The Florida Solar Energy Center Photovoltaics and Distributed Generation team have significant experience in collecting, reducing, analyzing, and interpreting data from photovoltaic systems distributed throughout the country. They are currently populating a Photovoltaic Performance and Reliability Database, which allows researchers, utility personnel, manufacturers, government agents and the general public to obtain useful information from a significant number of distributed power systems. Such information is used for cost-benefit analyses, valuation and decision-making. The architecture of the database will be modified and expanded for other distributed generation technologies.
The photovoltaic database represents a significant investment from the U.S. Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories and the Florida Solar Energy Center, and has been a tremendous resource for manufacturers, suppliers, utility partners and consumers. Extending it to include other distributed generation technologies will be of significant value to all parties involved.
Data management and quality assurance are central elements of the automated data handling system, and multiple levels of quality control are built into the automation. Data is up-loaded from the field experiments to a central processing and archival computer.
Periodic downloading is performed to minimize potential data losses. The central system at FSEC that performs these functions includes redundant equipment and software, and is protected by an uninterruptible power supply.
As the field data are collected, preliminary data quality assurance (QA) is performed to discrete bounds. Electronic mail is automatically generated to notify researchers of any anomalies. These data are stored in secure electronic databases and made available for retrieval and analysis via standard web browsers. Authorized users may select any portion of the data and conduct a variety of predefined, automated analysis procedures, or import the data into local spreadsheets, databases, or other local analysis software.
Following the preliminary data quality assurance check, the data are stored in the Experimental DataBase Management System (EDBMS) and recast in graphical format. Except for the responsibility of the user to visually examine the graphic output of the daily data stream, this process is completely automated. When using these data systems in field monitoring projects, FSEC has often achieved a data collection rate of greater than 99%.
FSEC has developed monitoring packages for photovoltaic (PV) systems and is in the process of developing similar monitoring packages for other distributed resource technologies. The purpose of this database is to collect and archive performance, reliability and operating cost data for distributed power systems. This data will be used by utilities, manufacturers, suppliers, end users and other interested parties to accurately assess value, improve products, improve operational procedures, perform cost-benefit analyses, and prepare better business plans.