Solar park in Moura, Portugal

Portuguese photovoltaic systems rely on monitoring solutions Reliable and economical operation of the solar parks

According to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), over half of Portugal's electricity comes from renewable energies. A look at the installed capacities shows that primarily hydropower and wind power play a vital role, while photovoltaics (PV) are hardly used. This is currently changing significantly. By the end of 2021, ground-mounted systems with a total capacity of 1.7 GWp had been constructed in Portugal. Forecasts through 2030 project the construction of an additional 9 GWp and more. The monitoring solutions from Phoenix Contact are already installed in six Portuguese PV parks.

Solar park in Moura, Portugal

The solar park in Moura, Portugal, relies on monitoring solutions from Phoenix Contact

Customer profile

Wirtgen Invest Holding GmbH, based in Neustadt (Wied), Germany, is investing in the extension of renewable energy in Portugal. In 2020 and 2021, Wirtgen Invest installed six PV plants with their partners.

These partners include WiNRG GmbH from Hamburg, which has been active in renewable energies since 2005. Its employees manage large projects and transactions involving wind and photovoltaics systems worldwide for their customers. The project team also includes project manager EPC Conecon GmbH, Zebotec GmbH as the system integrator for controlling and monitoring photovoltaic systems, and analytics software provider QOS Energy, together with Phoenix Contact.

Solar panels in the solar park in Moura, Portugal

The solar park in Moura includes more than 130,000 PV panels, generating a nominal power of 49.4 MWp

Application

In Moura, the fifth park was successfully connected to the grid in mid-2021. It is located in the southeast of Portugal near the Spanish border and encompasses over 130,000 PV panels, generating a nominal power of 49.4 MWp. The photovoltaic system feeds directly into the power grid at the high-voltage level via a newly constructed substation on the grounds. The power is then marketed under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

Along with the neighboring photovoltaic systems, Amareleja and Ferreira do Alentejo, the Cartaxo and Santarem parks north of Lisbon, and the Lagos plant in the Algarve, Moura produces over 325 million MWh of green power each year. This power supplies over 80,000 four-person households and saves 140,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.

Two employees in a large solar park

Solution

View inside a string combiner box

A total of 525 string combiner boxes collect data, protect the application, and release it as needed

Complete and seamless monitoring solutions

Since the individual PV parks have a similar structure, the concept can be explained using the example of the plant in Moura. A total of 525 space-saving string combiner boxes (SCBs) collect the currents from the 7350 PV strings and conduct them to the same number of SHP75 inverters from SMA. In the SCB, the DC cables are protected and secured against surge voltages. This is important because ground-mounted systems are particularly at risk from lightning currents and surge voltages, due to their size and exposed location. Lightning current and surge arresters from Phoenix Contact significantly improve the availability of the solar park. The devices fulfill the EN 50539-11 and UL 1449 3rd edition standards for surge protection in photovoltaic installations and are KEMA-certified. The SCBs can be disconnected if maintenance is required so that service work can be carried out safely.

Transformer station in the Moura solar park, Portugal

The DC voltages are converted from 0.4 kV to 30 kV in 20 transformer stations

Reliable system operation and easy grid connection

The AC voltages converted by the inverters are transferred to 20 transformer stations installed in the field, where they are transformed from 0.4 kV to 30 kV. Before the solar power can be fed into the local power grid, transformers convert the collected AC voltages from 30 kV to 60 kV at the grid connection point. Measuring devices here record the grid parameters and communicate them to the central feed-in controller. Decentral power generation plants need to play their part in ensuring higher grid stability. For this purpose, the responsible grid operators specify the ranges to be maintained for the grid frequency and voltage as well as the reactive power in their grid connection conditions for photovoltaic systems. Regulators for power generation systems (power control units) record the voltage and reactive power present at the grid connection points to check these values. The devices from Phoenix Contact then determine the respective control values on this basis and forward them to the inverters, which can be regulated if needed.

Control cabinets installed in a transformer station

A total of 20 data loggers are installed in the field

Fast commissioning of data loggers and environmental sensors

In addition to generating power, large solar parks like Moura produce large quantities of data that must be collected, processed, and analyzed to then assess how economically the photovoltaic system is running. Because of this, there is a data logger on each of the 20 transformer stations. The devices work using an automatic detection mode, which is why all of the systems installed in the PV park can be easily connected via Plug and Play. Since this eliminates the need for configuration, startup time is reduced considerably. The inverter manager integrated into the data logger receives the data from the inverter via Ethernet and transmits it to the AXC 1050 small-scale controller from the Axiocontrol product family, which is also installed there. In addition, the AXC 1050 collects data from the connected weather sensors.

Phoenix Contact employee installing weather sensor technology

Low commissioning and configuration effort

Transmission of the weather data

A total of six weather stations are mounted in the Moura solar park, with 14 module temperature sensors, eight pyranometers, twelve reference cells, two wind direction sensors, two wind speed sensors, and two combination sensors for temperature, humidity, and air pressure. The environmental sensors from Phoenix Contact are directly connected to the control system via a Modbus protocol. Because the devices are preconfigured, they are immediately available to transmit weather data. Instead of individually wiring each sensor, the sensors are simply connected in series with the M12 connections with Y distributors. This greatly reduces the amount of wiring required on site and makes it easier to integrate the sensors into the overall system. As opposed to compact weather stations, the sensors available from Phoenix Contact are individual modules. So if a device fails, only this sensor needs to be replaced.

Pyranometer and reference cells on solar modules

Sensor technology for continuously recording key data

Simple forwarding of all data to the central park control

Using weather sensors allows an operator to draw conclusions regarding the power of the solar system – the so-called performance ratio (PR). This value is calculated using the ratio between the actual and target yield, whereas the actual yield is determined from the installed energy measuring devices. The pyranometer and reference cells, installed at the module level both horizontally and tilted by 25 degrees, provide information on the target yield. If the calculated performance ratio is too low, the operator can adjust the regulation accordingly. The data loggers also receive digital signals, which contain information on the transformer temperature and the status of the switching device.

Two Phoenix Contact employees looking at a tablet together in the solar park in Portugal

The Asset Performance Management Platform analyzes the data from the solar park and visualizes for the specific customer

Analysis and customer-specific visualization

All data from the inverters, weather sensors, transformers, and the switching device is transmitted via a redundant ring structure via fiber-optic cables to a central park control located in the control room. With the open and flexible control platform from Phoenix Contact, forwarding to the Asset Performance Management Portal of QOS Energy is simple. The specific analyses, warnings, and reports resulting from the data then rationalize the work processes of the OEM service provider.

Solar park from above
Interactive image map: Topology of the integrated solar park management system
Feed-in management
Reliable system operation and straightforward grid connection through compliance with all technical connection requirements.
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Feed-in management
Data loggers
The data loggers work using an automatic detection mode, which is why all of the systems installed in the PV park can be easily connected via Plug and Play. The commissioning time is reduced significantly.
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Data loggers
Acquisition of meteorological data
The weather sensors are directly coupled to the control system via Modbus protocol. Because the devices are preconfigured, they are immediately available to transmit weather data.
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Acquisition of meteorological data
String combiner boxes
Our string combiner boxes collect the currents from the PV strings and conduct them to the inverters.
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String combiner boxes
Aerial photograph of the solar park in Moura, Portugal

Summary

Smart automation technology from Phoenix Contact continuously records all data from the six solar parks, which is then analyzed by the Asset Performance Management solution from QOS Energy. From data recording on the field level to feed-in control and visualization, Phoenix Contact provides WiNRG GmbH with a complete and seamless monitoring solution for solar park management. This enables the reliable and economical operation of the solar parks.