Solar farms require ongoing maintenance and inspections over the life of a plant. As the size and number of these systems continue to increase, the time and labor required to inspect a system is increasing and becoming cost-prohibitive. Aerial inspections via drone provide an economical alternative, adding a thermal camera to the drone enables more data to be collected and at a more granular level.
When should you initiate a drone inspection of your solar farm? Well, below we list a few stages where you’ll see maximum ROI and value
A commissioning inspection occurs at the end of the construction and installation of a new solar farm. According to solarprofessional.com, Previously commissioning inspections were performed by technicians in the field, manually checking each row and string for proper installation. A thermal drone inspection during the commissioning process will significantly reduce the time involved in inspecting a plant for proper installation and will also provide valuable data on the quality of the construction and solar photo voltaic (PV) modules. Any anomalies identified via this inspection will be addressed. This inspection will also help all parties involved in the project to confirm everyone has met their requirements.
Many different parties involved in the development and construction of a solar farm provide warranties. Developers on Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) teams, and component manufacturers are just a few of the parties with a warranty on a system. If a PV system is not meeting the expected production numbers there will eventually be a warranty claim that will require an inspection. A thermal drone inspection at this time can be a more cost-effective way to gather some of the data required for a warranty claim and/or evaluation of a warranty claim.
Solar farms regularly change hands over their lifetime. Assets are bought and sold as well as new contracts are established for asset management and operations & maintenance of a plant/portfolio. Thermal drone inspections create an additional data set and can also confirm accuracy of existing data sets in regard to the current quality, degradation of a PV system, and how well a plant has been maintained. Aerial inspections of operating plants can provide data enabling better decision making on proposals to buy a plant and/or anticipated costs involved in taking over and managing a plant.
PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE, ANNUAL INSPECTION
For a solar farm to meet its production and financial projection goals, ongoing maintenance is required as well as regular inspections to identify anomalies affecting production. Historically these inspections have been done on foot, by hand, and only on a fraction of the overall plant. Thermal drone inspections of a PV plant as part of the regular PM work reduces time and labor requirements to generate the same data on the health of the system. Drones also produce more data that enables field teams to identify/classify/and localise anomalies that historically have gone unnoticed but add up to a lot of affected production and lost revenue.
It’s extremely important to understand the reason for the use of this technology and what type of information/data is required by the end user. Each type of inspection has different financial implications for different stakeholders, but all of them benefit from high-quality aerial thermography.