The Top Three Solar Challenges

February 27th, 2018

What are the biggest challenges facing our industry right now? See if you agree with our customers’ thoughts based on our ongoing conversations with them and their feedback at the breakfast we hosted at the Solar Power International (SPI) conference last year. We found some interesting results, with the greatest concerns being data integrity, site communications and intrusion.

Data Integrity

In the solar industry, data integrity issues can mean not getting paid.  Data integrity is necessary for:

  • billing and revenue generation
  • knowing if your plant is performing as it should
  • spotting maintenance issues
  • meeting performance goals.

For example, a client may use goats to keep the grass down at their PV site.  If the goats chew through some wires on the back of your PV panels, good data would alert you to the fact that your inverter is not making power.

An integral component of data integrity is to have a strong monitoring/SCADA system in place.  Even better is to replicate the site SCADA Historian to an offsite instance of the database software.  This not only decreases the response time for requests, but ensures that catastrophic failures at a site are readily recoverable.

Site Communications

Site communications is the next highest issue of concern.  Since most utility scale PV sites are located remotely, communications links are critical for continuous access for monitoring and control, physical security, and timely performance reporting. Specific communications concerns include:

  • security from hackers
  • availability in emergencies
  • performance
  • cost, and
  • reliability.

Many of you can relate to getting lots of alarms just because communications are not working properly!

Intrusion Detection

Finally, intrusion detection is on everyone’s mind these days.  Recent news stories report that a major controls company was hacked. Intrusion detection is defined as preventing repeated attempts to enter your system.

At several sites, Trimark has implemented VPN connections with logging to limit and record the electronic entry of technicians.  These customers can now monitor and control all access that is granted to these sites. In addition, Trimark-installed firewalls are equipped with a Trimark-developed tool that identifies cyberattacks being directed against the site’s firewall.

What are your biggest concerns?  Are you having the same issues as those that attended Trimark’s SPI Technology Exchange Breakfast?  Even if it is not a product or service we provide, let us know your issue and we can help you get on the right path or point you in the right direction.