Download Virtual Irradiance White Paper - Locus Energy

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Copyright © 2011

Locus Energy
. All Rights Reserved.

Virtual Irradiance
TM


Smarter
Software, Less Hardware









Copyright © 2011

Locus Energy
. All Rights Reserved.

2




1. Overview



The solar industry is rapidly expanding in North
America with new solar projects coming online at an
accelerating rate. In addition to utility scale solar farms, many companies and consumers are installing
residential and commercial sized solar power projects to capture the value of distributed solar. W
ith large
r

amounts of capital invested in distributed solar energy, it is increasingly import to optimize the placement
of solar sites and the maintenance of installed assets. At Locus Energy, we have developed a Virtual
Irradiance
TM

product that addresses these problems by providing high
-
quality irradiance estimates that
can be used for both solar prospecting of potential new sites, and performance yield tracking of installed
assets.


Locus Energy’s core platform provides monitoring
of solar power production, along with analytic tools
for fleet management. Locus Energy’s technology for the general monitoring of solar energy systems
includes a number of features for managing and optimizing a fleet of installed systems, including:



Pate
nted diagnostic algorithms to identify underperforming systems based on statistical analysis
of neighboring systems



Flexible data collection and alerting features to notify users of significant issues with a system,
such as inverter
fault
or system malfunc
tion



Fleet
-
level performance views to assist users in zeroing in on the problem areas in their fleet


The addition of the Virtual Irradiance
TM

product adds an exciting new dimension to the Locus platform.
As part of Locus Energy’s ongoing
mission

to reduce the cost of renewable energy systems
through
intelligent
software

design
, we believe the Virtual Irradiance
TM

product will

lower the total
cost of
managing a fleet of distributed PV systems. With this new product,
users of the Locus platform ca
n
leverage on
-
demand

estimates of irradiance to prospect for new installation sites and analyze the
performance of their existing installations
.
Virtual Irradiance
TM

allows users to get the benefits of a
physical on
-
site irradiance sensor without the cost
of additional hardware.




2
.

What Virtual Irradiance
TM

Provides



Solar irradiance, the energy from the Sun’s electromagnetic radiation, is the source of solar
power
production
. The amount of energy generated by a solar energy conversion system depends l
argely on the
amount of solar energy,
or

i
rradiance
, reaching the system. In order to fully understand the performance
of a
solar power project
, it is generally necessary to collect information on the amount of
i
rradiance

that
was available
to the project
. Larger
solar power systems

often have physical irradiance sensors installed
to collect
i
rradiance

data in the field using specialized instrumentation such as a pyranometer or reference
cell. These
i
rradiance

measurement devices are expensive and are
often cost prohibitive to deploy for
residential or light commercial systems.


To solve this industry problem, Locus Energy conducted research into how irradiance could be estimated
using a variety of different data sources. The culmination of this researc
h is Virtual Irradiance
TM
, a cost






Copyright © 2011

Locus Energy
. All Rights Reserved.

3



efficient
approach

that can generate highly accurate estimates of solar irradiance across continental North
America without the need of a physical sensor.



Locus Energy’s Virtual Irradiance
TM

product alleviates the ne
ed for physical instrumentation to measure
solar irradiance at residential or light commercial sites and compliments the physical sensor data at larger
sites,
by providing high
-
accuracy solar irradiance estimates.

Through Virtual Irradiance
TM
, Locus Energ
y
has enhanced the tools available to solar industry for monitoring and analyzing solar energy system
performance. The Locus Virtual Irradiance
TM

product currently works across
continental North America
(some restrictions in Canada and Mexico)
, and Locus
is working to further extend its
coverage
.


Virtual Irradiance
TM

incorporates a

robust and versatile model capable of generating solar irradiance
estimates in real time, as well as building a historical record of solar irradiance estimates from Locus
Ener
gy’s archive of data. Virtual Irradiance
TM

estimat
es

solar irradiance in real time at a 30
-
minute time
interval. Leveraging Locus Energy’s archives

of solar
production and environmental conditions
data
,
Virtual Irradiance
TM

can retroactively create a hist
orical record of solar irradiance estimates. Virtual
Irradiance
TM

is completely integrated with Locus Energy’s monitoring platform
,

so irradiance estimates
can be used throughout the Locus platform
in the same manner as if a site or sites had physical sol
ar
irradiance sensors

(e.g., running performance yield reports,
charting solar irradiance alongs
ide system or
fleet performance, supporting the commissioning process, etc.)


Additionally, Virtual Irradiance
TM

data
can be extracted from Locus Energy’s plat
form for
solar prospecting, estimating geographic solar
resources, or external performance analysis
.




3
.

How does Virtual Irradiance
TM

Work


Locus Energy’s Virtual Irradiance
TM

model leverages
proprietary
research work across a variety of fields


building on research in atmospheric, astronomical, agricultural, and statistical fields.
The core
model
assesses the two factors affecting the amount of solar irradiance reaching a location on Earth:

1.

A location’s

spatial relationship with the Sun

2.

The atmospheric conditions impacting the transmission of solar radiation.


Determining the Sun
-
Earth relationship has been well proven and reasonably straight
-
forward to model,
but determining atmospheric conditions accu
rately is still an active problem facing academia and
industry.
Virtual Irradiance
TM

leverages patent pending research
in remote sensing of atmospheric
conditions and solar irradiance transmission

to generate solar irradiance estimates.

The model starts b
y
using established astrophysical formulas to calculate solar position and the amount of solar irradiance
reaching the top of the atmosphere above a location.
Then
,

theoretical atmospheric algorithms are used to
estimate the amount of solar irradiance tran
smitted under theoretical clear sky conditions.
Next
, the
estimates are filtered through a proprietary atmospheric interference model to calculate the total amount
of solar irradiance at a given location.

Finally, these estimates are refined by patent pend
ing methodology

for

leveraging solar power performance data and environmental sensors from the Locus Energy Network
to
generate high accuracy solar irradiance
estimate
s
.


Virtual Irradiance
TM

differentiates itself from other irradiance estimation systems
in that it uses
Locus
Energy’s
uniquely
multi
-
faceted
(and patent pending)
approach.
Virtual Irradiance
TM

is

calibrated using
high quality government solar irradiance sensors and proprietary data from the Locus Energy Network,
generating a robust model ca
pable of accurately estimating solar irradiance in a variety of climates and






Copyright © 2011

Locus Energy
. All Rights Reserved.

4



weather conditions.

Locus Energy’s ongoing solar energy research and growing data archive will continue
to improve Virtual Irradiance
TM

via algorithm updates and periodic recalibr
ation
. Additionally
, the
estimates will continue to improve as more monitoring nodes are added to the Locus Energy platform.
With over
100
,000 distributed PV systems under management, the Locus Energy Network will continue
to add new locations for model calibration as more sensors are deployed.





4
.

Why does Virtual Irradiance
TM

Matter



Real
-
time and historical s
olar
irradiance measurements provide a significant enhancement to the
effectiveness of a monitoring platform. This value can be realized through greater analytic and diagnostic
capabilities of current systems, through more immediate system troubleshooting durin
g the
commissioning process, and through more accurate predictive capabilities of both production and site
potential.
However, the availability of solar irradiance data at a system’s location is often limited due to
cost of physical solar irradiance sensor
s
.
Locus Energy’s Virtual Irradiance
TM

fulfills this need by
providing high accuracy solar irradiance estimates for individual systems or entire fleets, without the
requirement or cost of physical sensors.
Once this data is available, several stakeholders
can leverage this
data.


For solar project developers and installers:




System commissioning:

P
erform real
-
time, weather
-
adjusted diagnostics while crews are still on
site to correct issues at system start
-
up
, ensuring proper configuration from the start (a
nd avoiding
unnecessary truck rolls). Also a perform performance yield analysis with the first week or two of
data to quickly identify any minor system issues before they persist too long.



System degradation diagnostics:

remove the “wild card” of system p
erformance


irradiance


by evaluating system production in the context of actual irradiance over time. Pinpoint
degradation issues earlier in the life
-
cycle with configurable tolerance thresholds and alerting
capabilities



Project and site location:

Lever
age current irradiance values and historical estimates at specific
locations to tighten modeling assumptions for project planning


For Utilities, Grid Operators, and Traders




Regional solar production estimates and forecasts:

For Utility and ISO players, L
ocus’s
irradiance insights can be leveraged across regional solar capacity models to help predict solar
production in near real
-
time
. Additionally
,

forecasting capability will be added in the near future



Micro irradiance and insolation factors:

Locus’s irradiance data can be leveraged to provide
pinpoint views of irradiance values in specific locations, which can be leveraged for power and
agricultural planning purposes.










Copyright © 2011

Locus Energy
. All Rights Reserved.

5



Conclusion


If you’re facing a challenge getting historical or real
-
time

irrad
iance data in a cost
-
effective

way,
Locus
Energy’s Virtual Irradiance
TM

model

can help. Our cutting edge model, integrated with a broader set of
solar fleet management tools, can help you address any irradiance data needs. To learn more, please
con
tact sales@locusenergy.com.