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May 10 (Renewables Now) - Inspecting solar farms with planes and drones and analysing the images with simplicity and ease is what Italy-based firm Wesii offers. Renewables Now recently talked to CEO Mauro Migliazzi to learn more about the company and the platform it created to reduce solar losses.
What is changing in the solar O&M world based on all the experienced gained by solar farm owners over the last 20 years?
Today having proper information and being able to take decisions based on data is more important than ever. Old photovoltaic plants suffer from spare part shortage but this does not mean that your O&M team cannot do anything. Using detailed information from aerial thermography makes it possible to assess the real status of the panels, understand if and what can be done with a proper ROI, maximise the energy production and approach the total revamping at the right time starting from the parts that need it the most. This we feel is what O&M organisations should focus on to produce value for the plants owners and optimise their costs.
What can Wesii do to help lower O&M costs for solar projects?
One of our main goals is to follow the entire life cycle of the PV plants. That means we want to focus on the areas that could potentially become a perfect spot for future assets and then monitor the performance of the solar panels year by year with airplane thermography. We found out that on average PV plant owners are losing EUR 1,300 per MW per year due to anomalies affecting the solar panels. This is where we step in. Aerial thermography and anomaly classification not only show where the anomalies are and how bad they are affecting the energy yield but also help to prevent the fire risk, for example. We want to help O&M and plant owners to make the best business decisions by telling them exactly where the problems are occurring and how to achieve their efficiency goals.
What is innovative about your approach?
Last year we started thinking about simplifying the customers' journey. How can they purchase our services without passing through many emails and calls? How can they manage their entire portfolios and easily add airplane inspections to the schedule? And view the results without hopping between platforms? By asking ourselves these questions, plus many more, we decided that it was time to create the first booking platform for solar and photogrammetry inspections. It gives a lot of freedom and autonomy in terms of management, navigation and output visualisation.
Why are you using airplanes in addition to drones? Are drones not enough?
Drones have become the market standard for aerial thermography, but this does not mean that they are ideal. They have limited mounting capabilities for thermal cameras, therefore they need to fly with low altitudes for the images to meet quality standards, with high increases in time and costs. Also, drone pilots must get access to each plant and with that they need HSE document management and in-field technicians.
Airplanes are just better. They mount super high quality cameras, costing up to 20 times those mounted on drones, and they can take advantage of the better sensitivity and better resolution to fly way higher: no HSE nor logistic problems on the rise, and each mission can cover up to 10 times the area a drone can in the same time.
Costs are drastically reduced and scalability has a whole new meaning for Wesii now. Drones are still useful to cover single, small scale plants on the spot or to set our fly-it-yourself solutions towards high-frequency monitoring, but we are definitely counting on airplanes to set a new standard on the market.
Do you also have solutions targeting wind farm operators and asset managers?
Sure, we do! It is not our main business focus at the moment but we are working towards expanding our services into wind farm operators too. We want to cover not only the solar industry and we want to assist operators and managers not only after the construction of the assets but also before by providing photogrammetric analysis of the terrain meant for potential constructions.
What is the future of site inspections?
We think PV monitoring still has a great margin of improvement. We are headed towards predictive maintenance which will help not only point out the current problems but also look ahead and predict what might go wrong in the future. We are already diving into that area with some features available in our service but we think we will do even better in the future.