Solar Monitoring Options

Monitoring, Applications, Optimization

We count our steps, track the miles on our vehicle, and micromanage the likes on social media posts, so it’s only fitting that we track and understand the performance of our solar arrays.

While solar monitoring has been in the industry for years, it has only recently become accessible and valuable to installers and system owners. Like heart rate monitors on Olympic athletes, solar monitoring can tell you about the health of your system, predict energy production and identify areas in which you can capitalize on your solar assets.

Nearly all residential and commercial inverters have solar monitoring capabilities, however this article will primarily focus on the residential options that are available on the market today. There have been three significant additions to solar monitoring that make their value irreplaceable

  1. Module-level data

    • With NEC 2017 requiring certain residents to have module-level rapid shutdown, module-level monitoring data became a natural byproduct. Inverters paired with module-level power electronics (MLPEs) often have the ability to record and report the smallest of changes in system performance. This can allow system owners and installers to proactively address necessary operations and management (O&M). Additionally, modern monitoring software cross references expected production outputs with historical weather trends to help temper performance expectations.

  2. Smartphone compatibility

    • In the advent of the smartphone world, it is important to make solar monitoring information accessible to system owners and installers. The interface of inverter applications makes the data informative and digestible in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Inverter applications have made production, efficiency, and solar irradiance graphs comprehensible using comparative analysis from aggregated and historical trends.

  3. Visually appealing interface

    • Solar is often recognized as a complex, less intuitive technology. However, monitoring your system has become a task achievable by nearly anyone. The new, user-friendly nature of this information has now created opportunities for installers and system owners to identify problems within their systems and seek the appropriate installation assistance.

Depending on how old your system is, there are three main types of solar monitoring systems available on the market today. Wi-Fi, cellular, and wired based monitoring equipment make up the vast majority of solar monitoring systems. Each of these systems presents inherent benefits and drawbacks to the installers and system owners.

  1. Wi-Fi (Wireless)

    • This is the most common option available to installers because of the ease of installation. Typical Wi-Fi (wireless) systems will provide real-time, module level information via the Wi-Fi available on site. Since nearly all residential spaces are already established with Wi-Fi connection, it has become easier to install Wi-Fi based systems. However, a crucial critique of Wi-Fi monitoring is how connectivity can be unreliable and inconsistent. One of the most popular systems on the market is from Enphase with their microinverter technology.

  2. Cellular

    • Similar to Wi-Fi based monitoring, cellular monitoring provides advanced solar array statistics to installers and system owners. The data is translated by a cellular plug-in (SIM card), supported by top cellular providers, within the inverter. Since these networks are always on and offering a signal, there is limited errors and unreliable points in their connection. SolarEdge’s SetApp inverters use five- and twelve-year cellular plans via Sprint. If you are interested in a cellular based system, it’s important to ensure that the system will be supported within the coverage areas of the cellular provider.

  3. Wired

    • Wired solar monitoring provides installers and system owners with the information necessary for maintaining a productive system without the flashy applications and wireless connection. This traditional system is a great reliable option for homes without existing Wi-Fi or cellular service. Since the technology and hardware has been around for a longer time, many installers and system owners appreciate it’s reliability and simplicity.

The implementation of solar monitoring to a solar array brings additional value to installers and system owners alike. Modern monitoring technology will allow for individuals to track, identify, and develop proactive solutions to achieve greater production and efficiency. It is important to understand the options that are available on the market today and ensure that you are installing a monitoring system that appropriately supports your needs. To learn more about specific solar monitoring capabilities and figure out which system is right for you, take a minute and reach out to one of CivicSolar’s Account Managers.

8 months 1 week ago
Written by
Andrew Houx
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