The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Un-analytics: How Google Went Solar

Google loves talking about the world before analytics — when web owners knew almost nothing about their sites. Nothing useful, anyway. That all changed when a new technology came along that allowed web owners to monitor their sites as much as they wanted, any time they wanted. Web sites suddenly became a business proposition, and not just an enthusiasm for a few hobbyists.

Flash forward from the introduction of Google Analytics up to 2007. Google entered the solar business and opened a 1.65-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic power array — the largest commercial system in the world at the time. And just like Web sites before analytics, Google would soon learn how little it actually knew about its solar array.

After its panels were up for 15 months, Google cleaned them and documented its efforts in a report called Getting the most energy out of Google’s solar panels.

On several sections of its array, solar energy output doubled after the cleaning. Eight months later, energy output went up 37 percent after another cleaning. But here comes the money graph: It would be difficult to detect manufacturer defects or accidental damage by data analysis alone, unless the damage impacts more than about 20 percent of the solar panels in that building. For example, there have been few occasions when some of the solar panels were damaged by delivery trucks accidentally hitting the support beams that hold up the solar panels. Since these accidents did not damage a sizable portion of the solar panels, the damage went undetected for a while. 

Losing 50 percent of your power is real money, even for Google.

“Just like the web prior to analytics, Google had to admit it really did not know what was happening in its array because it had no way to monitor when good panels went bad,” said Mark Yarbrourgh, a city councilman in Perris, California who pioneered the use of solar in public buildings. “But neither does anyone else. Arrays malfunction and no one knows because they do not use monitors at the panel level.”

Undetected, solar panels go bad in all sorts of ways. Panels degrade anywhere from 0.5 percent to 9.5 percent a year, depending on the manufacturer, says Sandia Laboratories in a study for the Department of Energy

How will you know what your panels will do? Warranty Week Magazine says you won’t, not really: And yes, it really is guesswork.”

Dirt creates even more havoc — if not dirt, a bird dropping, or a baseball, or a golfball, or a rock, or a squirrel chewing a wire, or a Texas oak thick with pollen, or heat on the roof, or poor soldering. Even a shadow can be worse than you think, says the National Renewable Energy Laboratories: The reduction in power from shading half of one cell is equivalent to removing a cell active area 36 times the shadow’s actual size.”

“One bird, one truck of dirt, one flowering tree can destroy your solar production, and you would not know for a long time,” Yarbrough said. “Welcome to the Christmas Tree Effect: Hurt the panel a little, hurt production a lot. It is amazing how many people put up solar for great reasons, but really do not watch their systems. As a result, a lot of people lose a lot of money because many, many systems are not producing the power its owners were promised. And few know.” Maybe because knowing it is not that useful.  

“If your solar array produces a megawatt of power, that means it is composed of 3000 to 5000 panels,” said Ray Burgess, CEO of Solar Power Technologies. “If some panels go bad, you need panel level monitoring to find the bad panels. Most systems monitor power at the system level, but as Google found out, that is useful for detecting catastrophic failure and not much else.” 

Thus the need for small wireless monitors throughout the array.

“Now that we have cost effective monitors from a company in Austin, that is going to change the world, just like Google Analytics.” 

Leading the solar monitor business is Burgess and Solar Power Technologies of Austin, Texas. The company is introducing monitors and other devices to give solar array owners unprecedented control over their panels. If you have 3500 panels and a few start breaking, you better have something better than “guesswork” to optimize your array.

“As we travel the country talking to panel owners about their systems, we are constantly amazed at how many systems that are producing power far below their capacity, and some not producing power at all. Monitors on the panels can change that and let you know what is really happening with your system. And where it is happening. Saving system owners thousands of dollars a month.”

Just like Google Analytics.

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Sunrise in Pakistan as the Country Delves into Solar PV

Robert Harker Pakistan has joined the list of countries that are exploring solar power as a means to bridge critical energy generat...

Global Renewable Energy Roundup: China, Kenya, Turkey, India Seeking More Renewables

Bloomberg News Editors China is being encouraged by three industry groups to double the nation’s solar-power goal for 2020 to make up for sh...

Why Smarter Grids Demand Smarter Communications Networks

Mark Madden

Historically, utility networks and communications networks have had little in common.

The Importance of “Switching Costs” to the US Residential Solar Industry

Paula Mints The DoE and numerous organizations and governments globally are focused on driving down the cost of solar convinced t...

PRESS RELEASES

Intersolar AWARD „Solar Projects in India“ – Applications being accepted until September 18

The Intersolar AWARD in the category Solar Projects in India honors projects in the fie...

OFS Announces Commercial Availability of InvisiLight® MDU Optical Solution for Multiple Dwelling Units

OFS, a leading-edge designer, manufacturer and supplier of innovative fiber optic netwo...

New local energy partnership brings innovative solar tracker to Washington State

A new partnership will bring the innovative AllEarth Solar Tracker solar electric syste...

30 days to GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo

The Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) has announced that it is only 30 days to go to t...

FEATURED BLOGS

Washington, DC Bridges the Solar Gap

The District of Columbia has enjoyed 15 years of strong economic growth. But prosperity is spread unevenly across the...

Cronimet / THEnergy study: In solar for mines size does not always matter - Reducing CAPEX with energy efficiency and load shifting

Munich, September 2015. Mining companies are constantly gaining interest in solar solutions because frequently solar ...

Final Program Now Available for GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo

GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo - Final Program from

Vacancy? No Problem!

Have you ever tried to sell an efficiency product or service to a prospect that owns or manages a building with high ...

FINANCIAL NEWS

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Intersolar North America 2016

Exhibition: July 12 - 14, 2016; Conference: July 11 - 13, 2016 Intersola...

Intersolar South America 2015

Exhibition and Conference: September 1-3, 2015 Intersolar South America ...

Intersolar Europe 2016

Exhibition: June 22-24, 2016; Conference: June 21-22, 2016 Intersolar Eu...

COMPANY BLOGS

Less Is More

When you’re giving a presentation, one of the easiest things to do...

Captivology

One of the biggest challenges we face as efficiency sales professionals ...

How To Optimize Your Meeting Schedule

Do you spend more time in meetings than you do actually working? While m...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS