Monitoring of photovoltaic (PV) systems is essential for achieving reliable and, maximum yield from solar PV plants. This paper proposes PV plant hierarchy, and a novel near real-time monitoring system combined with a solar tracking controller for utility scale PV installations. Currently, most PV installations employ monitoring at the inverter level, lacking sufficient resolution. Furthermore, the solar tracking and performance monitoring systems are isolated from one another. The proposed design increases monitoring resolution, allowing PV malfunctions to be addressed immediately, effectively optimizing a plant’s power generation. Moreover, the tracker control and monitoring are fused into an inclusive hardware design. Incorporating state-of-the-art electronic sensors, coupled with wireless communication protocols, the resulting system is a robust, accurate sensor and control network. Accessible through the internet, the system will provide a way to monitor and control multiple installations from a centralized location. The collected data enables efficient maintenance scheduling, and long-term performance analysis for utility scale PV plants. The developed system includes string level power measurement sensors, sun tracking actuators, a network of microprocessors and a central processing unit (CPU) for application in utility-scale central inverter PV plants. The basic designs and feasibility of the system are presented in this paper.

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