Putting data at the heart of the solar industry
Organisations which make their digital products and services available on the re.alto marketplace via APIs span a range of energy sectors. From RES and utilities to market intelligence providers, one common thread that connects them is their innovative use of data.
In this week’s edition of our ‘On the Marketplace’ feature series, we’re exploring the API offering of re.alto providers Sheffield Solar and 3E and highlighting the digital solutions they deliver to familiar solar industry challenges.
As we know, the solar industry is growing, seen as a promising path towards a global low carbon future. But the boom experienced in recent years has introduced new challenges around complex grid integration, environmental impact of large-scale plants and increasingly expensive O&M, including unplanned OPEX costs as large-scale systems begin to age. Such challenges only serve to underline the importance of PV data. From enabling predictive maintenance to delivering more accurate forecasting for supply/demand and long-term plant yield, the use cases for exchanging reliable real-time solar data are significant.
Tracking PV generation from millions of solar arrays, both commercial and domestic, is something which Sheffield Solar carries out in the UK through its unique PV Live project. Sheffield Solar is a research group at the University of Sheffield, and the UK’s photovoltaic industry’s leading scientific data resource.
The PV Live project, one of four main research projects from the group, is a real-time service for tracking, predicting and integrating the UK’s solar output into the energy system in order to better predict and balance RES supply and demand.
Funded by the National Grid ESO in an innovative partnership, PV Live captures data from a network of 24,000 PV systems across the UK. The generation data is obtained from a sample of the PV systems for a given 30 minutes, scaled up to give representative real-time solar performance across the country and used in the ESO control room models. It provides an opportunity for improved forecasting of flow, better monitoring of national power requirements and optimised operations, including predictive maintenance. All PV Live data collected by Sheffield Solar is freely available in real-time via their open API on the re.alto marketplace.
Data also lies at the heart of the expert analysis provided by global consultants 3E to improve the performance of sustainable energy systems, including solar. 3E was initially founded in 1999 as a spin-off of the nanotechnology research centre IMEC, and now has a project portfolio spanning more than 40 countries on a mission to accelerate the energy transition to cost-effective renewable sources.
3E identified that obtaining consistent and accurate solar irradiation data on which to base operational decisions has been a longstanding issue for the sector as existing data is often fragmented or missing entirely due to faulty sensors. It makes it difficult to accurately analyse and report system underperformance, for example, or forecast longer-term plant yield – vital for existing plant operators or developers keen to improve future project financing and investment.
To overcome the challenge, 3E provides accurate historical and near real-time solar irradiation data from more than 300 meteo stations across Europe and Africa. Combined with innovative modelling software, 3E is able to deliver performance analysis and recommendations tailored specifically to optimise profitability while driving down the wider environmental impact. The company has worked on a range of noteworthy European projects recently, including carrying out a long-term yield assessment for France’s largest urban solar farm Oncopole and working with Brussels airport on grid planning, with a focus on simulations for future on-site demand and renewables generation.
The solar irradiation data from 3E is available as an API on the re.alto marketplace.
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