The Benefits of Utilizing Aerial Thermography: Solar PV Inspections
The use of drones in solar has been increasing exponentially year over year as many firms adopt this technology to facilitate operations and reduce costs. Among the top use cases for drones in solar is aerial thermography services (inspection and detailed reports) which offers asset owners, investors and asset management firms the ability to swiftly and accurately inspect their PV systems without mobilizing field crews. The comprehensive data collected gives tremendous insight on a site’s operating condition and enables them to improve operational efficiency thus reducing operating costs with highly reliable, and accurate assessment of their sites. Skye Link provides drone thermography services across the United States and around the world, providing inspections and site reports within days of requests.
Utilizing drones for aerial infrared inspections replaces the need for traditional labor-intensive methods such as exploratory I-V curve tracing and guides teams to the pre-identified problem areas. This thermal data can also be combined with visual imagery captured during the aerial thermal inspection, which provides valuable actionable information to project stakeholders. This method also eliminates the need to conduct on-site field walks to identify performance issues related to soiling or shading. Additionally, exploratory handheld imaging of modules by field techs is no longer required because every module is documented in a radiometric thermal image embedded with precise temperature data. In turn, O&M teams are able to spend less time in discovery mode trying to troubleshoot the cause of issues detected in system monitoring and spend it resolving them instead.
Performing a commissioning inspection when the PV system is first completed creates opportunities for the asset owners and financiers that won’t be possible in the future. Once construction of a new solar site is completed, the drone data gathered from commissioning inspections can be used to validate the quality of installation, as well as the condition of the systems’ modules. Understanding the PV plant’s starting state is important because it allows teams to repair any OEM issues in the warranty window or further investigate issues related to performance and start the remediation process before teams are demobilized from the site. We are seeing many clients leverage this technology at 3-6 month intervals to closely monitor the site while in this window of time.
These inspections should be performed to IEC standards by a team of experienced UAV pilots, such as those deployed by Skye Link. They provide high-quality data that can be used to support warranty claims, as well as creates an accurate baseline performance expectation for that site. Operation teams that maintain the site in the future will also be able to check the baseline as a reference point and determine what the PV system production levels should be.
Even newly constructed PV systems can contain faulty equipment, including in one instance where a client’s recently completed solar plant was found to have approximately $20,000 of lost annual revenue in output issues and anomalies.
Skye Link’s drone services help clients quickly begin using aerial thermography, a cost-effective, fast, and accurate solar PV inspection method. Inspection deliverables include sub-module level analytics on 100% of the modules and detailed classifications of every identified anomaly. This enables solar operation teams to make data-driven decisions to improve site productivity. Skye Link utilizes Raptor Maps' solar analytics platform which also serves as the system of record, allowing all data and reports from each inspection to be easily referenced and compared against previous inspections as well as other data layers including asset monitoring and asset management records.
If you would like to learn more about how using drones can support solar inspections please contact us or email us directly through firstname.lastname@example.org We can also help you learn more or demo the software that converts your inspection imagery into final reports that are accurate and easy to use for asset management and maintenance.
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