FSEC’s Newest Completed Project Determines Cost Validity of Intelligent Diagnostics Using String-Level I-V Curves and Machine Learning

With photovoltaic plants having the highest installation rate of all power sources in the last five years, the need for monitoring these plants is essential in maintaining power output and life expectancy. Are the current industry standard utility-scale monitoring systems enough to appropriately detect possible faults that could lead to power failure? A team at the Florida Solar Energy Center has spent the last five years studying the value proposition of high-resolution monitoring systems (HRMS)  to determine its effectiveness on levelized cost of energy (LCOE) reduction.

The popular infrared imaging technique is good at detecting hotspots but under certain conditions only. The top and bottom are IR images of a string showing a specific PV module. The module showed no signs of hot
spots when string was operated at MPPT. But, the same module showed signs of checkered pattern hotspots when operated at off-MPP.

“The project’s purpose is studying the value of monitoring the modules and strings in detecting the photovoltaic (PV) faults and its impact on LCOE,” Manjunath Matam, post-doctoral scholar at FSEC and project lead, says. “The PV modules and strings are all connected to the inverter and it is hard to detect the faults using the inverter data. Sometimes, the faults never get detected and cause huge power losses in the long run.”

So how does this U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored project benefit PV plant owners and investors? “The PV plant owners, investors, utility companies, stakeholders have no idea whether installing the HRMS equipment to monitor the modules and strings will add value, produce more power and generate revenue, or if it will just be an additional expenditure,” Matam says. “Our project, through its simulation, hardware, indoor and outdoor experiments, has observed that installing the HRMS equipment to monitor the strings will add value and is very beneficial since it can detect the faults, even the low power-loss causing faults, after a reasonable amount of time.”

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FSEC Energy Research Center Program Director Recognized by Congress

Muthusamy Swami was honored for his contributions to the field of building energy conservation and climate change, as well as his leadership in the local community.

On Thursday, May 19, Rep. Darren Soto of Florida met with Muthusamy Swami at Valencia College in Kissimmee, Florida, and recognized him as a distinguished leader in Central Florida as part of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrations.

Swami, the program director of Simulation Software Development at the FSEC Energy Research Center, a part of the University of Central Florida, was honored due to his contributions to the field of building energy conservation and climate change in over 40 years at FSEC ERC, as well as for his leadership in the Central Florida community.

FSEC Energy Research Center Director of Simulation Software Development Muthusamy Swami receives an award from Rep. Darren Soto of Florida.

Since joining FSEC ERC in 1982, Swami has lead analytical research and software capability development, with his primary area of research being the development of accurate simulation models and detailed analyses of elements relating to building energy use and indoor air quality. A major result of Swami’s research is a nationally recognized analysis tool called the Florida Software for Environmental Computation (FSEC 3.0), which is being used for research in new and innovative building technologies. He has also managed projects with the Florida Radon Research Program, as well as the United States Navy.

Swami has numerous publications in his areas of expertise and has been a project manager or team lead on several externally sponsored research projects valued at millions of dollars.

“Swami has not only been a pillar of the cultural community in Central Florida but he has also provided key leadership in the development of software tools that are used across the nation to aid in the energy efficiency and sustainability of building designs,” says Phillip Fairey, deputy director for FSEC ERC. “His research work in this arena will be of seminal value to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from building energy use and to the long-term sustainability of the planet.”

Not only has Swami contributed heavily to energy conservation, his passion for his community has been evident. He is a founding member of the Muthamizh Sangam of Central Florida, which is a nonprofit devoted to the awareness and promotion of Tamil culture in Central Florida. He was also the president of the Hindu Society of Central Florida from 2012-2013.

“His strength lies in providing leadership in growing the community and bringing them together, which he has done with great success,” said Soto during the awards presentation. “He has been instrumental in setting up language schools to preserve the native language, providing leadership training to youth, recruiting and posting students for internships, and advising design teams to win national awards. One such is a first-place design award for the team to him for faculty advising.”

“This award is not just for me; it’s for the entire community, especially those working tirelessly behind the scenes,” Swami says. “Volunteering has given me a greater sense of satisfaction than many other successes in life. It has helped me become a better person, and better able to put myself in other’s shoes and empathize with others better.”

 

PR22-09

EnergyWhiz 2022 Returns to FSEC ERC with New Events, Same Competitive Spirits

Neither the cloudy forecast nor pandemic concerns were enough to discourage the teams that came together on Saturday, April 30th for the 2022 EnergyWhiz event!

EnergyWhiz is a daylong celebration of sustainable solutions, creativity and engineering skills, where students from throughout Florida came together to showcase their renewable energy projects. This year, elementary, middle, and high school teams designed and built everything from solar-powered electric vehicles to sun-powered cookers and “green” homes for pets and other critters to showcase and share at EnergyWhiz.

The event, presented this year by sponsor Florida Power and Light Company, is hosted each year at the FSEC Energy Research Center, a research institute at the University of Central Florida, located at the Cocoa Campus of the UCF and Eastern Florida State College.

This year’s EnergyWhiz competitors participated in one of six categories: Junior Solar Sprint, Critter Comfort Cottage, Energy Inspired Art, Energy Innovations, Energy Transfer Machine and the Solar Energy Cook-off. Each competition category incorporates some type of energy efficiency measure or renewable energy technology. 

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U.S. Department of Energy Awards FSEC $1M Contract for Continued Efforts in EnergyPlus

Did you know that buildings account for more than 40% of U.S. total energy use and 70% of the country’s electricity use? Reducing that consumption to match renewable generation is one of the key challenges of our clean energy future, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The need to design and operate buildings to be more efficient, flexible, and responsive is essential to help meet that challenge. This is a primary focus at the FSEC Energy Research Center, which has been awarded a $1,000,000 contract for continued efforts in the Department of Energy’s flagship whole-building energy simulation software engine, EnergyPlus.

EnergyPlus is an open-source, whole-building energy simulation software that engineers, architects, and researchers use to model both energy consumption—for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and plug and process loads—and water use in buildings.

FSEC ERC has decades of whole-building energy simulation program development experience and has been part of the Department of Energy’s EnergyPlus core development team since 2001, when the Department of Energy changed from the DOE2.1 simulation program to EnergyPlus. Since then, FSEC ERC has been one of many central teams working with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to maintain, research, and develop the simulation program.

FSEC ERC is an essential part of the bi-annual updates for the program every year, not only providing software updates and fixing glitches, but also writing and creating new software within the program.

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