Their use has had a tremendous impact on regular inspections of photovoltaic panels
The solar industry is growing exponentially, in fact faster than any other type of energy division in the world, with the global installed capacity now being over 300 GW according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). However, regular inspections of solar panels are essential to maintaining their performance and minimizing potential power loss. Especially in the US, solar farms are required by law to be scanned annually with an infrared camera.
The use of small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) on solar parks can significantly improve the operating efficiency, as they provide accurate imagery in significantly less time and with greater accuracy than inspectors with handheld infrared cameras. Flying instead of walking among the solar panels is much faster, and also a drone’s infrared camera can quickly identify a failed cell or diode because it shows as white when it’s not generating electricity. As a result, many operation and maintenance (O&M) providers turned to drones in order to reduce maintenance costs and increase power generation. “As soon as you put an infrared camera on a drone, what used to take three days takes two hours instead,” said Jason Handley, director of smart grid emerging tech and operations for Duke Energy, while presenting the utility’s sUAS initiative during a presentation at this year’s ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Fla.
- Rapid and Easy scans for Roof tops and arrays
- Hot spot identification showing defective cells / Geotagged image
- Diagnostic purpose / planning of Panel placement
- Infrared signatures show defective panels
- Keep the solar farm running at peak efficiency
- Save time with pre-selected way point aerial inspections
· Module faults: These include individual hot spots on the cells, diode failures, shattered or dirty modules, coating and fogging issues, and junction box heating.
· String and system faults: Wiring issues (reversed polarity, frayed cables), charge controller issues, and inverter and fuse failures.
· Racking and balance of system: These are major issues with how the modules are mounted.