The surface temperature of a solar panel and the appearance of hotspots directly impact its efficiency. Researchers have developed a novel method for estimating the power efficiency of an on-field solar photovoltaics (PV) system based on data obtained from thermal imaging and weather instruments using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This method is designed explicitly for non-intrusive detection of PV module performance in a large-scale solar power plant, which could be efficient, manpower-saving, operationally safe, and comprehensive.
A drone equipped with a radiometer, thermometer, and anemometer flew at the height of 1.5 m with a maximum lateral flight speed of 3.6 m/s above the PV systems (60 cells each). The researchers calculated the average temperatures of the PV modules using the measured radiation intensity, ambient temperature, and wind speed. According to the experimental correlation, if more than eight cells in a PV module had hot spots, their power efficiencies would be less than 40%.
The operator can use the simple measure to determine which PV module is damaged and needs replacement immediately. Taking such measures can reduce the loading effect of adjacent solar PV modules caused by the damage’s low efficiency and high impedance. This study’s new approach could be very cost-effective and time-saving for improving the efficiency of power plant operations.