A prototype of an integrated tracking and monitoring system is developed and experimentally tested in the environmental conditions of the desert south-west. This system hardware design incorporates both the tracker control and performance monitoring mechanism. A wireless communication protocol coupled with internet transmits the PV panel performance information collected by the electronic sensors to a remote user who can monitor the system performance. The initial experimental results of this newly developed system performance are presented. Finally, an economic analysis is conducted to evaluate the applicability of the current system to a utility scale installation.
The preliminary results suggest that there would be a 25% average increase in solar insolation received by a single-axis tracking surface over a fixed (tilt equal to local latitude) surface during the winter months. Although, limited amount of data is available for typical summer days, results from September days suggest an increase in solar insolation as high as 38%. Also, such an integrated tracking and monitoring system will yield in better monitoring resolution due to monitoring at the string level as opposed to central inverter level in the central inverter type PV power plant topology.
The monitoring sub-system design incorporates cutting edge electronic sensors. The measurements using these sensors were compared against the measurement through a programmable D.C load. The difference between both the power measurements is well within a median of 5–12% suggesting a good agreement between both the measurements.