Above and beyond: AI-powered solar inspections

Drone inspects solar farm (Above)
Image: Above Surveying

Above Surveying’s AI-powered solar plant inspections will help SA Water reduce its operating costs and allows its growing solar portfolio to thrive.

SA Water, one of the largest water utilities in Australia, has partnered with Above to inspect its solar PV plants. The utility deploys drones equipped with sensors and cameras to fly over solar plants and inspect the modules for potential problems. With advances in drone technology and software, SA Water has made inspections at solar plants considerably safer, faster, and cheaper.

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Above’s thermographic drone inspections detect different types of module issues such as faulty junction boxes, wiring issues, string issues, and PID (Potentially Induced Degradation), providing a valuable source of insight for SA Water. Drone-mounted infrared and High-Definition cameras collect video data of the solar plants’ modules. Above’s cloud-based platform, SolarGain digests the data and distills it into meaningful information using computer-vision algorithms and data analytics. The software platform enables maintenance teams to locate modules, investigate issues and carry out repairs.

SA Water is the first water utility company to benefit from advanced solar inspections using drones. Investing in digital technologies will enable the utility company to increase solar generation, streamline on-site operational activities and maintain its portfolio of healthy solar plants.

SA Water senior manager zero cost energy future Nicola Murphy said drone technology has proved to be a useful tool in sustainable asset management.

“We’re proud to be at the forefront in leading a solar project not often seen on such a large scale in the water industry, and it is important that we continue to embrace innovation and new technology such to achieve our project outcomes to benefit our customers and business,” Murphy said.  

“Our energy-intensive pumping and treatment operations cost $86 million in 2019-20, making us among South Australia’s largest electricity consumers.

“By increasing our renewable energy generation of around 242GWh of energy using more than 360,000 solar panels at 33 different locations, we can achieve sustainable reductions to our operating costs while slashing carbon emissions.  

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Above CEO Will Hitchcock said: “Above has been operating in Australia for the past three years, bringing solar inspection and analytics solutions to this growing market. It’s a fantastic opportunity to share our expertise with SA Water and play our part in supporting their impressive solar ambitions.”. 

Using Above’s powerful software and drone technology will allow the utility to unlock more solar energy using the power of data to enable a proactive asset management strategy.