How Anomalies in your Solar Site May Be Hurting your Bottom Line

25 January 2018

One of the very important benefits of drone inspections is that they are cost effective and provide a highly efficient solution for solar asset managers. But can they actually impact your site's emissions and maximize your profit? Here at DroneGrid we've been working with key solar industry players, inspecting hundreds of solar sites and this is what we found.

The hidden cost of solar panel anomalies

By providing access to quality aerial data, we enable solar asset managers to focus on leveraging the business specific information from this data. One of the key issues this data can bring to light is the impact solar panel anomalies have on a site's revenue. We can calculate the yearly revenue loss using the following calculation:

Figure 1 - Calculating revenue impact of anomalies on a solar site.

Let's look at a specific example. We inspected a small site in Belgium with 229 solar panels (57KW) built in 2014.

Figure 2 - 57KW Site - Inspected by DroneGrid

Through the thermal image above and our aerial intelligence platform's analytics, we were able to detect 16 clearly visible hotspots. This is about 7% of the total number of panels, representing a 6,3% drop in power output compared to a fully functioning site.

Applying our calculation, and considering the average production of 850 kWh / year for 1kW solar panels in Belgium1 , the anomalies in our case study site are generating a hidden cost of 720€ / year2.

The impact of these anomalies is even higher in other countries with increased sun irradiance. France alone can produce more than 1000 KWh/KW per year in the south3 and Spain up to 1500KWh/KW, also per year4. When solar site managers have access to quality aerial data, they can leverage important business decisions that will impact their bottom line.

A surprising impact on CO2 emissions

By helping solar producers detect and identify thermal anomalies, we help them increase the power output of their solar site. Every loss in solar power output is compensated by a non-renewable energy source to keep up with the demand in electricity. The following formula allows us to calculate the CO2 emissions avoided per year when using an inspection service like DroneGrid's:

For the case study we presented before, considering the average CO2 emissions per kWh produced in Belgium5 of 334,9 g-CO2/kWh, you can save approximately +/- 1 ton CO2 the year after inspection of your site using the DroneGrid solution.

Compared to a standard car, on average 100g/km, this represents 10.000 km of driving!

When companies perform better maintenance and monitoring of their solar sites, they can see an increase in energy production efficiency and possibly prevent potential total breakdowns. At DroneGrid, we believe in the power of aerial intelligence to deliver these benefits to your sites. Reach out today to learn how we can help you achieve operational efficiency.