Easily Detect PV Underperformance

Easily Detect PV Underperformance

By: Adam Baker

It all comes down to improving data displayed in HMIs.

I recently wrote an article published in North American Clean Energy about why owners have difficulty finding the cause of solar underperformance.

With utility-scale sites’ slim margins, controls and monitoring systems would seem an obvious way to keep a close eye on plant operations to avoid underperformance. However, most solar plant SCADA systems do not provide the level of detail necessary to locate issues that cause small losses in production, such as shading, blown DC fuses, and cracked cells.

Owners aren’t finding issues. Not because there aren’t any, but because the data they receive isn’t providing the right information required to investigate.

Raw data is the main culprit. Raw data coming in for any value does an operator no good, unless he’s memorized the optimal status data for every value. Instead of easily being able to view an HMI and instantly know if an inverter is underperforming, operators squint at the screen, hem and haw, and assume the site’s doing ok.

The key to avoiding operator assumption is to contract with your system integrator to normalize the data coming into your HMI.

What do I mean by normalizing? Normalizing makes all values, comparative values. Normalization means making each data set consistent and comparable to other related data. Displaying the normalized data as a bar chart makes it even easier to identify problems.

Why is underperformance slippage even an issue? In part, it has to do with site developers going with the lowest bidder. By selecting the cheapest control system integrator to design and implement PV SCADA, there’s a pretty safe bet that low bidder doesn’t know a thing about how solar sites work. They design the system as they would any manufacturing plant, wastewater treatment plant, or commercial automation system.

See the problem?

Instrumentation and controls is a one-time cost…If implemented correctly. Doesn’t it make sense to get it right the first time?

To get a better look into how to find solar underperformance easier through data normalization, check out the article.


Adam Baker - Affinity EnergyAdam Baker is Senior Sales Executive at Affinity Energy with responsibility for providing subject matter expertise in utility-scale solar plant controls, instrumentation, and data acquisition. With 23 years of experience in automation and control, Adam’s previous companies include Rockwell Automation (Allen-Bradley), First Solar, DEPCOM Power, and GE Fanuc Automation.

Adam was instrumental in the development and deployment of three of the largest PV solar power plants in the United States, including 550 MW Topaz Solar in California, 290 MW Agua Caliente Solar in Arizona, and 550 MW Desert Sunlight in the Mojave Desert.

After a 6-year stint in controls design and architecture for the PV solar market, Adam joined Affinity Energy in 2016 and returned to sales leadership, where he has spent most of his career. Adam has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, and has been active in environmental and good food movements for several years.