Measuring the power of the sun

Schneider Electric
Monday, 17 October, 2011

Energy monitoring and reporting for solar installation

Rising out of the red earth, under the blazing sun of central Australia, a ‘forest’ of solar panels stands against the horizon.

This other-worldly sight is actually one of great scientific and environmental value - a project which has led to comprehensive longitudinal solar PV performance datasets that are freely available anywhere in the world.

The panels are part of the Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre (DKASC), a demonstration site for solar panels, that helps to promote understanding and confidence in solar technologies to the broader population. The site is an initiative of Desert Knowledge Australia and CAT Projects and is located about 9 km south of Alice Springs.

Operating since 2008, the centre accommodates 33 solar panel installations and a custom-made weather station, each monitored by Schneider Electric PowerLogic ION meters with Schneider Electric PowerLogic ION Enterprise software.

The technology was integrated by AZZO Automation, Schneider Electric’s energy solutions integrator in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

“The client required a monitoring and reporting system which was expandable and would accurately and reliably measure the performance characteristics of each solar installation,” said James DiLiberto, Business Development Manager at AZZO Automation.

“The integrity of the data was paramount. Because the upper range of Schneider Electric PowerLogic ION meters can monitor and log downstream devices, record analog and digital inputs, as well as send alerts on exception, the meters were the obvious choice to provide a single data concentration, with local display, for all conditioned device inputs.”

In order to meet the project funder’s objectives of making solar technologies more accessible, CAT Projects required the collected data to be uploaded in real time to a website, where members of the general public can access it.

“Monitoring the technology and disseminating the information is a key part of the DKASC project,” Lyndon Frearson, Manager CAT Projects, said.

“We wanted to use a system which was familiar to the utility companies and well-known in the industry. The accuracy of Schneider Electric PowerLogic ION meter data collection, and the ability for us to integrate the meters with the rest of the equipment, made them a great choice.”

Schneider Electric Communications Gateways and Schneider Electric Switchgear were also used in the project.

“We have really pushed the technology as far as it can go,” said DiLiberto.

“Any ability which the meters have, we have utilised in this project - everything from signal conditioning and alarming input to device mastering and dashboards.”

The project was completed with funding from the Australian Federal Government through the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (administered by the NT Government’s Renewable Remote Power Generation Programme). It won the 2009 Northern Division Engineering Excellence Award for Design and Innovation.

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