Does the future of solar power depend on IoT?

Date : 3-20-2019

Solar Energy and IoT

As the cost of traditional energy generation continues to soar, solar power is increasingly being used as an alternative to conventional energy sources.

It is one of the most efficient renewable energy sources, and has a worldwide capacity that is increasing at a rate of 40 percent per year.

However, implementing solar power can be challenging as it requires that panels be connected to a utility grid. In order for the grid to function, all of the gateways, cellular modules and web platforms need to be implemented properly. In addition, the widely distributed nature of solar plants presents issues in terms of both management and security. One way to combat these issues is to implement solutions based on IoT.

In the past, energy companies lacked the ability to identify and fix malfunctions in real time. One of the key benefits of using IoT in solar energy plants is that providers can manage all of their equipment from one central control panel. This means that issues can be detected at their point of origin and fixed before it causes a system wide failure. Not only does IoT enable easier detection of problems, but it also simplifies the diagnosis process. From the data collected, providers can better understand how their equipment is functioning. IoT based technologies provide valuable insights that can be used to determine if problems with equipment are related to the hardware or to the network and for preventative maintenance. This means that the system as a whole will be more efficient, less susceptible to failures as well as more secure.

In addition to providing real time updates, utilizing IoT in solar energy can lead to improvements with respect to metering. Energy providers can install OEM equipment in grids that work alongside metering components to track data. Cellular connectivity can also be used in solar arrays to accommodate 2G, LPWA and other LTE networks so connections will be more reliable as well as satisfy low power requirements. Smarter meters would not only increase overall efficiency, but also reduce costs for both energy providers and consumers. Improved metering efficiency can be achieved by using a link gateway or by placing a module in front of a solar inverter in a grid.

Google and Microchip are already offering security solutions for solar energy applications. Google is securing panels and grids by installing IoT devices with a token signed by a private key that connect to the Google Cloud IoT Core. The device can then be validated using a corresponding public key. Microchip offers CryptoAuthentication chips capable of generating their own public/private key pair to encrypt device messages. These chips are separate from the device’s main processor so the private key is protected even from the device itself.

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