Solar Century is one of the world’s leading solar energy companies, specializing in solar installation and PV systems for homes, business and solar parks. In October 2014 it awarded ABB a large contract for low voltage products including Slimline XR ITS2 Intelligent Tier Switches (ITS), Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs) and distribution boards.
The order was placed via Burnell Switchgear, the supplier of electrical switchgear products. They designed and installed the containers housing the Slimline XR ITS2 and the medium voltage switchgear and transformers.
Solar Century commissioned Burnell Switchgear to deliver the power containers for several new solar farms including the construction of UK’s largest solar farm of 48 MWp at Southwick near Portsmouth.
There was a need for technology that enhances the operation, monitoring and maintenance of solar farms. Since there are no operators in the most of the solar farms, the time to get information about productivity and faults can be significant. This causes the maintenance time and cost associated with faults to increase, so remote monitoring is very important.
The ABB solution
A key factor that made Solar Century choose ABB was the capability of Slimline XR ITS2. For isolation of the panels and other equipment, conventional switches are used. However, Slimline XR ITS2 is able to monitor voltage, current and power, and communicate with a high-level management system using the Modbus communications protocol.
David Minnis, Head of Engineering for Solar Century said: “There is growing demand for technology that enhances the operation, monitoring and maintenance of solar farms and by adopting ABB’s Slimline XR ITS2, Solar Century has been able to offer solar farm operators a tool that keeps them informed about their plant’s productivity and identifies the precise location of faults, which has the potential to reduce maintenance costs.”
In the event of a fault on a panel, inverter or a blown fuse at a solar farm, the ITS2 will detect a voltage drop and transmit its readings to a control centre. The voltage drop will set off an alarm and will identify exactly where the fault lies, prompting a technician to visit site with the right equipment and spares to rectify the fault and with no need for on-site investigation.
Another benefit of the switch is that the plant’s operator will be able to monitor production in real-time and this knowledge gives security and confidence in the plant’s operation, setting a new standard for environmental sustainability in Solar farm operation
In the case of Southwick Solar Farm, Solar Century installed a total of 340 Slimline XR ITS2 switches in 20 cabinets that also contain inverters and MCBs supplied by ABB as well as a 400 V / 33 kV transformers and switchgear, which controls power injected into the local distribution network. The switches monitor voltage of key infrastructure, which is transmitted to a remote control centre in London.