Regardless of system type, reports on energy production history can be downloaded from the Web portal, and most portals can be configured to send emails if the system is offline or other errors occur. Web portal data is also available via smartphones and tablets. Most portals can report data collected from an optional revenue-grade energy meter as well as temperature and solar irradiance from an optional weather station. However, if a revenue-grade meter and/or weather station is a system requirement, double-check with the data system manufacturer to verify that the data can be captured and logged. If not, Web portals can access data from local public weather stations (see “Monitoring the Weather” sidebar).
Fronius is one of the few residential inverter manufacturers that includes complete monitoring in the purchase price of the inverter. Fronius’s Galvo inverters (1.5 to 3.1 kW) have an integrated Datamanager 2 data logger to capture system information, which is relayed to its Web portal. The Datamanager uses WiFi to avoid cables and power supplies, although it can be connected to the router via network cable. The Datamanager includes a smartphone app for commissioning—just take a photo of the inverter’s barcode to set up online monitoring. Fronius IG-plus inverters can be retrofitted with the Datamanager 2 card, and the Fronius FE series can provide module-level monitoring with Tigo optimizers. The Fronius Personal Display unit can provide local monitoring of up to 15 inverters, and is available with or without data logging capabilities.
Kaco offers its watchDOG communication card; each can monitor three inverters. Installed inside the inverter, no external hardware is necessary except an Ethernet connection. The watchDOG transmits data to the Kaco Blueplanet Web portal, which is free for systems up to 10 kW (systems over 10 kW are charged $75 per year plus $1 per kW). Kaco’s M-series inverters have a preinstalled Energy Management Unit for use with Tigo MLPEs.
SMA America’s Webconnect Piggy-back card can collect and transmit data from up to four inverters to the free Sunny Portal website via a hardwired network connection. The card is installed inside the inverter, and uses a hardwired connection to the router—but could be connected by wireless adapter. SMA America also offers the Sunny Beam, a solar-powered tabletop display unit that communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth with up to 12 Sunny Boy HFUS inverters. Ninety days of data is stored in the Sunny Beam and can be transferred to a computer via a USB connection.
Solectria has an optional SolrenView DAS gateway for use with its PVI TL line of residential string inverters. One gateway can monitor up to 16 inverters. The hardwired gateway transmits data to the SolrenView Web portal via the household router. For systems under 10 kW, customized portal access is free for the life of system; owners can choose whether the portal is public or private.
Schneider Electric offers a similar data logger—the Conext Monitor 20 unit for up to three Conext RL residential inverters. Both Solectria and Schneider’s gateway devices require an external AC power source.