Monitoring a Solar Panel System Using NI LabVIEW and DAQ

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"With innovative approaches using LabVIEW and DAQ, we methodically applied renewable technology monitoring to decrease risks and costs to the customer."

- Intan Shaffiqa Bt Sharuddin, MATRIX POWER NETWORK SDN BHD

The Challenge:
Monitoring solar panel function in homes to predict failure, address problems, and track energy created by the system.

The Solution:
Using NI LabVIEW and DAQ to create an asset monitoring (AM) system to monitor the health and status of solar panels and monitor the energy generated by the solar panel.

Intan Shaffiqa Bt Sharuddin - MATRIX POWER NETWORK SDN BHD

The renewable energy sector is gaining ground in many countries worldwide with the vast potential it presents environmentally and economically. Renewable energy plays a major role in meeting a country’s energy needs, so businesses can reap energy cost savings and revenue while combating global warming. There are several renewable energy sources in Malaysia, including biomass, biogas, solar, municipal waste, and minihydro. Solar energy, a renewable energy resource in Malaysia that has the potential to provide 8,900 MW per year, is a growth sector that can help propel the country into a high-income economy.

The Sustainable Energy Development Authority targeted 2,000 homeowners this year (and will target 10,000 next year) to invest in solar power. However, homeowners can face several critical problems, including solar panel failure, solar panel overheating, and the inability to accurately measure the power generated by the solar panel. In these cases, the homeowner must climb to the roof to check the solar panel.

We used LabVIEW to create the AM solar panel monitoring system to ensure that solar panels operate smoothly and to easily detect critical problems using a PC. The AM system uses LabVIEW to control and monitor the health, status, and energy generated by the solar panel. AM simplifies solar power monitoring by ensuring the system is always in good condition. It also highlights problems due to equipment failure by showing the energy converted to solar power measured in kilowatts (kW). The monitoring software also includes an alarm system to warn the customer if the solar system fails to convert power.

System Setup

We created an effective application that monitors the energy from a solar panel system, which converts energy from the sun to solar energy. Input from a sensor in the solar panel connects with the AM installed in the computer. The AM features a converter to translate the information and display the condition. Figure 1 shows the graphical layout of the AM, and Figure 2 shows the overall process flow. As seen in Figure 2, we equipped the solar panel with a sensor that sends the information to an NI data acquisition device. The DAQ device stores the data to a Citadel database. The AM system grabs the stored data, displays the status changes in the GUI, and sends the data to the database for report generation.

The AM system is divided into three categories: status, health, and energy generated.

First, the AM displays any status change in the solar panel. It is also equipped with a visual indicator to display the status of the panel. This ensures the monitoring process is easier than ever (see Table 1).

Next, the AM monitors the health of the installed equipment. It displays events, such as temperature rise, in a table format. The events display in chronological order based on the time the event occurred, with the most recent event on top. The table shows the overall filtered events according to description, date, and time. The event list continuously refreshes and is updated to show new events that occur.

Finally, the AM measures energy generated by the solar panel system. There are two types of solar energy measurement: photovoltaic energy and solar thermal energy. The energy output is expressed by the amount of solar radiation reaching the absorbent surface of the solar panel. Electricity is measured in watts, and kWh refers to the amount of energy produced by the panel. In Malaysia, the average electricity consumption for a household is 8,900 kWh per year. By using the AM, a customer can monitor how much energy is generated and the total use of electricity from solar energy. The AM also shows the energy storage per day.

System Benefits

In terms of cost-effectiveness, the AM gives customers one platform containing all the information and data of solar electricity. The customer does not need to install separate equipment to monitor each condition of status, health, and energy generated due to the centralized platform provided by the AM application.

The AM system also benefits the customer in terms of time savings. Customers do not need to go to different places to monitor the solar panel system, which can reduce travel costs. The AM system also can eliminate operational mistakes due to its high accuracy.

With innovative approaches using LabVIEW and DAQ, we methodically applied renewable technology monitoring to decrease risks and costs to the customer. We used LabVIEW to reduce the overall project risk, total cost of utility bills, and maintenance for the customer.

Author Information:
Intan Shaffiqa Bt Sharuddin
Tel: 603-89264941
Fax: 603-89264939

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