Utility & Program Manager
Remote monitoring provides a platform to evaluate solar thermal systems.
Performance in terms of actual output of a solar thermal systems is temperature and load dependent.
The same system in two different applications will produce and displace different amounts of energy.
So how do you evaluate your program?
1. An expensive alternative is to measure all the energy produced with certified heat-meters provided by independent contractors evaluating performance. While this can be done in limited cases, it can cost more than the value of the energy produced in small to midsize systems.
2. Practical alternatives depend upon the scale of your program, but all share some basic strategies.
- Collect your data using a platform that it can be openly reviewed in different ways, as you learn the next question to ask.
- Understand the goal is to end up at the end of the day with more clean energy produced at a lower cost
- Create a means to judge performance (a operational rating system with a small measured sample)
- Verify operations of your portfolio and calculate output using rating system
- The system must be running for it to produce
- The more efficient the operations the greater the production
- Note: monitoring does not make any system work, it only verifies it and alerts people to their tasks.
- Remember eventually cost per BTU matters. (cost per Sq ft (Sq. M.) amortized times output per area = life cycle cost per BTU/kWh thermal)
3. What new questions do you wish you knew at the beginning?
- Might a different installation practice make the panels perform better?
- Is conventional wisdom of the installers based on engineering wisdom or do they set controllers to the default because they don't read the instructions?
- Would systems perform better if installed and controlled correctly?
While solar collectors, tanks, pump-stations, heat-exchanger and controllers are all tested, rated and certified, the real test is how they perform in live applications. Real-life applications where collectors are delivering energy to storage tank to be either lost to the abasement air or consumed in the building provides a platform to test viability of your product. Comparing flat-plates to evacuated tubes or closed loop to drain-back systems, along with various controller setups, gives you the opportunity to assess and develop better performing products.
There are many details to assess systems, it all starts with data and the experience to understand its meaning.
Send us your data for evaluation or use our tools to collect more data to run your program.