GIRASOL: Digital twin of photovoltaic power stations

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To achieve the energy transition, the development, penetration and permanence of renewable energy is vital, particularly photovoltaic energy. By 2050, the share of renewable energies at European level is expected to reach 100%. The GIRASOL project has been undertaken due to the need to reduce capital investments, optimize energy and economic management, and lengthen the useful life of photovoltaic power stations.

In this context, GIRASOL provides tools for monitoring and predicting the functioning of large photovoltaic power stations as support for the predictive maintenance of solar panels and the prediction of energy production and station health. The project consists of the design of a flexible, interoperable, secure, and integrated digital platform based on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Predictive maintenance through digital twins

As part of the project, various subsystems have been designed and implemented that make up the digital twin of photovoltaic power systems, called GIRASOL (in Spanish, GEMELO DIGITAL DE CENTRALES SOLARES FOTOVOLTAICAS). A test of the concept has been carried out, which was implemented in a generation plant.

The implementation of the digital twin is organised into various subsystems:

  • A physical layer that has three levels. The first includes the sensor system of the variables of temperature, voltage and current of the data acquisition panels. The second contains the system for concentrating the transmission and entry of data in the cloud, with the sensor and concentrator in each series of panels, where the subsystem is responsible for sending data to the third level of the physical layer, comprised of a proxy system that applies a first filter and control of the quality of the data received in level two and transmits the data to an IoT platform.
  • An IoT platform that stores and processes the data. This subsystem is formed by the infrastructure of data that enables the web display of the state of the plant and the panels and supports the maintenance of the plant management.

On behalf of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), participants in the GIRASOL project included researchers from the groups and research centres in the Technological Development Centre for Remote Acquisition and Data Processing Systems (SARTI), Electronic Circuits and Transducers (e-CAT) and Motion Control and Industrial Applications (MCIA). The main contribution of the UPC has been in the design, manufacturing and programming of the sensor systems that gather and transmit information from the solar panels of levels 1 and 2.

Results obtained

During July 2022, a first preliminary series of sensor devices was deployed in a small generation plant in Tortosa. This continues to function today and provides detailed information on the functioning of each module, which will be used subsequently to implement the model of the plant.

Consortium, budget and funding

In addition to the UPC, participants in the project included NVISION, Àliter Group and SOLARTYS. All of them have worked together to validate this project in order to obtain reliable assessments of the state of health of the photovoltaic power plant and its preventive maintenance.

The project was funded by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism (MINETUR) of the Government of Spain and the Innovative Business Cluster (AEI) through the programme of grants to increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies. The total budget of the project was €55,697, with a duration of six months (November 2021 – August 2022).

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