Develop a universal safety and monitoring system for PV installations that includes control, advanced maintenance, and production forecasting capabilities.
When the project was launched in early 2010, increasing numbers of investors in PV solar energy production equipment were seeking ways to better track and manage the revenue generated by their assets. In response, manufacturers came up with various monitoring systems capable of tracking actual production and detecting faults. Many of the solutions on the market came from inverter manufacturers and, for the majority, provided information locally or via a web interface. However, these solutions were costly and often tied to a particular type of equipment. The Monisol project set out to take PV safety and monitoring to the next level. The project partners included a data aggregator (Fleet Technology), a junction-box manufacturer (Mersen), a machine-tomachine communication solutions developer (Webdyn), a PV plant operator (SunPower), and engineers from the CEA, who devised a new method for forecasting PV production. Together, the consortium possessed all of the know-how required to design a monitoring solution with integrated yield forecasting, advanced maintenance (with highly sensitive fault detection and detailed analysis capabilities), and safety features.
The Monisol project brought together partners from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise for a novel approach to PV equipment monitoring. The Monisol project enabled most of the partners to pursue their PV R&D activities and develop innovative PV solutions—even amid the sharp downturn in the PV market that had started in 2011. Their developments included:
- The WebdynSun communications gateway to aggregate information from inverters, junction boxes, and outdoor sensors
- Mersen junction boxes and electronic cards for detailed monitoring and safety of PV chains
- A PV-plant management interface by Fleet Technology capable of giving operators a big-picture view of the entire plant, including maintenance and production tracking
- A PV production forecasting tool by SteadySun, a start-up spun off from CEA-INES
Together, these products provide production monitoring at inverter and module-chain levels and generate forecasts, alerts, and multi-site, multicriteria PV production comparisons.
The Monisol project contributed to the partners achieving the following objectives:
- The acquisition of start-up Greenercos by Mersen; the number of employees assigned to the new business line grew from four at Greenercos to eleven at Mersen
- Fleet Technology hired four employees; the company also acquired a stake in Alfileo for the commercialization of the PV plant management interface
- SteadySun was spun off from CEA-INES for a total of three jobs created to date
- Webdyn hired two additional R&D engineers
The solution developed by the project partners is already in use at several PV plants in Europe and Asia; these initial sales have enabled the partners to pursue their product development work. However, given the sluggish global PV market, some project partners have successfully leveraged the results of the project for other monitoring applications like energy consumption, building management, wind turbines, and cooling production.