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Getting the most out of your PV plant

ABB automation and services optimize PV power production and minimize cost.

Solar is becoming an increasingly important form of power generation, and is already reaching grid parity in some markets. Additional performance optimization and cost reduction are, however, needed, as declining subsidies pressurize solar power generators to reduce costs in order to be competitive with other power generation technologies such as wind, thermal and hydro.

One key to cost reduction and optimized production is a plant automation and monitoring system and an operations and maintenance strategy that keep the plant operating optimally at all times.

ABB offers a versatile and scalable automation and service solution for solar PV power plants. Symphony® Plus for Solar is based on our Symphony Plus platform, the world’s leading automation system for the power generation and water industries. Using a scalable SCADA system, high performance controllers and a range of dedicated software applications, Symphony Plus for Solar offers:

  • Plant automation and control
  • Remote operations
  • Remote monitoring and services

Plant automation and control

Symphony Plus for Solar monitors all critical plant components: from PV panels (with or without tracking systems) to inverters, transformers, the grid connection and meteorological station. It supports a broad range of communication protocols, which enable it to connect and exchange data with virtually all plant components. In addition to the generation part, Symphony Plus for Solar also monitors and controls substation equipment using the IEC 61850 protocol. This enables integration of generation and electrical components into a single information system.

Equipped with a real-time database and historian, Symphony Plus for Solar acquires and stores all relevant data, either on site or in a remote operations center. It also provides plant management and control in accordance with local grid codes by managing active and reactive power, power factor, and by providing voltage and frequency control. A high-performance ABB controller is connected to all relevant power plant equipment (inverters, tracking systems and – if applicable – capacitor banks, STATCOMs and energy storage). Real-time measurements and calculations are used to regulate the plant's power production in accordance with the specifications.

With access to the databases, the controller monitors all relevant plant information and dispatches setpoints to the inverters to meet grid code requirements. It monitors the condition of the inverters, ensures power production is in accordance with the setpoints, controls the production ramp rate according to grid code specifications and provides power factor and voltage control at the point of connection to the grid.

Remote operations

Symphony Plus for Solar has the versatility to remotely monitor plants of all sizes in the customer’s fleet. Its flexible SCADA system is built on a hierarchical architecture, which enables it to monitor and manage solar, wind, hydro and other types of power plant, as well as electrical equipment. The solution can be installed at the customer’s premises or accessed via the cloud. Plant data and key performance indicator reports are provided to operators and service personnel through regular, comprehensive reporting, tailored to meet customer needs. Power management and production forecasting functions turn the entire generation fleet into a flexible virtual power plant. The main benefits of remote operations
include:

- Efficient operations
Data from the various monitoring points is brought into the system in real time and stored by the SCADA system's data historian. A unified internal information model together with an ergonomic and plant-specific human machine interface improves transparency and operator efficiency. System or plant-specific applications analyze the collected data to determine plant and component performance and the condition of assets in each plant. This enables plant owners to develop efficient maintenance strategies.

- Power management
A power management module provides automatic control of the power production of the whole fleet, enabling virtual power plant functionality. Based on a powerful optimization engine, this application considers the capabilities, constraints, running costs and production forecasts of every plant connected to the system, and ensures the best economical running point of the entire fleet.

- Production forecasting
The ability to forecast power production is becoming increasingly important as solar power plants grow larger. To maximize power production, ABB offers a flexible power production solution suitable for single power plants and multi-plant fleets.

For a single plant, relevant data from assets such as panels, strings, inverters, etc, as well as historical production and meteorological information, is used to predict plant output. The forecasting horizon spans from hours ahead (typically 6 hours, with a time resolution of 15 minutes) to days ahead (typically one week, with hourly resolution).

To further improve production forecasting ABB has developed algorithms to track the movement of clouds in the vicinity of the PV plant. The algorithms predict the time of arrival and the duration of cloud cover over the solar panels. This information is used to calculate the expected drop in output. This prediction is also used to optimize power balancing with the grid and, if applicable, the energy storage system.

Remote monitoring and services

ABB offers a broad range of services for solar PV plants. These services are supported by cloud-based remote monitoring, which provides a comprehensive array of tools and services such as performance ratio calculations, power forecasting, shading estimations, soiling detection, aging, and so on. Underperforming equipment can be analyzed and detected by comparing base line and current data. We can then either take action remotely or dispatch appropriate resources to the site to address the problem.

Customers and service personnel can easily monitor and track plant data via our dedicated Web portal. The data is reported with predefined or customer-specific key performance indicators. This is delivered as software as a service on a subscription basis, and consists of four tailored service levels in our ServiceGrid life cycle management program for the power generation and water industries.

Our remote monitoring center currently manages around 50 PV power plants all over the world. They range in capacity from about 1 MW to more than 100 MW.

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