The Biden administration’s Solar Futures Study calls for 45% of the U.S. electricity supply to come from solar by 2050. That means bigger (and more efficient) solar farms — a massive opportunity for companies that inspect and optimize utility-scale arrays.
Mark Culpepper, general manager of solar solutions for DroneBase, a renewable energy asset ariel imaging firm, foresees significant growth in demand for monitoring at scale to follow federal ambitions.
DroneBase specializes in manned and unmanned ariel analysis of solar photovoltaic arrays using thermal imagining by identifying performance loss in modules that overheat. The company’s platform then prioritizes fixes that offer the highest return for the asset owner before dispatching crews.
The company once identified 10,000 defects on a 200 MW portfolio for a client in North Carolina and was able to prioritize just 200 projects for repair that would recover most of the asset owner’s losses.
“I think we’re still early days in a lot of ways for this sector,” Culpepper told Renewable Energy World in an interview, estimating that about 30-40% of utility-scale solar systems in the U.S. have been thermally inspected. “We have this huge challenge in front of us (climate change), but a huge opportunity, too. By the time we’re done, the planet will be better off.”
The Solar Futures Study calls for the U.S. to install an average of 30 GW of solar capacity per year between now and 2025, then 60 GW per year from 2025.
Solar data analytics and monitoring firm Raptor Maps recently used its smartphone software to scan nearly 1 million module serial numbers at a 300 MW solar PV system in California. The technology is being used to track and mitigate degradation. The company also releases guides to solar PV inspections using manned and unmanned aircraft.
“Raptor Maps is excited about the Solar Futures Study as it validates the need for the industry to find solutions to help it scale,” Raptor Maps CEO Nikhil Vadhavkar said. “Because our software strengthens asset efficiency, boosts staff effectiveness and ultimately lifts financial return of PV assets, we’re helping to make solar more bankable, playing an integral role in fueling the industry’s rapid growth.”