Q2 2015 PV Newsletter

8
Jul

Q2 2015 PV Newsletter

Introducing the Solar Industry’s Most Accurate Virtual Weather for Real-Time Data and 5-Day Forecasts:

Virtual Weather

This newsletter introduces two new AlsoEnergy products that utilize our newest virtual weather technology. You can also find advice for site commissioning and answers to customer FAQs regarding SCADA systems. Learn about the latest upgrades to the DECK Monitoring platform, and meet our new Director of Sales and Marketing.

[nextpage title=”Introducing the Solar Industry’s Most Accurate Virtual Weather for Real-Time Data and 5-Day Forecasts“]

Introducing the Solar Industry’s Most Accurate Virtual Weather for Real-Time Data and 5-Day Forecasts

Virtual Weather

AlsoEnergy is proud to introduce the industry’s most accurate virtual weather data stream, including localized available irradiance data as well as 5-day predicted power forecasts. Solar industry professionals now have access to the same breakthrough technology already being used by industrial utilities, agriculture, and transportation industries. AlsoEnergy has developed these new features in partnership with Global Weather Corporation (GWC), providers of the most accurate weather forecasts in the commercial marketplace.

AlsoEnergy is integrating this virtual weather data into both lines of solar monitoring software, PowerTrack and DECK Monitoring. AlsoEnergy customers with current version software will receive a free real-time data feed showing localized irradiance, ambient temperature, and module temperature (free service will not integrate virtual weather data into power analysis software tools).

Users may also choose to add one or both optional SolarSight packages, which add precipitation and humidity to the data stream. More importantly, the SolarSight packages integrate virtual weather data with analytic suite software tools, giving you all the same functionality you would expect from an on-site weather station.

  • SolarSight Log: This feature adds access to localized historical weather data in hourly granularity. With full integration for both historical and real-time weather data, you will be able to see real-time production baseline calculations, and analyze historical performance in your system. Some users may find this to be an acceptable replacement for on-site weather stations.
  • SolarSight Forecast: As more and more PV is being introduced onto the grid, professionals who manage power distribution are challenged to integrate solar energy resources that are difficult to predict. We can help with 5-day predicted power forecasts calculated by combining virtual weather forecasts with the AlsoEnergy production model. These solar production forecasts are customized to the unique specs of each array, so utility and distributed solar customers can use this feature to manage energy output and minimize energy costs.

Contact your AlsoEnergy Account Executive to get more information about SolarSight Log and SolarSight Forecast!

[nextpage title=”SCADA FAQ”]

SCADA FAQ

SCADA FAQ

Are you designing a SCADA system for your solar power project, or considering what sort of control components you may need? Here are answers to some of our customers’ SCADA-related FAQs:

Q:

Do I need a SCADA system?

A:

SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. The critical difference between SCADA and a typical monitoring DAS is control. If there are no control requirements, there is no SCADA.

Q:

Is there a typical or one-size-fits-all SCADA system?

A:

No,some basic control functions can be executed using our standard DAS solution, which communicates to system devices using Modbus and DNP-3 interfaces. Control commands in this solution are limited to device on/off and reset. Remote control features are found in your PowerTrack software. Note that this solution is only suitable for low-speed applications, as commands may take up to 10 minutes to execute.
That being said, the vast majority of control specs require command response time in the 1-sec or sub-sec time frame, and these projects require more advance control hardware and typically have on-site storage of high speed data.

Q:

What SCADA features do I need?

A:

Designing your SCADA system will require answers to a wide range of questions, including: who sends control commands; who has access to the data; what control commands are needed; how fast the system needs to respond and what the system network architecture will look like.
Control requirements typically originate with your utility or ISO/Grid Operator. You should send an engineer to collect and evaluate this information! Understanding control requirements calls for deep familiarity with technical jargon. What’s more, requirements often come from various departments within a utility or ISO, and these departments may not communicate well internally.
Your final SCADA system design will also vary depending upon site variables, particularly how many devices need to receive control commands.

Q:

Why should I consider AlsoEnergy, a solar monitoring provider, when shopping for a SCADA system?

A:

Many SCADA solutions in the marketplace have originated with other industries and technologies; these SCADA systems are simply repurposed for solar PV applications. SCADA providers outside the solar industry offer neither solar-specific display graphics, nor meaningful analytics to evaluate your PV system performance. Additionally, SCADA systems do not include site administration tools such as automated alerts and reports, and they do not provide portfolio-level overviews or data aggregations.
With SCADA solutions from AlsoEnergy you get all the functionality of these third party SCADA systems, but you also get the full range of solar-specific analytics and portfolio oversight tools available in our solar monitoring software.
Additionally, AlsoEnergy has developed fully integrated SCADA and Monitoring solutions that do not simply “bolt on” a SCADA system from a third party provider. That means that every aspect of your SCADA system has been fine-tuned to the needs of solar power system administrators. You will enjoy the convenience of a single-source provider, including devoted support and warranty administration, all from the solar power specialists at AlsoEnergy. (Challenge other SCADA providers in the solar industry to match that offering!)

Q:

What hardware is required on site for a SCADA system?

A:

On-site hardware varies greatly, depending on the complexity of the system. Equipment may include, but is not limited to: a site controller or datalogger and high speed control device, historian, HMI, multiple weather stations, reclosers, and a variety of networking equipment. The Site Controller (sometimes called the Super Logger) is typically a small embedded computer suitable for outside installation in a NEMA 4 enclosure. For larger sites, this computer can be provided as a rack mountable server with higher performance for communicating with a large number of devices. The appropriate hardware will be selected based on the number of devices, desired sampling rate, and control requirements.

Q:

What is a Site Historian, and will I need one?

A:

High frequency data samples can result in a large volume of data which makes transmission and storage on a cloud-hosted database impractical. Typically, SCADA systems are designed for use within a local area network (LAN) that is capable of handling those bandwidth and storage requirements. In these cases, remote desktop access is often provided as an alternative to a true cloud hosted solution.
In the AlsoEnergy fully integrated SCADA package, the Site Historian is essentially a PowerTrack database server, specially designed for dedicated, on-site use. It hosts data for the Also Energy SCADA application, PowerApp, which has all of the capabilities of a typical SCADA on-site workstation application. In addition, PowerApp offers all of the capabilities of PowerTrack, including sophisticated PV models, analytics, custom dashboards and reports.

Q:

What’s the difference between a PLC and an RTAC?

A:

PLCs and RTACs are both types of SCADA site controllers.
PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) are used in many projects where required command response times are 1 second or greater. Output results are produced in response to input conditions in a 1-to-60 second time frame.
RTACs (Real Time Automation Controllers) are more sophisticated site controllers, with capacity for sub-second frequency data acquisition and control realization (down to one-tenth of a second latency). RTACs can accommodate high intelligence distribution automation schemes.

[nextpage title=”Advice from AlsoEnergy: Commission Your Monitoring System in One Site Visit”]

Advice from AlsoEnergy: Commission Your Monitoring System in One Site Visit

Site Commissioning

By Kevin Suhr, Engineering Manager

We know how important it is to our customers’ bottom lines to install and commission monitoring systems with as few site visits as possible. Same thing holds true for troubleshooting and periodic maintenance.

So this seemed like a good topic for our first newsletter advice column: here are some tips to help you accomplish commissioning and other monitoring system evaluations with just a single site visit. Our advice is broken out into 2 buckets: prerequisites (tasks that should be completed before you can begin the commissioning process), and tools you will need to have on hand.

PS: Don’t forget to bring some water! Stay cool out there this summer.

Prerequisites:

  • All devices should be installed and powered according to installation instructions.

    OK, we’re starting with the obvious here. But we do encounter some common installation errors when remote sensors or third party devices are installed too far from the main enclosure, and when installers overload a power supply or use wire that is too small for device usage needs. For an efficient commissioning process, first ensure that installation has been completed correctly!

  • Verify that your internet connection on site is active.

    Your DAS must be able to communicate to AlsoEnergy databases before you will be able to see data in your monitoring software interface. Whether you will be sending data through a network connection on site, or relying on cellular communications, you should verify in advance that your connection is active.
    If you are using a network on site, we recommend that you contact the host organization or building ownership to secure contact information for the internet network administrator. It is not uncommon to encounter data transmission problems related to firewalls and other security software, and these problems require the network administrator’s assistance.
    If you will be using a cellular communications solution, you should secure confirmation that the plan is active. If possible, test the signal strength at your site location in advance; open a website on your phone or another mobile device using the same carrier and connection type 3G or 4G.

  • Be sure that your utility interconnect is cleared for inverter testing.

    This will apply for most projects. Your utility may need to override the meter and just provide power to the system for testing. Utility reporting, grid connection, and net metering are all variables that will require clearance from your utility in order to fully test and commission the monitoring system.

  • Inverters should be commissioned by manufacturer.

    This will apply to most systems with central inverters. If your inverter manufacturer offers commissioning services, you should complete that process before commissioning the monitoring system.

  • Collect fully updated site documentation showing as-built component configuration and naming conventions.

    Commissioning your monitoring system requires that serial numbers and naming conventions for every component of your array correspond exactly between the monitoring system and the actual configuration in the field. Because many of these variables are not specified until site construction has been completed, you will not be able to rely on site planning diagrams and documentation. Be sure you have complete, updated documentation that exactly reflects the actual configuration and naming conventions of the as-built array in the field.

Tools:

(I have included several links in this section to illustrate the types of devices you will need. AlsoEnergy does not endorse any of these brands or models; these are merely examples of devices that will satisfy your needs in the field.)

[nextpage title=”DECK Monitoring now Available on Mobile Devices”]

DECK Monitoring now Available on Mobile Devices

DECK Mobile Devices

Stay connected to your vital site production information on the go! Users who have upgraded to the latest version of DECK Monitoring software will notice a new benefit: you can now access native application displays on virtually any mobile device!

This feature is now available because current version DECK Monitoring software has been written using the latest web technology (HTML5). That means you will enjoy faster page loading times and a smoother user experience across multiple web platforms.

More importantly, because current version DECK software is built on an HTML5 platform, you can access all Admin Panel screens through your web browser on virtually any phone or mobile device!

The latest version of DECK Monitoring includes other benefits as well. Whereas data from historical DECK Monitoring systems is hosted on the DECK Monitoring server system, the latest version of DECK software sends your data to the servers used by PowerTrack systems. That means users with current version DECK software will have the option to use some features from the PowerTrack platform, including our powerful performance modeling tools.

Using the PowerTrack database system also provides greater security and redundancy for your data storage. This system works with a high availability, redundant database cluster that has been built with security and backup as top priorities. For clients with data security concerns, our privately hosted data storage solution is an industry leader.

Users with systems on the historical DECK Monitoring platform can redeploy to the latest version software remotely (assuming no independent issues demand a site visit). Time frame to redeploy varies depending on the size of the job. Current version DECK Monitoring software does not support all features of the historical DECK platform, including some DECK Dashboard customizations. Talk to your Account Executive for details.

[nextpage title=”Meet Kevin Smart, Director of Sales and Marketing at AlsoEnergy”]

Meet Kevin Smart, Director of Sales and Marketing at AlsoEnergy

Introducing a new key member in our growing team: as of June 2015, Kevin Smart has joined AlsoEnergy as the Director of Sales and Marketing.

Prior to joining AlsoEnergy, Kevin served as the Vice President of North America Sales for CEC Great Wall. Kevin started his career in the solar industry in 2009 with Satcon and served as Vice President managing the business development, international sales, and service teams. Prior to Satcon, Kevin worked in sales and business development at HP, Sybase, and Arthur Andersen.

Kevin is a graduate of Alma College and received his MBA and Law Degree from Willamette University.