Sucess Stories

Earth Observation to support solar energy investments and production optimization

Flyby’s SolarSAT system uses weather satellite data to estimate the potential of solar cell power plants and monitor their performance. The approach helps to give a faster return on investments in clean solar energy.

Service provider: Flyby s.r.l.
User/Customer: Public organizations
EOservice: SolarSAT
If you are interested in finding out more about this service please click here for more information.
Source: FlyBy

Making the Eo satellite information available to photovoltaic plant design & monitoring is a result
of the ENVISOLAR project, funded by ESA within the framework of its Earth Observation Market
Development Programme and supported by the German Space Agency DLR.
ENVISOLAR project gave birth to a suite of commercial products whose brand is ‘SolarSAT’.
ESA's technology transfer broker D’Appolonia then helped Sonepar Immobiliare e Servizi (SIS)
S.p.A., an Italian distributor of photovoltaic (PV) plants, to integrate Flyby’s SolarSAT solution in
their systems, with successful result for several plants in Italy.

The amount of solar energy reaching the earth (i.e. the irradiance) can be calculated by feeding EO
data into an algorithm that takes into account the interaction between solar light and atmosphere,
soil and sea. One of such algorithms was developed by Flyby and is applied to available EO data,
i.e. data that are collected directly at Flyby’s premises, via a satellite link. Irradiances of areas
whose EO data are not directly available to Flyby are supplied to Flyby by major European
institutions through commercial agreements.
Both historical irradiances and current irradiances are exploited: the former are used to define the
energy typically available for the location, by averaging data along 10 or 20 years; the latter are
used to define the reference producible energy to which the actual production must be compared

Upon Envisolar project completion in 2007, Flyby came up with a solution where weather
information from satellites is used first to plan investments in future installations and then to check
if the solar cells in a photovoltaic plant are working well and producing the expected amount of
electricity. During the phase of planning new photovoltaic installation Flyby’s SolarSAT PV-Planner allows
customers to design their PV plants using a simulation tool that exploits historical satellite
irradiances for any given location. It estimates the potential of the electricity production and helps
identifying the optimal size and position of the solar panels, information needed for the economic
analysis and evaluation of a new installation. The SolarSAT PV-controller tool is the other Flyby satellite-based solution for monitoring remotely the status and efficiency of PV plants. It retrieves the working status, monitors the produced energy and compares it with the expected one (producible energy)

The satellite solar irradiation data which is used in the Flyby’s SolarSAT PV-Planner and PVController
comes from two Meteosat Second Generation satellites: Meteosat-8 and Meteosat-9. The
services providing these data and products have been jointly developed by ESA and EUMETSAT
and are an important instrument to improve the monitoring of photovoltaic installations.
Data provided by the above Meteosat satellites comprise Europe and Africa, so the SolarSAT
system could well be exploited within energy application programmes like RCCP (Regional
Climate Change Programme) in which Southern Africa is targeted.

-Accuracy: little difference between the two systems in clear sky conditions. Satellite system is more
competitive if applied to areas characterised by such condition.
-Area coverage: satellite system allows worldwide coverage and continuous, so it is the only way to
get irradiance maps of any area and for any past period of time.
-Availability: satellite acquisition rate, though less than that achievable by a sensor, is quite enough
for design and monitoring purposes
-Cost: satellite imagery yearly subscription becomes cheaper than the cost of N sensor packages, as
soon as N = 33 (assuming Sensor_Package_Cost=300€, Satellite_yearly_subscription = 10 k€).
-Maintenance costs should be also included: they account for ¼ of sensor cost each three year.
-Maintenance: no HW to maintain when exploiting satellite data. Instead local sensors require
calibration and cleaning.
-Environment friendliness: both systems have no impact on the environment when in use
-Sustainability

PV-Planner attracts new customers by proposing a solution for the potential PV plant, with
technical and economic aspects fully characterized.
PV-Controller allows a reduction of the PV plant management cost (consisting typically of 1% of
plant full cost each year) by giving an early warning on malfunctions and drawbacks and thus
allowing a prompt intervention, so that the maximum productivity is not significantly reduced.