IoT Blog
IoT Blog

The Future of IoT in Solar Energy: How Innovative Technology is Expanding the Solar Sector

by Olivier Amiot, Director of Marketing, Energy
Solar is the fastest-growing renewable energy source in the world, increasing in worldwide capacity by an average of 40 percent every year. Many energy companies are expanding to offer solar, which is among the most energy-efficient and lucrative sources of renewable electricity on the market. 

Today, solar energy companies have more options than ever before for making the most out of their equipment. Harnessing the power of the IoT can resolve common challenges associated with complex energy grids and make it far easier to manage panels and energy output. For solar energy companies, installing an IoT system will help meet customers’ demands and improve overall efficiency.

Asset Management Can Be a Challenge 

While it has many advantages, solar power can be a challenge for energy companies when it comes to management. To start, you need to connect solar panels to the utility grid. You also need to ensure that your cellular modules, gateways and web platforms are all integrated properly, without breaks in connectivity. Supposing that your system is fully integrated, you still need this equipment and software to tell you in real-time whether your solar station is delivering sufficient energy levels and maintaining load balance on the grid. Any renewable energy source, such as solar, wind, or biomass, experiences fluctuating energy generation in response to changes in the weather and other environmental factors. Your power grid needs to adapt to these changes, so you can ensure that you’re maximizing your grid usage and load at all times. 

These factors are complicated by the fact that renewable energy plants, such as solar and wind, tend to be clustered and widely distributed. When an energy system becomes too complex, it can cause a logistical nightmare for technicians and other grid managers. For example, making sure that each panel is running efficiently becomes more difficult as you add more panels to the mix. What’s more, if you have thousands of panels in a grid, there is a higher potential for vulnerabilities in your system. Generally, the more complex your system is and the more devices you have in your grid, the more likely you are to have holes in your system’s security. We recommend choosing an end-to-end system to minimize security risks and simplify your project.   

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Simple, Integrated Systems Are the Future of IoT in Solar Energy 

While some challenges do exist, they do not need to be debilitating for solar companies. By using IoT in solar energy, you can solve many of these issues with little effort and investment. The key to success is to install a simple, fully-integrated system that allows you to manage your entire grid. This also gives you the ability to identify and fix problems in near real time. 

The main benefit of using IoT in solar energy is that you can see exactly what’s happening with all your assets from one central control panel. By connecting your devices to a cloud network, you can identify where the problem originated and dispatch a technician to fix it before it disrupts your entire system. For instance, you may see that your network is running perfectly, but there is a problem with one of your devices. Without the IoT, it would be difficult to determine whether the problem was network-related or hardware-related. The IoT provides the intelligence for you to identify issues in real time, as the error occurs so the source can be located and resolved quickly.

Using the IoT, your system will be less susceptible to outages and productivity issues (resulting from downtime) and potentially costly security breaches. By installing a simple, end-to-end solution using IoT, you can manage the largest solar grids in the world, even with thousands of individual devices connected to your network. 

The IoT and Smart Metering Innovations 

In addition to providing companies with real-time alerts, leveraging IoT in solar energy can lead to improvements in smart metering. This makes energy production more efficient both in terms of cost and logistics. 

On the hardware side, companies can install OEM equipment to their grid, along with metering components that track any data that the company needs to enable new services. With an integrated system, you can also seamlessly toggle back and forth between your OEM and metering equipment. 

On the network side, using cellular connectivity in a solar energy array allows you to accommodate 2G, LPWA, and other LTE networks for faster, more reliable connections with low power requirements. 

When it comes to your smart grid, smart metering can improve your system’s efficiency in a number of ways. You can choose to place the module in a grid asset in front of the solar inverter for maximum efficiency. You can also offer a link gateway product with help from your smart metering equipment. In general, any one of these connectivity solutions can be adapted to suit your needs and the demands of your industry. 

Ready-to-Connect is the Perfect Solution 

Every solar company should focus on simplifying the development of their connected products. This makes it far easier to focus on what’s important — producing electricity in the most efficient way possible, without spending years creating an integrated proof system to handle the equipment and data. That’s where Sierra Wireless’ Ready-to-Connect solutions come in. The Ready-to-Connect system is easy to install, deploy and provision, and it offers companies full visibility through Sierra’s AirVantage platform. By using this integrated system, you ensure that your network, web platform, and devices are completely in sync with one another and easy to manage from just one cloud application. 

Our end-to-end system also simplifies operations management and provides enhanced security, with fewer areas of vulnerability compared to systems that are built using hardware and software that aren’t fully integrated from the start. Ready-to-Connect integrates the SIM and module, eliminating the need for a physical plastic SIM. This will reduce the time to design and certify the solution and will increase connection reliability. From the start, your system will have a unique identity and secret key.

To get started with Ready to Connect, or to find out more about how to optimize your solar energy system using IoT technology, start with Sierra.