A major breakthrough for the U.S. solar landscape comes from Zeitview, the leader in advanced energy inspections. Their recent data unveils that over half of the large-scale U.S. solar plants stand in pristine condition. These revelations stem from the North American Solar Scan, an intensive manned aviation and drone-led study by Zeitview, examining more than 90% of U.S. solar installations each exceeding 1 MW.
This new information adds a fresh layer to the narrative of the renewable energy domain, particularly when solar power is gaining ground as America’s most rapidly expanding renewable energy.
Key Takeaways from Zeitview’s Manned Aviation and Drone Surveys
Post its strategic acquisition of Heliolytics, Zeitview shed light on several pivotal trends:
- More than half, precisely 51%, of the U.S. solar installations are in prime working order, signifying an asset grade of BBB or above.
- A notable 47% of U.S. large-scale solar setups need varied levels of maintenance to achieve ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ classifications.
- A mere fraction, less than 2%, are in a condition of distress.
- Aspects like the age of the plant, its capacity, alignment, and geographic position determine its long-term performance.
- Delving into older plants, those nearing the 10-year mark, one-fourth continue to function optimally.
- The study further establishes the superiority of tracker-mounted setups. They outperform fixed-tilt systems, registering a 54% to 44% vitality rate.
Mark Culpepper, Zeitview’s general manager of global solar solutions, shared his insights: “More often than not, the U.S. solar industry has operated in a peculiar blind spot, devoid of the transparency that has long been a hallmark of fossil fuel energy sources. While the latter has enjoyed insights into their condition and performance, the solar industry has been navigating without such crucial information.”
He further drove home the significance of this newly acquired data, saying, “This data can tell owners and O&M firms specifically where to troubleshoot while saving them money on inspection costs.”
DJI Drone Examines Solar Facility. Photo courtesy of DJI.
Leveraging Manned Aviation and Drone Inspections with AI
Zeitview raises the bar by integrating AI-driven software designed to pinpoint typical defects in photovoltaic (PV) equipment, ensuring precision in each drone inspection and manned aviation survey. The amassed data presents a comprehensive thermal and visual representation of solar installations.
This methodical approach has drawn companies such as Nexamp, a key player in solar energy, towards Zeitview’s analytical platform to amplify their operational efficiency.
On the collaboration, Skip Provost, Nexamp’s Vice President of Operations and Maintenance, stated, “These new features allow us to optimize our plants further while comparing performance to broader industry benchmarks. With access to Zeitview’s comprehensive reporting, we can quickly make more informed decisions.”
The Road Ahead
Zeitview’s ambitious manned and unmanned aircraft surveys successfully documented conditions across a staggering 95 GW of the U.S. solar infrastructure during their 2023 North American Solar Scan. Furthermore, the company is poised to accumulate imagery of over 200 GW from the global renewable energy sector this year.