According to Hanan Fishman, the president of the company, retrofits with the latest optimizer can “can improve the yield of PV plants from anywhere from five percent to 10 percent on average.” While the product is as useful for new plants as retrofits, the company is targeting fiver-year-old PV plants for the bulk of its sales. “Many investors expect to flip a PV project after five years,” he adds.
“As existing PV plants grow older, their energy production and performance ratios can wane for a variety of factors, including soiling and module degradation among others” says Fishman. The SPOT optimizer is designed to boost the functionality of PV plants ranging from 250kW up to 10 MW.
The latest SPOT has a NEMA4 enclosure recast to make it more rugged yet lighter weight and thus easier to install, Fishman notes. “The 25 KW unit allows maximum power point tracking (MPPT) to be performed on four PV strings at once, twice as many as any similar device on the market today,” he says.
Alencon’s SPOT provides complete galvanic isolation between PV strings and the inverter. This feature makes the SPOT useful in O&M because any arc or ground faults that occur with a PV string can be isolated from the rest of the solar system. Additionally, arc and ground faults can be quickly traced to the exact PV string where they are occurring, which means maintenance can be more efficiently deployed and repairs can be safely done on one string while the rest of the PV plant continues to produce power.
SPOT allows for a broad range of both input and output voltages, so it can be deployed to improve the performance of any PV plant, irrespective of its age. By stepping up voltage on the output, the SPOT is able to markedly reduce conduction losses. Additionally, by feeding a central inverter fixed voltage, the SPOT will allow a central inverter to run much more efficiently by providing it the level of voltage that allows it to perform at its highest rated efficiency.
“The SPOT is an Internet-of-Things (IoT) ready device. By applying the PV-IoT, the Photovoltaic Internet of Things, the SPOT allows PV plant owners to assure their assets are operating at peak performance,” says Fishman.
As plants are prepared for resale by investors, calculation of the current value of the plant is a key consideration, so that upgrades like the SPOT optimizer can contribute to future revenue. “PV plant retrofits can qualify for the ITC, but requires a forensic accountant to get involved,” Fishman notes.
Alencon was selected earlier this year to join the recently formed Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Working Group, “to help O&M companies meet the challenges of generating energy from aging PV assets,” Fishman says.