Solar farms can cover anything between 1 acre and 100 acres, and are usually developed in rural areas. We can inspect Solar PV panels for anything such as surface debris and damage, bird droppings and obstructions to the panel.
In the past surveys were generally done either on foot or through aerial vehicle. Both can be time-consuming, or even dangerous in certain conditions. But today’s modern surveyors can be done by use of aerial drones which can vastly minimise danger to people.
UAVs are able to survey a site from the air, with drones that fly close to the ground. With a UAV, a surveyor is able to produce extremely detailed surveys quickly, without any risk to a crew. This is the ideal type of survey for solar farm construction.
Note: We work alongside Surveyors and engineers, but we ourselves are not qualified surveyors.
We use a Mavic Pro 2 with a mounted Hasselblad camera. This has a superior Sony sensor; better than than that of DJI’s standard drone gimbal cameras, and this one in particular has a 1-inch sensor with 14 stops of dynamic range with RAW capability. We carry our CAA certification for PfCO (Permission for commercial operations) with us, along with safety equipment which is a legal requirement, such as a small fire extinguisher, a drone-landing pad, safety cones, fire blanked and a high vis jacket as standard.
Aerial surveys require careful strategic planning, studying the specific objective, the intention, the method in which we
plan and prepare the drone flight, administration of safety checks and flight plans and the communication with a flight observer on the ground.
- An observation is first undertaken of the area, to check for any hazards in the air and on the ground in a radius around the perimeter. If the area is within radius of a protected airspace such as an airport, we’ll contact the nearby ATC and attempt to gain clearance (this part can take up to 10 days).
• A flight plan is prepared, taking into the area to be surveyed, with a NOTAM to be established for the given time and day of flight. We’ll also check wind speed and direction, take-off and landing areas (entry and exit points) and even check ordnance survey maps and Google maps to ensure there are no hidden problems.
• This requires experience and skill to ensure the data is captured to the correct specification and safely.
• We’ll turn up on site on the planned day and plan a short on-site observation. This will be to check the pre-flight assessment was accurate and to tune situational awareness onto the project.
• I’ll provide a short briefing of the flight objectives and brief you on any hazards and procedures that may occur.
• We’ll get the necessary images and/or footage of the objective and land safely.
• The images will be downloaded from the UAV and processed. These can be sent to you or your surveyor within the same day.
Growing Change in the Trend of Energy Generation
There is something interesting going on with energy production, and it signals a growing change in the trend of energy generation.
According to the institute for energy economics the boost for renewable energy is due to a seasonal increase in low-cost solar and hydropower generation. This is alongside a slump in electricity demand of 3%; the slump has been caused by pandemic related reduce demand from commercial and industrial sectors.
As you’ll soon see, hydro generation is falling as well, so it’s wind and solar that are rapidly increasing. Amid the pandemic, U.S. renewable power sources have topped coal for 40 days in a row, with solar and wind meeting the demand. 40 straight days of renewable energy beating coal is very, very significant.
According to current financial analysis the percentage of coal in the EU power generation market is expected to collapse into single digits by 2025.
In 2014, coal supplied 38.6 percent of the nation’s energy supply, and by 2019 that figure dropped to 23.4. Coal demand is set to drop a whopping 20% this year while renewable energy generation will grow 11%. This 11% growth is due to grid operators favouring their lower operating costs. Natural gas prices are also dropping, compounding to move away from coal.
This story about renewables overtaking coal is as much about the collapse of coal as the rise of renewables. There have been many coal company bankruptcies as well as a production over capacity – this has all led to capital investment drying up.
Interestingly, according to IBS world statistics, the energy production of hydroelectricity is also falling due to more droughts. Hydro energy has fallen by 0.7% over the last 5 years, so solar and wind are making more of a difference in the renewable sector.
Energy Storage and Technology
We can now use utility-scale batteries to store the excess amount of energy, though when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, these batteries can feed back the energy onto the grid; it’s very clear now that the potential for electric energy storage is huge, from electric cars and aircraft, to utility storage. Over the last decade, a surge of lithium-ion battery production has led to an 85% decline in prices. This makes electric vehicles and energy storage commercially viable for the first time in history.