The inverter-direct package is comparable to the other inverter Web-based products, and offers daily power curves and daily, weekly, and monthly energy production graphs, along with AC voltage and current and DC voltage curves. All data is available for up to five years and downloadable in spreadsheet format. A standard three-year contract for the Web package is included with the initial purchase, with options to extend to five- or 10-year packages.
The revenue-grade energy production option will connect to certain utility production meters so the Solrenview Gateway can monitor the utility-meter pulses and every kWh produced by the system. This data then can be automatically reported to the SREC agencies (see “Third-Party Monitoring” sidebar). Additionally, this option can be used with non-Solectria inverter systems. (Note: This does not cover inverter-direct monitoring, as the Solrenview Gateway is connected only to the production meter and not to the non-Solectria inverter.)
The Xantrex Communications Gateway option (MSRP: $650) will log system data that can be used for PC-based/onsite monitoring. A proprietary cable (included) connects the inverter to the gateway hardware. An Ethernet connection between the gateway and the onsite Internet router is required for setup, but can be removed for wireless operation (between the gateway and the router) thereafter. Data is then accessed via the PC after you have installed both a Yahoo! Widget and Solar Monitor Widget on your computer. Currently, Xantrex does not host a Web site for accessing data online. However, users can retrieve data remotely by “port forwarding,” which enables a computer from an external IP address to view system data, or by e-mailing data.
As the grid-direct PV industry grows, new and exciting options for monitoring system performance seem to be springing up just as fast. While researching your options, check out the user-friendliness of the various Web sites and displays offered. Talk to system owners and installers who have experience with these products. Also inquire about each company’s customer service record—if you invest in these monitoring systems, you will be depending on their service as you keep tabs on your system’s performance for years to come.
Kyle Bolger began his career in solar energy in 2004 and has been dedicated to renewable development ever since. He has an Oregon Renewable Energy license and NABCEP certification and he’s an IREC/ISPQ-certified PV instructor for Solar Energy International.
Justine Sanchez is a NABCEP-certified PV installer, Home Power Technical Editor, and Solar Energy International instructor. Justine dreams of one day installing her own Web-based PV monitoring system and weather station, but for now keeps tabs on her on-grid PV system with a Fronius Wireless Personal Display.
Inverter-Based Monitoring Hardware/Software:
Enphase Energy • www.enphaseenergy.com
Fronius USA • www.fronius.com
Kaco Solar • www.kacosolar.com
Power One • www.power-one.com
PV Powered • www.pvpowered.com
SMA America • www.sma-america.com
Solectria Renewables • www.solren.com
Xantrex • www.xantrex.com
Third-Party Monitoring Systems:
Draker • www.drakerlabs.com
Energy Recommerce • www.energyrecommerce.com
Fat Spaniel • www.fatspaniel.com
Noveda • www.noveda.com