Solar monitoring: Watching your system produce
Improvement in solar technology isn’t just about manufacturing more efficient panels. Advancing solar technology also helps your system perform better over its lifetime. One of the ways this happens is through panel monitoring.
Your system will come with a monitoring portal that you can access via the internet. What your monitoring system tells you depends upon your system, specifically your inverter. All inverters generally have online monitoring options that allow for the tracking and monitoring of whole system production and performance. Micro-inverter monitoring systems give the option for panel-level monitoring. This will show data on individual panel performance.
No matter your specific set up, your monitoring portal will show you the amount of energy your system is generating. You can use this information to verify if your system is producing energy in the quantity it should. Your monitor should be set up to email you alerts if it detects something wrong with your system’s performance.
Keep in mind that energy production fluctuates from day to day, month to month, and year to year based on weather conditions and other factors. Despite those fluctuations, you should see a consistent curve of energy production over time.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put together a useful website, PV Watts, that can estimate your system’s performance. It takes into account the local solar resource and weather conditions as well as your panel orientation, amount of shading and system design to calculate the expected output your system should produce, as well as the financial value of the electricity generated.
If you think something is wrong with the way your system is performing, contact your installer.