Optimizing Solar Panel Efficiency: How to Prevent a $4.6 Billion Loss

Greetings, solar enthusiasts! Today, we’re discussing a topic that’s essential for anyone interested in solar arrays for home or larger solar installations: Solar system underperformance. The trend is on the rise, and it’s causing significant revenue losses in the solar industry. This information is not just crucial for solar companies, but also homeowners seeking solar panels for their home.

The solar industry expanded tremendously in 2023, with installed capacity soaring by 58% to 413 GW, according to Bloomberg NEF. However, as adoption increases, we’re witnessing a growing trend of solar system underperformance. A recent report by Raptor Maps, an operator of AI-powered drones that analyze solar assets, reveals startling insights into this matter.

This comprehensive study used data from drones, robotic apparatus, API, and IoT sensors across a broad sample of 125 GW of PV assets scattered across 41 countries. It discovered a whopping $177.7 million in preventable, annualized revenue losses within the studied assets. If we extrapolate this finding to solar assets globally, this would represent an astronomical $4.6 billion in potential annual losses!

Breaking it down further, the report details average losses amounting to $4,696 per MW, with regional variations. Since 2019, the average power loss from underperformance has jumped from a 1.61% average to 4.47% in 2023. Putting it into perspective, we’re staring at an internal rate of return loss of at least 190 basis points for a 100 MW solar asset.

What’s triggering these increasing power losses? One major contributor is the average system size. As solar projects scale, the larger the system, the higher the loss percentage we’re seeing. From an average of 13.9 MW in 2019, we’re now witnessing massive projects of 59.6 MW size in 2023.

Moreover, operational inefficiencies and maintenance issues are eroding potential revenue, as highlighted in the report. The study pointed out that operators experience a significant waste of time during preventative maintenance visual inspections and validating nuisance alarms.

Region-wise, the Midwest sees average annual losses of $4,052 per MW, while the Northeast pulls ahead with losses surpassing $6,108 per MW. Interestingly, though, these underperformance losses in the U.S. are still lower than the global average.

So, what’s causing this noticeable underperformance? The report points a finger at several culprits. At the top of the list are system-level faults. Inverter malfunctions, string outages, and combiner faults contribute power losses of 1.91%, 0.90%, and 0.81% respectively. Faults with trackers have also risen, jumping from 0.26% in 2022 to 0.46% in 2023.

And while module performance has slightly improved, accounting for around 12% decrease in power losses year-over-year, the increasing frequency of extreme weather events is raising alarms. Weather-related power losses can reach up to a scary 60% – a major threat that booming solar markets like Texas have to grapple with, especially with hail events.

Lastly, the risk profiles shift with the module type. For instance, thin-film modules clock lower power losses from defects and manufacturing anomalies compared to polycrystalline and monocrystalline. However, they are more prone to physical damage, significantly more so than other types.

These findings bring home the urgent need for better operations, maintenance, and asset management within the solar industry. For the average homeowner looking at solar panels for their home and for bigger solar companies, thorough understanding of these issues and implementing efficient solutions can make a world of difference in solar energy generation and utilization.

Stay tuned to this blog for more analysis and insight in the solar industry. Your journey in understanding solar array for home and commercial applications just got more insightful!

Original Articlehttps://pv-magazine-usa.com/2024/03/13/solar-asset-underperformance-estimated-to-cause-4-6-billion-in-preventable-losses/

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