Drones are becoming mainstream in the solar industry and it is easy to see why. Their ability to quickly and comprehensively survey a solar plant and provide performance data is unparalleled. Without drones, owners have to rely on manual inspections by operators who have to painstakingly walk around a site before inputting their findings into a report. Drones however can significantly reduce this inspection time, allowing operators to spend their time on high-skilled tasks instead.
Data gathered by drones can be used for a wide range of purposes, including performance optimisation which is now more important than ever to solar plant owners. Given current energy prices - a factor that is even more relevant in the post-subsidy solar world - owners really need to get as many megawatt hours as possible from their assets.
Drone footage from a solar installation inspected in the United Kingdom.
Drone inspections can provide highly detailed data that may be used to identify issues before they have had the chance to affect performance and can be used for predictive maintenance purposes, ensuring that assets are not being left to underperform.
Proactive management of problems before they occur or in their early stages is the best possible way to minimise downtime and maximise performance. It is also a very good way of avoiding expensive reactive maintenance costs.
Older plants may benefit from drone inspections where warranty claims are being assessed, again allowing for a speedier process and a quicker resolution of the issue giving rise to the claim. As well as being used at operational plants, drones can be an effective project management tool at in-construction sites, allowing owners to keep track of their project’s progress.
Naturally, as analysis techniques are refined, raw data becomes ever more useful and the more data that can be gathered, the more accurate the results of the particular analysis being undertaken. The larger data sets gathered by drones translate into higher assurance levels and better informed decision making.
Ariadne's Drone Inspections dashboard.
It is also the case that access to larger sets of data means the analysis methods themselves can be further improved. Sophisticated data analysis methods can spot a wide range of issues as they develop, including disconnected strings, PID, dirty panels and shading issues. These are all problems that come up on a routine basis in the management of solar plants, and early detection will mean reduced time and costs spent on their resolution, as well as reduced downtime.
Quintas Advisory has undertaken numerous drone inspections of solar plants and can provide expert analysis of data gathered. If this is of interest to you, please feel free to contact us or book a demo to see our platform Ariadne in action.