From 2007 to 2008, the total capacity of grid-tied California solarinstallations just about doubled, rising from 81 megawatts (mWs) to 160mWs (see California Public Utilities report).
Clearly, the demand for solar is rising.Since the value of solar lies predominantly in how much energy itproduces — which translates into conventional electricity savings — it’s important to know exactly how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) your solarpanels can crank out on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. When youtake your home or business solar, a professional solar quote will tellyou how much energy you can expect your system to produce over time.
But once the solar installation is complete, how do you know you’regetting the most out of your system? How can you tell whether a solarenergy system is reaching its energy production goal? Data trackingservices provide an easy solution. There are now websites to keep you in the know, revealing live figures of how many watts your system isproducing. If you want to get a little jealous, you can even check outwebsites that track production at utility-scale solar power plants. Here are few clear cut sites designed to help you stay attuned to yoursystem’s production.
Solar Quest is an easy tounderstand site that features color-coded charts of the amount of energy produced by selected commercial systems. It also provides a glimpse atweather data for the next 48 hours. The site focuses on the Santa Cruz,Calif. area, and groups their monitoring into two groups: grid-connected systems and battery-backup systems.
If you don’t have solar but are thinking about a future installation, the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center offers the Clean Power Estimator, a tool that displays the cost and potential output of a given solar photovoltaic (PV) system. How does it work? Punch inyour zip code and specify whether you are a commercial or residentialcustomer. The estimator then takes into account local weather data,government incentives, average electricity prices and other knownvariables to give you your system’s potential internal rate of returnand carbon dioxide emission reduction.
RMetergives real-time info about your energy production and consumption usingCalifornia Energy Commission certified grade meters. You can downloadrMeter’s second-by-second charts and graphs from anywhere and rMeter can quickly identify a system’s problems and help with troubleshooting from any web browser.
If you’re concerned about the performance of your solar hot waterheater, WiredSolar has you covered. Thesite allows solar hot water owners to closely monitor their system’soperation with detailed graphs and reports to help you get the most outof your system. The information can also be accessed from any connectedweb browser.
Finally, the National Renewable Energy Laboratoy (NREL) has launchedthe Open PV Project, which over time maybecome the single most comprehensive resource for tracking solarinstallations and their energy outputs — in California and beyond. Theproject enables individuals to upload their own PV business or household data (Cost, Production, Consumption), thus creating a database of allPV installations. By gathering data, NREL is able to keep a runningtotal of solar installations, installed capacity and average cost perwatt.