The sun in your pocket

Data and control in the palm of your hand

Imagine you own or manage a photovoltaic solar (PV) power plant, and have a smart phone. The plant is several hundred kilometers from where you are sitting, and you want to check today`s energy production and performance.

You can`t just call the control room, because like with most PV power plants there isn`t one, since it`s an unmanned installation. Fortunately, you have control rooms in the palm of your hand – in the form of a web portal accessible by smart phone. A portal that provides detailed online and real-time information about solar radiation, energy production and the plant`s technical and financial performance.

ABB’s SymphonyTM Plus control and data acquisition system forms the heart of a new Operations and Maintenance (O&M) service tool that enables operators to access data and operate a plant from any web-enabled device – computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone – via a dedicated dispatch center.

This unique monitoring and control solution for unmanned generation plants currently oversees a combined PV generating capacity of 250 megawatts (MW), but can be used with any type of unmanned generation, such as wind, geothermal, small hydro or PV.

For example, the 50.6 MWp (megawatts peak) Pobeda PV solar plant in northern Bulgaria, one of the largest in the country, is connected to a control center in Sofia about 175 km away. Besides collecting and storing real-time and historic data on all critical equipment, the control center can analyze it to ensure that the plant is operating at the desired performance levels.

The tool enables the staff in a central control room to fine-tune plant functions and production remotely, using the data collected from the plant, as well as supporting the local maintenance works of the field crews. It detects faults or malfunctions, creates energy production reports, and manages alerts coming from security and access control systems. By comparing ideal and real production, it facilitates a continuous improvement of maintenance procedures and actions.

An add-on application can forecast energy production with a neural algorithm which improves results as data is accumulated. In addition, this advanced software makes the plant`s entire database accessible remotely from any part of the world by means of comprehensive and configurable reports.

The remote O&M service is also tracking the main equipment and securing performance at  another Bulgarian PV plants – 25 MWp Cherganovo, Kolarovo. While all of the plants are equipped with ABB solar equipment including inverters, transformers and switchgear, it is ‘an open’ solution that can also be implemented in power plants using other equipment. The plant just has to be able to receive information from the field, transmitted with the most common communication standards in the automation sector.

End result: the remote O&M service tool enables dependable power delivery, rapid response to failures, asset availability, efficient energy production, data security and extended service life.

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About the author

Sergio Asenjo

I’ve been working for ABB for 22 years. I’m responsible for the local business unit Power Generation in Spain and for the unit's Photovoltaic Center of Competence at a global level.
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