Smart solar monitoring: Why you should have it

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Rooftop PV systems can be adversely affected by things outside of a household’s control – and without their knowledge. But you needn’t be in the dark about it.

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One Step Off The Grid

As electricity prices continue to rise and the cost of solar and energy storage devices continue to drop, Australians are investing more than ever in renewable energy technology to reduce costs and take control of their energy use.

According to recent Sunwiz analysis, Australia installed a record 1.25GW of solar PV in 2017, with residential solar PV installations jumping by 45% in the previous year.

However, the performance of a household energy systems can be adversely affected by things outside of a household’s control and without their knowledge.

The introduction of intelligent energy monitoring technologies means that issues that previously flew under the radar can now be picked up.

This gives homeowners the tools and information necessary to rectify issues promptly, helping them maximise their return on investment and reduce their impact on the environment.

At Redback Technologies, we’re focused on the development of intelligent software and hardware solutions that provide consumers with this type of energy intelligence, in easy to digest, real-time information (see Figure 1 below) along with powerful tools to help keep their system performing at its best.

Figure 1 – Redback Smart Hybrid System dashboard

Leveraging smart monitoring tools to identify inefficiencies

Last year, using the rich monitoring capabilities of the Redback Smart Hybrid solar PV inverter and battery system, we observed one of our customers experiencing a significant reduction in solar PV production across the course of the day, starting at around 10.30am (as seen in the purple line in Chart 1).

All told, these drops accounted for around 8.5kWh of lost production on the day.

Through the Redback portal, we were able to identify that the electricity grid was operating outside of its normal voltage range (see yellow line in Chart 2), resulting in the solar system disconnecting from the grid as it is required to do.

Without access to the granular detail on what was happening both inside and outside the home, the customer may never have known there was an issue.

Armed with this information, the customer was able to work with their network provider to address the issue.

Chart 3 shows system performance the day the network adjusted the voltage to bring it back in line with requirements (occurred at around 10am) after which the system returned to normal operation.

Left unchecked, this customer may have been $300 or more worse off each year if they continued to experience days like the one shown here, resulting in reduced savings and significantly increased payback period.

The benefits of smart monitoring systems like those in the Redback system are tangible, enabling homeowners to optimise the performance of their system, maximising their return on investment. This kind of energy intelligence puts the power in the hands of those who generate it.

James Miller-Randle is the chief marketing officer at Redback Technologies

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.

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5 Comments
  1. Roger Franklin 8 months ago

    A great article based on a local Australian based solar inverter manufacturer. I wonder how often these “Under the Radar” events occur and how accidental they really are! Nice to see how the issue was identified and resolved.

    • Greg Hudson 8 months ago

      It would be nice to know what the actual ‘solution’ was…

  2. john 8 months ago

    I had to deal with this issue a few years ago.
    The 11,000 Kw system was pumped up to 11,500 which resulted in a residential Low Voltage delivery of around 252 Volts.
    Naturally at about 08:00 the Inverter had to disconnect.
    This was caused by the 6 volt difference over the length of the wiring from the transformer to the meter box.
    My solution was to replace the standard old supply wires which were 6mm copper with upgraded wires which have a lower voltage drop or in this case a higher voltage rise due to the Inverter trying to deliver power.
    At the same time i replaced the wires from the fascia of the building know as the aerial connection to my meter box.
    After this exercise the voltage drop is about 1.5 to 2 volts or in the case of an Inverter trying to pump out power a rise of the same level.
    Trying to explain this to people has proved impossible.
    I have pointed to the output of an Inverter and said to the owner ” You do realise your system is not working don’t you?”
    Answer ” No it is ok ”
    Ignorance I am afraid is rife.

  3. Dr Wendy Miller 8 months ago

    Research from QUT suggests that this is not an unusual circumstance and that household monitoring is important. This week we published results from our analysis of four random households on four different low voltage networks in Australia: in each case there was evidence of poor power quality that could not be attributed to household PV systems or household loads, and that power quality management in low voltage networks is often poor. Summary of the paper:

    “Photovoltaics (PVs) have been widely reported as causing power quality problems
    for electricity distribution networks. Much of this literature gives the impression that networks, particularly low voltage networks, were effectively and proficiently managed and operated before the rise of PVs and that this new technology is causing problems that did not previously exist and would not currently exist if there were no rooftop PV systems. The purpose of this paper is to examine measured data of power quality at the customer service point of four random households in four
    different distribution networks in Australia. This is the first report of power quality examination from the perspective of the end-user (solar households). The results show that the low voltage distribution networks reported in this study do not have networks that meet required power quality standards—and this cannot be attributed to the rooftop PV systems reported here. The paper proposes that power quality failures in these low voltage networks could be attributed to poor historical
    management, missed opportunities to embrace PVs as a means of better network management, lack of acknowledgement of the emergence of the prosumer and lack of total quality management and systems thinking.”

    The full paper “Power Quality and Rooftop-Photovoltaic Households: An Examination of Measured Data at Point of Customer Connection” is freely available online
    http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/4/1224/htm
    or as PDF
    http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/4/1224/pdf

    Dr Wendy Miller, Queensland University of Technology

    • Pedro 8 months ago

      I would assume in the pre grid connect PV days we would hardly have ever noticed power power quality issues. Only during a brown/black out and if our electrical appliances suddenly blew up from over voltage. All smart meters have a digital displays where it is now easy to read grid voltage and frequency. And now we have our grid inverters telling us if they are on or not and the grid is of adequate quality. As a consequence I would have thought that overall grid quality would have improved since grid connect solar.

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