inspections provide value to teams both immediately and over the course of the solar PV systems lifetime. To start, the data can be used by the EPC firm to quickly identify the areas that need improvement or to be fixed, and quickly begin solving the issues. Also, commissioning sites creates a baseline of production levels to compare to. Teams that maintain the site in the future will be able to check the baseline as a reference point and determine what the PV system production levels should be.

Raptor Maps IR anomalies identified

Aerial Thermography reveals issues throughout the PV system. Even newly constructed PV systems can contain faulty equipment.

 

Why Aerial Thermography

Drones are the suggested method to conduct a commissioning inspection and have been used on sites ranging from 50 kW to 400 MW. There are multiple reasons why aerial thermography and software should be used to conduct the commissioning inspection. First off, drones can be used to perform quality assurance inspections. Drones are faster, more accurate, and cheaper than manual commissioning inspections. Aerial thermography inspections allow for submodule level data on every module in the site. This is because drones can perform inspections that follow IEC requirements, which provide extremely accurate temperature data on the module level.

Upon deciding to have a commissioning inspection of the PV system, there are IEC compliant best practices that should be followed. This will ensure the results will be accurate and trustworthy down to the cell level of each module throughout the site. To begin, the inspection should be performed by a trained, experienced, and licensed pilot who has performed a commissioning inspection before, read this for more information on how to properly qualify a drone service provider. It is not recommended that a company purchases a drone and tries to learn how to fly it to perform these inspections. The results will not provide teams with the true condition of the site and the baseline for future reference points will be inaccurate.

Conclusion

In conclusion, commissioning inspections performed with aerial thermography are a highly reliable, and accurate assessment of the sites’ initial operating state. They’re more affordable, faster, safer, and are more scalable than other methods to commission a PV system. These inspections should be performed to IEC standards by experienced UAV pilots. They provide high-quality data that can be used to support warranty claims. As well as create a model to be referenced in the future.

If you would like to learn more about how using drones and software can support solar inspections for commissioning a PV system 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.