14 October 2013


"Solar PV plants can - and need to - be better operated and maintained"

Can you describe Tigo Energy’s involvement in the photovoltaic industry? Where does the company add value and in which processes does Tigo Energy play a role?
Tigo Energy provides Smart Module technology for the solar industry.  It utilizes a patented impedance matching optimizer technology to increase energy production, simplify design and installation, improve fire safety, and ensure the highest uptime and reliability with cloud-based module level monitoring.  Tigo Energy’s chip-based solution provides the industry’s lowest part count, highest reliability, and most efficient Smart Module solution in the world, available as embedded solution into PV modules for new installation and as add-on solution for existing plants which need to be optimized and better operated and maintained.

What value can be obtained by optimizing a PV plant and what kind of role does monitoring play in this?
The optimization of PV array consists in introducing few power electronics at module level in order to measure and control independently each single panel and their MPPT’s. The values are tremendous, you can increase the energy harvesting of your plant thanks to a consistent reduction of losses at the array level due to any kind of mismatch. In fact every PV field suffers from multiple sources of mismatch, such as panels aging, dust, temperature, different inclination and orientation, any kind of shade, panels FTR, panel or connectors failure, and others. Moreover, the safety of a PV plant is being significantly increased by mitigating high voltage hazard thanks to panel level disconnect. And you can enjoy a unique O&M platform which enables monitoring, analysis and alerts at panel level. Tigo Energy module level monitoring platform is able to show you a set of electrical and environmental variables collected by each panel every 2 seconds and is a fundamental tool to provide prompt and efficient O&M services.

Can you point out what different types of monitoring are available? What type(s) does Tigo Energy focus on and why is this?
The two main monitoring resolutions that are currently available on the market are string and inverter level. Both are provided by multiple different suppliers in very good quality. However, there isn't enough resolution for reliable long term O&M and for spotting maintenance issues at PV generators level. Thanks to the distributed MPPT approach and user friendly monitoring platform of Tigo Energy it becomes easy and efficient to monitor a whole fleet of solar systems with panel level granularity. Tigo Energy focusses on optimizing both the plant production and the O&M activities.

What is the most extreme example you have come across where application of monitoring resulted in a drastic improvement of revenues?
I remember this underperforming 100kW system where Tigo was installed to diagnose the causes of performance loss. The retro-fit revealed a number of issues:  several modules were underperforming by greater than 90%, and more than ten modules by greater than 50%. There was also a whole string totally disconnected. This module-level data enabled the maintenance team to fix on-site failures, and replace the failed modules. This and correcting remaining mismatches by Tigo Energy system immediately boosted the system performance by ca. 35%.


Operations and Maintenance is gaining increasing attention all around the world and O&M providers search for most innovative and professional tools. How can the concrete proposition of Tigo Energy to O&M service providers best be described?
Energy harvesting, anti-aging effect, increasing of the system uptime, immediate isolation and detection of any kind of faults thanks to an advanced Alert&Report system and an online panel positioning display, module level fleet management monitoring software which enables to troubleshoot 90% of the problems from remote, increased safety for the staff and the plant itself. In a nutshell, Tigo Energy is a true asset protector.


What should investors, plant owners and asset managers know about the monitoring solution that is used for their assets? Or should they just leave this choice to the O&M provider?
The market is very dynamic today and the expected lifetime of a PV plant is really long in comparison to standard O&M contracts lifetime. A system has to be performing well for at least 20 years, whereas the owner can change just as well as the O&M contractor. Many things can happen in such a long time, therefore I would always suggest to listen the O&M provider but also to invest in equipment which enables the investors to run his own checks and analysis. The cloud based Tigo Energy monitoring system stores all module level data collected every 2 seconds for the life of the plant and make it accessible at any moment from any internet capable device.

Suppose you are in the year 2020. Looking back, what – in your opinion – will have been the mayor surprise in the O&M business in the coming years, something that we did not foresee?
It is a very difficult question, but personally I believe that we will be surprised to find out HOW many different reasons are causing PV systems to underperform. Issues such as PID or  corrosion are common long term effects that cause severe losses but are only now being observed and fully understood. We start admitting that the ROI is function of the CAPEX, OPEX and system up-time. A system with lower CAPEX can have an earlier break even,  however with subsequently reduced earnings due to accumulated failures. All PV Systems could perform better and produce more in long term if equipped with the actual MPPT Distributed () technology as provided by Tigo Energy.

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