The Solar Power Europe Aerial Thermography Best Practices Mark is an insightful tool for solar PV O&M’s and asset managers to ensure that they are working with a credible provider of drone thermography. The Aerial Thermography Best Practices Mark aims to standardise drone thermography and improve the quality of data collection. High-quality data is crucial to advancing digitalisation and predictive maintenance strategies within the solar industry.
Above is a certified provider of aerial thermography for solar PV
Above’s CEO Will Hitchcock plays an active role in many solar working groups contributing to the Aerial Thermography Best Practices Mark, O&M Best Practices Guide, and Asset Management Best Practices Guide. Above is a certified provider of aerial thermography meeting all of the requirements outlined within the Aerial Thermography Best Practices Checklist for compliance. It is no surprise that high-quality data is one of Above’s core values. Above offers a high-quality solution from start to finish, covering how we collect, process, and present our customer’s data. High-quality thermal data collection can add value to our customer’s operations both now and in the future when performed correctly.
What is the Aerial Thermography Best Practices Checklist?
The ‘Aerial Thermography Best Practices Checklist’ helps solar companies to verify and evaluate drone inspection providers and the services they offer in a fully transparent way. Standardisation is a step forward for the industry as it means that thermal data collection follows a consistent methodology of collecting, processing, and delivering solar plant data. Allowing solar companies to gain more precise and accurate thermal data to optimise solar plants.
What are the Best Practices Guidelines?
The Solar Best Practices Guidelines are a series of handbooks created by solar industry experts and companies to provide detailed advice on different solar services in line with the highest standards. Guidance on thermal inspection is part of the O&M Best Practices Guidelines. The guidelines prepared by Solar Power Europe, the leading solar industry association in Europe, aim to improve service quality and standardisation in the industry. Available guidelines are the O&M Best Practices Guidelines, the Asset Management Best Practices Guidelines, and the EPC Best Practices Guidelines.
What is the Solar Best Practices Mark?
The Solar Best Practices Mark is a suite of self-certification-based labels based on the guidelines and checklists. Its purpose is to create more transparency in solar services and incentivise excellence by providing visibility to complying companies. If you see this badge, it means that the company is compliant with the Best Practices Mark Guidelines.
What are the requirements of the Aerial Thermography Best Practices Mark Checklist?
Safety training and equipment
Drone pilots must receive the appropriate health and safety training and equipment. Helping to keep themselves and others safe whilst the inspection takes place at the solar plant.
Qualification and training personnel
Drone pilots must have an advanced understanding of all the equipment that they operate. The service provider must have a structured training program. They should have a good knowledge of solar PV plant components and how the solar plant functions.
Local aviation compliance
The solution provider’s operations must comply with the relevant aviation legislation. Every country has an organisation that oversees and regulates the use of drones. A few examples of these are the CAA (UK), the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (Germany) and ENAC (Italy).
IR Camera and visual photo requirements
The aerial inspection providers’ camera equipment must have the capability to meet all requirements of IEC TS 62446-3. The IEC TS 62446-3:2017 is commonly cited as the standard to meet for outdoor thermography of solar PV. This standard often features in EPC contracts, technical due diligence scope and warranty claim procedures.
Recording ambient conditions
The provider’s equipment must record ambient conditions in line with IEC TS 62446-3. Ambient conditions recorded include the irradiance level which has the greatest impact on inspection results and must be measured in the module plane.
Flight preparation and planning
Your aerial inspection provider needs to have the correct documentation and pilot checklists in place to operate safely and professionally.
An incredibly important item on the checklist. Inspections must meet the IEC requirements for environmental conditions. The conditions include irradiance levels, wind speed, cloud coverage and soiling.
The service provider must document the processes and procedures for conducting inspections to a high standard to ensure data collection is of consistently high quality every time.
Thermal camera geometric resolution requirements
This requirement directly affects the accuracy of the temperature measurements made from the inspection data. Deviation from this requirement can cause a direct impact on the credibility and quality of the data and measurements made.
Inspection Data Treatment
The method of analysing the inspection data should follow IEC TS 62446-3 standards. Examples of these requirements are in-depth temperature data, classification of thermal anomalies, and additional anomaly documentation such as the irradiance, wind, cloud cover and soiling.
Geolocation of data
The provider must demonstrate its ability to locate identified anomalies to an individual module. Geo-tagged thermal data can direct solar PV engineer teams to highlighted modules to carry out further action. An accurate visual representation of the results enables the customer to identify module patterns and trends across the solar plant.
Stats and trends
The provider must present the data informatively so that the customer can see the impact of the issues identified from the inspection. An example of this is an estimation of power loss from identified abnormally performing modules or the anomaly distribution by the module manufacturer.
The report quality control process must include a team member with appropriate knowledge of infrared thermography. The Level 1 and Level 2 Infrared Thermography Certification is excellent for solar PV thermography.
The inspection report must be comprehensive and contain detailed inspection information.
A provider must offer technical support alongside the report results, making recommendations for follow-up actions. This guidance enables the customer to get the most value from the data to improve solar plant performance. The root cause of the anomaly is sometimes visible within the RGB imagery, for example, soiling or shading of the module.
An online platform is necessary, allowing the customer to access and download reports. A well-designed platform will display the report results within multiple views and distill data into information using informative charts
An inspection provider must have a service warranty in place. The aerial thermographic inspection performance warranty protects the customer should the equipment malfunction or the data quality is not optimal.
The service provider must have the appropriate insurance for the service and its deliverables. Insurance protects both the customer and operator should the operational equipment cause damage to the solar plant whilst carrying out an inspection.
Above is ‘Solar Aerial Thermography’ certified, which means that we comply with the stringent requirements of the Solar Best Practices. Take a look at the Solar Best Practice website for more information.