Solar farms on land must have a lifespan of at least twenty-five years, during which time they will require regular maintenance. Operation and maintenance account for roughly a quarter of the cost of solar power. By accurately predicting degradation and failure during the entire lifespan, these costs can be reduced by up to ten per cent. TNO is working on a method to achieve this.

Operation and maintenance, or simply O&M, consists not only of work to prevent equipment failure but also asset management and green management. The latter is becoming increasingly important. Large-scale solar in landscape integration is necessary for the energy transition, but requires careful and responsible integration. The National Consortium Solar in Landscape is an initiative of TNO, and therefore focuses on spatial quality, biodiversity and multiple land use.

Energy landscape in Noord-Brabant, image WUR

Unnecessary preventive maintenance reduces costs solar farms

Regular maintenance is now usually carried out according to the manufacturer's guidelines in order to remain within the guarantee provisions. But despite following these guidelines, this can mean unnecessary maintenance, with all the associated costs. However, this cannot always prevent parts such as panels and power electronics from breaking down. In order to prevent both of these undesirable situations, the owner of the panels should know when to expect a breakdown. Being able to precisely predict when intervention is required saves unnecessary preventive maintenance, such as inspections by a service technician.

Six test farms

TNO sees opportunities to reduce management costs through a system that includes standardised and automatic choices for maintenance decision-making along with the associated costs and revenues. In part to support this development, six test solar farms will be built in the near future in collaboration with LC Energy, Wageningen University & Research, Eelerwoude and SolarCentury in the SolarEcoPlus project. This project focuses mainly on the effect of solar farms on soil quality and biodiversity, but is also very useful for research into operation and maintenance. Eighteen pilots with different types of solar panels will be equipped with hyper-sensitive sensors that will provide a lot of data on how the panels, including all the components such as electronics, behave under various conditions.

Optimal maintenance schedules reduce costs solar farms

TNO will use this data to develop models and digital applications. Measurements in the farm will provide insight into ageing mechanisms, on whose basis optimal maintenance schedules can be drawn up. This saves the owner money and can help manufacturers improve their products. Developing a method for optimal maintenance is a logical next step for TNO, along with the former ECN, after decades of leading the world in bringing PV technology from lab to successful application. TNO has also previously developed models to link the yields of the panels to electricity prices over time.

More information about solar farm operations and maintenance?

Contact Kay Cesar

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Dr. ir. Kay Cesar

  • PV Modules & Applications