Performance Plus Entering Demonstration and Validation Phase

Performance Plus is a R&D project for reliable, cost-effective and highly performing photovoltaic (PV) systems. It is carried out by an international collaboration between market, industry and high level research. The project is financed by the European Commission under its 7th Framework Programme. The researchers are developing a series of tools, models and hardware to increase the performance and lifetime of PV installations. The progress and achievements obtained during the first two years of the project were presented to an audience of industry and researchers during the 1st Performance Plus Workshop, held in Brussels on the 19th of November 2014. The workshop presentations are available here. Amongst others, the results obtained by now are:

  • Power generation forecasts of PV installations on variable weather days can be brought down to an accuracy of about 4% instead of the current 10% by combining new modelling concepts with improved weather forecast as shown by imec;
  • Spatially and temporally highly variable surface solar irradiance caused by broken cloud conditions has been analysed and forecasted by means of a ground-based sky camera. For this approach, Oldenburg university processed sky images to extract the cloud distribution and their motion as well as the resulting surface shadow and solar irradiance fields;
  • AIT – Austrian Institute of Technology, has developed a flexible inverter model able to precisely predict the performance of a wide range of PV inverters;
  • A Model-Predictive Control (MPC) framework that allows controlling the PV plant together with other systems on the site was developed by KU Leuven university. This MPC framework takes into account weather forecasts, variable tariffs, energy efficiency, peak loads, etc. in order to optimize the power injection to the grid over time.
  • The sensor prototype called ESA, able to measure both the direct and indirect solar irradiation was designed and built by Alitec. Five units were successfully tested and sent to the Performance Plus partners for comparison with a wide set of data. The first internal calibration results have shown that the ESA sensor has, in average, half of the accuracy compared to traditional devices. Nevertheless, the forecasted market price of the ESA sensor is 10 - 15 times lower than the price of traditional devices;
  • 3E has developed a web-based tool for financial optimization of PV systems. The tool calculates the energy over the lifetime and the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). It is based on the models developed within the project and allows for optimizing the system as a whole rather than each component separately;
  • The project team has published best practice guidelines for uncertainty in PV modelling and monitoring of grid-connected PV systems. These guidelines will support PV project developers and investors with managing the financial risks. Moreover, the monitoring guidelines will help PV plants to monitor accurately and in a robust and effective way the plant indicators that are required for assessing and improving the operational performance of the plants during their lifetime;
  • 3E has developed an automated health scan procedure for fault recognition from operational PV system monitoring data;
  • New test procedures to improve the accuracy of PV measurements were developed by SUPSI. These procedures take into account separately the contribution of all possible causes of energy losses and under-performance, optical, mechanical, Potential Induced Degradation (PID) and other degradation effects;
  • A set of new test procedures for PV inverters as well as an interface for PV inverter communication and control have been developed by AIT.

These models and tools are currently being demonstrated in field tests. Final versions will be presented at the closing event in October 2015. Thanks to a Users Group composed of seven large portfolio owners and strong EPC and O&M contractors, the consortium has access to 25 PV systems, ranging from small residential to large utility scale PV systems across Europe. During the coming months, the following activities will be carried out by the project team:

  • Imec and Oldenburg university will continue with the demonstration of the significant accuracy improvement of the new power generation forecast model for PV plants in varying weather situations;
  • The demonstration of the MPC on a real PV plant complemented with a heat pump system in an office building in Brussels started in January 2015 by KU Leuven university; a cooled warehouse and a battery system will follow;
  • The ESA sensors installed on five different sites across Europe will be further validated under different conditions by Alitec;
  • 3E will apply the automated PV system health scan procedure for fault recognition to real PV systems across Europe;
  • The interface for remote control of the active and reactive power of a PV inverter will be demonstrated in practice by 3E and AIT;
  • Test procedures and a software toolbox for testing PV systems in the field will be demonstrated by SUPSI and AIT.