How accurate is a commercial monitoring system for photovoltaic plant?



According to uncertainty calculations, the values recorded by means of commercial monitoring systems are expected to be less accurate than those recorded by a system optimized for the measurement of electrical parameters—the so-called dedicated system (DS). This study aims to verify if a larger expected uncertainty for commercial system (CS) actually turns into a larger spread of the measurements around the true value. In the Airport Bolzano Dolomiti plant, CS and DS are installed on the same photovoltaic arrays. The comparison performed considers the detailed uncertainty budget for the two systems using three performance indicators—energy, yield and performance ratio. Results show that the uncertainty level of the CS is much larger; for example, on performance ratio, it is about four times larger with respect to the optimized one (respectively ±16% and ±4%). Three sources mainly contribute to the uncertainty: measurements of irradiance, current and voltage. The measured values of the electrical parameter are compared in order to verify if the results of the budget calculations turn into a real difference. Results show that the CS is accurate in measuring current and voltage, respectively, ~2% and ~5% of difference from the DS, but not for irradiance—here, the difference is higher than 10%. In particular, the irradiance measured by the CS is systematically smaller; therefore, the performance ratio calculated through the CS is always overestimated and often larger than 100%. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.