Sumitomo Electric Uses AI to Analyze String Monitoring Data From Solar Plant

2019/11/18 21:15
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo

Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd announced Nov 13, 2019, that it will start a service of diagnosing the operation status of solar power plants and providing reports in November 2019.

Sumitomo Electric currently provides a string monitoring system that constantly monitors each string (direct-current circuit of solar panels) by using PLC (power line communication).

This time, in addition to providing the system, Sumitomo Electric will offer a service of analyzing accumulated string monitoring data, detecting/identifying abnormalities and making analysis reports including proposals on countermeasures. The new service supports even solar power plants using other companies' string monitoring systems, according to the company.

By analyzing a vast amount of data collected through string monitoring with an analysis algorithm developed based on its own AI, the company will grasp the failures of solar panels, deterioration, the influence of shades, etc and propose countermeasures.

Sumitomo Electric started to provide "PLC String Monitoring Unit" on a full scale in 2016 and has thus far sold it for more than 450MW of solar power plants. However, in many cases, a huge amount of data collected through string monitoring is not utilized, and some customers requested that it should be utilized for the operation of solar power plants.

Therefore, Sumitomo Electric plans not only to install the monitoring system but also to analyze data after installation in the aim of further promoting the use of string monitoring.

With the new service, Sumitomo Electric will provide daily, monthly and annual analysis reports for low prices. The daily report notifies a customer of the daily status of a power plant, the locations of failures and reasons for them.

The monthly report shows the monthly status of a power plant so that it can be understood at a glance. The annual report specifies strings that need to be inspected by detecting abnormalities of each string from various perspectives including reverse current, aged deterioration and the influences of trees and shades surrounding a power plant.

An image of analysis report (source: Sumitomo Electric)

Sumitomo Electric will carry out detailed analysis for each power plant of a customer. In a trial that had been conducted for the past one year (for power plants with a total solar panel output of 1-80MW), the company clarified the amount of loss in power sales by identifying locations that are susceptible to shades and increased power sales by proposing changing wiring. In another trial, the company identified broken solar panels early and realized free exchange of panels in the warranty period.

For the analysis technology employed this time, Sumitomo Electric utilized the knowledge that it obtained in the "Project to Advance Safety Regulations for New Energy, Etc (Evaluation/Verification Project for Advancing Electric Facility Safety Techniques)," with which the company has been pushing forward under Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), according to the company.