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An aerial view taken from a helicopter of a damaged solar farm in Britain. Stormy weather and strong winds have broken and destroyed solar panels. Photovoltaic panels scattered across a field.

How wireless networks protect PV systems, reduce costs

By Gian Schelling
17-08-2022 | 5 min read
Wind speed and direction data transmitted over a wireless network protects tracker-based PV systems from storm damage.

Extreme weather and other environmental concerns are putting large-scale solar projects at risk. Storms and adverse weather events continue to increase unpredictably putting photo-voltaic (PV) arrays at risk of decreased output or being knocked offline completely. This could lead to catastrophic physical damage, costly maintenance and repairs, and penalties for unplanned outages or reduced production.

Massive volumes of data gathered from deployed sensors like anemometers that measure wind speed, irradiation sensors, and the arrays themselves allow operators to predict extreme conditions and take action from a central operations center to protect the systems and keep them up and running.

The Anemometer (Wind Speed Meter) with blue sky background - energy conservation concept from Thailand.

However, many arrays are not adequately protected because developing or expanding a wired communications network capable of handling large volumes of monitoring and performance data has traditionally been a complex and expensive undertaking.

Modern wireless communication networks can provide cost-effective, scalable, and reliable connectivity for PV projects. In fact, when expanding existing communication networks in installed PV plants, deploying a wireless solution demonstrated significant cost savings as compared to wired network infrastructure, across several live projects.

The advantages of expanding communications networks with wireless solutions were recently made clear when an Australian solar farm owner that serves over 200,000 customers decided to implement a new stow strategy for their PV panels that are controlled by a tracker system. A stow strategy is a defensive measure designed to protect assets from extreme weather by determining the position at which PV panels must be locked, based on wind speed and direction data transmitted by anemometers placed across the farm. 

Solar Energy a clean technology to reduce CO2 emissions. The best place for Solar Energy is Atacama Desert at Chile. Bifacial modules located in hundred of rows in the desert at La Silla Observatory

When considering the new stow strategy, the solar farm owner understood the need to increase the number of anemometers and recognized the challenge of relocating the existing anemometers to the perimeter of the site and integrating new ones across the site. Connecting the instruments through a wired communication network would have required extensive cable trenching, a lengthy construction duration, and significant capital investment. The complexity of using a wired approach for the expansion could also have potentially disrupted the commissioning and operation of the plant.

To minimize potential operational disruption, reduce the schedule, and decrease costs, the project team pursued a wireless mesh solution. At the heart of the solution are Tropos routers from Hitachi Energy that are certified for use in Australia and feature a ruggedized design to provide reliable communications, even in this cyclone-prone environment. As deployed, the cost of the Tropos-based wireless network was 75 percent lower than a wired solution, largely because it avoided the need for new fiberoptics trenching.

Hitachi Energy’s mission-critical grade wireless networks are specially designed to serve a wide variety of industrial applications situated in harsh environments and have been deployed on multiple renewable projects for cost savings and reliability. Applications include on-shore and off-shore wind as well as solar farms and off-shore floating PV use cases.

Wireless communication networks have the ability to scale connectivity, extend the lifetime of assets and save power companies significant OPEX costs over the lifetime of the solar project. It’s just a matter of choosing the right wireless solution for your solar plant needs.

Click here to find out more about Hitachi Energy’s wireless solutions and our broadband wireless mesh technology, and how they can be used to build highly reliable, secure, manageable, and scalable networks for diverse utility or industrial applications.

Gian Schelling
Global Business Development Manager

Gian Schelling is Hitachi Energy’s global Business Development Manager for the Automation business unit. He is responsible for bringing our automation value proposition to clients and taking their feedback back into the organization for future product development. Gian looks back on 13 years experience from the Renewables industry. While he spent most of the time in wind power, developing global business out of various European countries for leading OEMs, his experience and responsibilities also include business development for battery energy storage and solar solutions. You can connect with him at LinkedIn.

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