Innovative EO service for the energy sector

The new generation of Meteorological satellites – Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) – opens a whole new era in the monitoring of irradiance from space by improving the spatial, temporal and spectral resolution of satellite data, which are thereby becoming even more accurate and synoptic than traditional ground measurements.
Integrating this information within business practices of solar energy companies is the objective of the Envisolar project (Environmental Information Services for Solar Energy Industries), funded by ESA within the framework of the Earth Observation Market Development Programme (EOMD) and managed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
The need for irradiance data demonstrated in Envisolar led to the creation of a new product from two companies, the Swiss Enecolo AG & Meteotest. This consortium is offering a novel service called SPYCE, which uses irradiance data generated by the French research center Ecole des Mines de Paris with the aid of satellite data from the ESA MSG satellite. SPYCE monitors the production of solar power plants, which increases their energy yield as well as their capacity to compete with other (non renewable) energy sources.
The procedures of SPYCE were developed in more than 10 years of research by an interdisciplinary team of experts in satellite technology, meteorology and photovoltaics. Research was supported by the European Commission in the projects PVSAT and PVSAT-2 as part of the thematic programme “Energy, Environment, and Sustainable Development”. The functional principle is simple, though: satellite pictures are used to determine the irradiance at the location of the solar power plant and the outcome is used to calculate the expected solar energy yield. This expected yield is compared to the actually produced energy yield. SPYCE recognises automatically whether the photovoltaic system functions properly. If the efficiency of the solar power plant is too low, a special routine discovers automatically the reason by searching for typical patterns in the characteristics of the efficiency curve. Thus, dysfunctions can be detected easily and the performance of the solar power plants can be improved.
Owners and operators of solar power plants can have the efficiency of their systems checked daily and automatically with the SPYCE service. Registration can be done online with a few clicks and, already the day after, the expected energy yields of the power plants are available on SPYCE. After the installation of a data logger that transmits the actual energy yield of the solar system to SPYCE, the daily automated monitoring of the plant performance starts. If the efficiency is suboptimal, the operator of the solar power plant is alerted via email or SMS and informed about possible reasons.
The SPYCE service started in June 2006. The largest PV contractor in Switzerland, Edisun Power AG, is one of the first customers. It is foreseen that monitoring of solar power plants with the aid of satellite data will become a standard.
Related Links: ENVISOLAR: EO services for Solar power plants
Author: EARSC

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