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Advanced US operations centre launched to maximise large-scale solar power plant performance

First Solar’s centre aims to monitor and improve grid integration of world’s largest PV plants

The advanced US operations centre aims to maximise the performance of large-scale solar energy plants

A US firm is launching an advanced solar power facility to monitor large scale power plants and improve PV to grid integration. Arizona company First Solar has launched the global operations centre, which is a centralised monitoring and control facility where power plants in the company's solar energy operations and maintenance (O&M) programme can be monitored, operated and connected to utility and customer networks.

The second-generation operations centre, located in Mesa, Arizona, aims to enable the world’s largest solar photovoltaic power plants to integrate seamlessly with the electrical grid and contribute to grid stability. It combines the company’s power prediction and analytical capabilities with its advanced diagnostics and plant controls in order to maximise power output, minimise maintenance costs for customers.

The centre collects and processes a wide range of real-time power plant data, including electrical performance, equipment status and weather data, which are monitored and analysed against key performance and operational parameters. Automated data analysis detects issues in the plants and automatically dispatches maintenance crews to resolve them. Algorithms developed using years of O&M data also enable the system to predict potential issues and schedule preventive maintenance before a problem occurs.

First Solar said a key feature of the power plant design is its advanced plant controls, which the company said are critical for managing grid reliability and stability and can be controlled remotely from the operations centre. Features include ramp-rate control, which limits how fast a power plant’s output increases or decreases in order to minimise grid disruption; ride-through capability, which enables a power plant to operate through faults and other grid disturbances; active power control, which can be used to modulate power output; and frequency droop control, which enables a power plant to provide critical grid support when grid frequency is changing. The company said these tools have become increasingly important as more solar energy generating capacity is connected to the grid.

Mahesh Morjaria, vice president of global grid integration at First Solar, said: “Predictability and reliability have become increasingly critical to utilities and grid operators as large-scale renewable power plants are connected to the grid. We have invested considerable time and resources to ensure our power plants integrate seamlessly into the grid and provide features that not only avoid disruptions, but also can help to actively mitigate disruptions elsewhere on the grid.”