How to monitor solar power generation through the SMA inverter

How to monitor solar panel power generation through the SMA inverter using the Sunny Explorer software.

I have been monitoring the yield of solar harvested electricity produced from my Sanyo solar panel array by linking to the SMA Sunny Boy 2000HF inverter via bluetooth technology. As previously advised of the 25th November, When I said that I will order a bluetooth dongle to place in one of the spare USB ports on the side of the computer.

Equipment / Software Required

Computer – I’m using a desktop pc running Windows XP SP2.

SMA web site states other supported operating systems are Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit) and Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).

Sunny Explorer Software – Free download from SMA (see link below)

Belkin Mini Bluetooth AdapterBluetooth Dongle – I’m using this Belkin Mini Bluetooth Adaptor. It’s the only item I have purchased to monitor my system. I gambled on compatibility and for the price (see details and spec here) it seems to work fine with my set-up. Some laptops have bluetooth built in so it’s worth checking if you have got this facility already. Drivers that come with the device support Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Monitoring

I have primarily chosen this method to monitor my solar system due to already having most of the equipment needed at hand. Also I do like having a more detailed system of reporting than just that of the all time total generated figure displayed on the generation meter. The front panel of the SMA inverter is useful but only really for that day’s yield – and that’s when it’s accessible and not located out of reach in the loft. The current solar generation level is another useful feature from the lcd display. I use this to determine if my solar panels are reaching their maximum yield and capacity. You can access more from the Sunny Boy inverter panel by tapping the display twice, but you only then get a brief overview of the yield for the last sixteen days. As my system inverter is easily placed for access I tend to use this method for a quick check when required.  It’s also ideal to check things are working without booting up the PC.

The bluetooth adaptor purchased recently came with the required drivers for my operating system. After installing these I next plugged the little adaptor into one of the spare USB sockets. During installation you have to answer a few simple questions and finish off by re-booting the system.

SMA Sunny Explorer Software IconNext, to monitor the SMA Sunny Boy inverter via this new blue tooth device I had to download and install the Sunny Explorer software direct from the SMA web site at http://www.sma.de/en/products/software/sunny-explorer.html.  Again, installing this was fairly straightforward, and once finished left me with a little desktop SMA Sunny Explorer icon.

When running the Sunny Explorer software you have to first locate and connect to the inverter. I guess if you have lots of bluetooth equipment close-by, it may be just the case of choosing the Sunny Boy inverter from the list of found devices. It found only the one connection in my case. You can also download a manual and check system compatibility and full set-up instructions.

Sunny Explorer Plant Assistant
The software will store details of your PV array as a PV plant that can then be selected to open the bluetooth connection.

Select your plant from the list and then press the next button to continue.

Blue tooth connection
This should then open another window showing a laptop establishing a connection to the SMA inverter.

Once the connection has been established you will then need to enter the plant password.

The default password in shown on the window. After entering and clicking the next button again it should then open the Sunny Explorer home page similar to that shown below. At this stage you should also notice a blue light on the inverter front signifying connection.

The left side panel shows your inverter details – serial number and plant name. The main panel shows performance and current yield. And below you will find tabs linking to various graphs showing daily, monthly, yearly and total statistics for you solar system.

Sunny Explorer Main Page

Daily Statistics GraphMonthly Statistics Graph

Yearly Statistics GraphTotal Yield Statistics Graph

Solar Panel Generation – First Month Stats – East West Split

A little late publishing, but here are the first month’s generation statistics for the east-west split solar panel array. These stats are for my father’s 2.64kW system, which employs SunPower 240kW E19 Series solar panels with SolarEdge power optimisers fitted.

These statistics are the very first shown for the east-west system that was installed on 7th December 2011. After all the upheaval and agitation that he has endured over the previous month it’s rather nice to blog about something a little more interesting than installation problems.

Like my own, my father’s expectations were a lot higher than that of the received yield of solar generated electric. Having an installation in December is probable not the best idea if you want to receive instant encouragement and return from your system. After all this was now the darkest and gloomiest days of the year.

When reviewing my first solar harvesting statistics I had nothing to compare with. Seeing these now, although comparison is still very liberal due to the split array and differing size systems, it nonetheless offers some interesting similarities and solar array personalities.

What stands out when comparing these solar generation statistics to that of south, south-east system in particular at this stage is that the east-west split seems to harvest more on dull days. Obviously I can’t compare like for like but I believe that this slight improvement on certain days is down to the power optimisers. Overall the near south facing array trounces the split system during these shorter days, but once the longer days arrive the east-west split should come into its own. It should be rather interesting comparing in the months to come!

East-west split solar array first month's statistics

The electricity generation statistics are for the period from 8th December to 7th January 2012. During this first month the system harvested just over 37.5 kW of electricity, averaging 1.21 kW per day. The chart also shows the highest spike of generation hitting at 2.51 kW.

Solar Panel Generation – Second Month Statistics

This is the second month’s generation statistics since my Sanyo solar panel array was installed. Within the previous south, south-east solar panel stats blog on 24th December I reported that the system had harvested just over 53 kW of electricity, averaging 1.77 kW per day.

Today’s entry shows that during this month I had a yield of approximately 63.5 kW of electricity from the sun, averaging 2.05 kW per day.

Solar Generation Statistics Month 2

SolarEdge Monitoring

An email was received this week with details regarding the monitoring of the East-West split SolarEdge power optimised solar system installed at my fathers property. This would enable him to log-on to the SolarEdge monitoring portal and view the solar system’s performance. You can also, if required, view public sites around the world and compare.

And today also saw the scaffolding arrive to enable repair work to begin on the loose ridge tiles. This was caused at the time of installation by the installers drilling incorrectly and dislodging the tiles.

What can I Expect from Solar Generation?

Well hopefully it’s too soon to tell. But, as promised I can now publish my first few day’s solar panel electric generation statistics. I don’t know how this compares with other solar array homes in the area or indeed anywhere else. If anybody reading this has any comparable data for these dates from sites in Devon or anywhere else in the UK, please post a comment. It would be good to evaluate at this stage of my journey!

After these first few days I can only think or fret! that the average created here of 2.16 kw per day would take approximately 26 years to repay the investment at today’s feed in tariff rates. That’s without any faults or replacements during the period. In other words, going on these first few day’s figures I could only advise that you avoid a solar panel investment like the plague!

This graph shows my solar pv generated electric over 4 days from 21/11/11 to 27/11/11.

First Few Day's Solar Generation Figures

Now before anybody goes away and does something silly or cancels an order for their solar module system – please remember this is only my first recorded statistics for my system, a small 2kWh system in the bleak mid winter … I’m thinking this anyway!

On cheerier note – how did those Morcambe and Wise lyrics go

Bring me Sunshine, in your smile,
Bring me Laughter, all the while,
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness,
So much joy you can give, to each brand new bright tomorrow,

How is the Solar Electric Monitored?

Now that the panels are up – I can monitor the solar pv electric generated by either the Sunny Boy inverter panel or alternatively using the generation meter. The generation meter provides just a digital readout which is basically all you need as this is what you will get paid on. As it’s all very new to me I’m not sure how these readouts and figures will be collected.

Solar Electric Generation MeterSunnyBoy Inverter LCD Panel

The Sunny Boy inverter however shows a little more detail with the help of some visual representation of the data using graphs and symbols on a black & green LCD panel located on the front of the unit.

The inverter apparently also employs blue-tooth connectivity which sounds rather exciting so I will probably give this a go at some point. I’ve already got my eye on this little device from Amazon.

Belkin Mini Bluetooth Adapter I think that it will be ideal for connecting to the Sunny Boy inverter via bluetooth. And for the price (details here) I think it’s a good deal and as the description below states, it will also have other uses too.

Product Descriptionn – Belkin Mini Bluetooth AdaptorStays connected to your laptop for quick and easy Bluetooth connections. This small adapter simply plugs into one of your laptop’s USB ports, quickly connecting you to the latest Bluetooth wireless technology. The Mini Bluetooth Adaptor communicates with mice, headsets, printers, phones, and other devices enabled with Bluetooth technology. Stays connected to your laptop for quick and easy Bluetooth connections. This small adapter simply plugs into one of your laptop’s USB ports, quickly connecting you to the latest Bluetooth wireless technology. The Mini Bluetooth Adaptor communicates with mice, headsets, printers, phones, and other devices enabled with Bluetooth technology. Features:Uses standard v2.0 + EDR and USB 2.0 to provide optimal performance Distance range of up to 10 metres Distance range of up to 10 metres Works with most devices enabled with Bluetooth technology

I’ll order one of these little blue-tooth devices and blog my findings on here later. For now though I can only monitor via the previous methods mentioned above. And as far as yesterday went, remembering is was not a full day of generation, it’s not looking too bad. The weather has been pretty kind for my solar panel installers this week. I will publish my first few day’s statistics at the weekend.