Moxa white paper---Using Embedded Computers to Manage Your Solar Power System

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Moxa white paper---Using Embedded Computers to Manage Your Solar Power System

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  • 1. Moxa White PaperReleased on September 4, 2008Copyright © 2008 Moxa Inc., all rights reserved.Moxa manufactures one of the world’s leading brands of device networking solutions. Products include industrialembedded computers, industrial Ethernet switches, serial device servers, multiport serial boards, embeddeddevice servers, and remote I/O solutions. Our products are key components of many networking applications,including industrial automation, manufacturing, POS, and medical treatment facilities.How to contact MoxaTel: 1-714-528-6777Fax: 1-714-528-6778Web: www.moxa.comEmail: info@moxa.comThis document was produced by the Moxa Technical WritingCenter (TWC). Please send your comments or suggestionsabout this or other Moxa documents to twc@moxa.com.Using Embedded Computers to ManageYour Solar Power SystemElla Liao, Project Supervisor for Product Salesella.liao@moxa.comSolar power is one of the hottest topics in the popular mediatoday, particularly in light of the soaring prices of fossil fuels.As one of the so-called “renewable energies,” which alsoinclude wind, hydropower, biomass, geo-thermal, andhydrogen, the solar power market size is expected to reachupwards of 74 billion USD by the year 2017 (source: CleanEdge, 2008).In some countries, the cost of implementing solar powersolutions has been alleviated somewhat by generousgovernment subsidies. Germany and Japan, for example, wereamong the first countries to provide individuals and companieswith incentives for adopting solar power. These policies led to amarked increase in demand for solar power equipment,providing a major boost to the solar power industry as a whole.In recent years, however, some countries have begun to reducetheir solar power subsidies. For example, Germany hasrecently passed a bill to decrease solar subsidies by 5-6.5% in2008, with an annual reduction rate of 8-10% from 2009 to2011. However, the decrease in subsidies is still lower thanprojected growth in overall market demand. Based on a studyby Deutsche Bank, the solar power industry is expected togrow at a rate of 23-27% over the next three years.
  • 2. Moxa White Paper Using Embedded Computers to ManageYour Solar Power SystemCopyright © 2008 Moxa Inc. Page 2 of 7Solar Energy and Embedded ComputersSolar energy technologies are designed to use the sun’s energyto heat homes, provide lighting, create hot water, generateelectricity, and even produce air conditioning for homes,businesses, and industrial applications. The basic aspects of asolar energy system include components (such as photovoltaicmodules, solar cells, and inverters), integration, andinstallation. Computers also play an essential role in solarpower systems, particularly when it comes to maximizingenergy efficiency.Embedded computers are ideal for use with intelligent solarmanagement systems. Important features include:1. Compact size: Compared with traditional industrial PCs,embedded computers are compact enough to fit in smallcabinets.2. Robust design: Embedded computers are fan-less,cable-less, and instead of using a hard disc, they useCompactFlash cards instead. This kind of rugged designhelps ensure that the entire system will operate reliably 24hours a day, 7 days a week.3. Low power consumption and pre-built OS: Embeddedcomputers are designed to be used with specificapplications. In general, an embedded computer executesonly 1 or 2 functions, and the pre-built operating systemhelps engineers develop specific applications based on thecomputing platform. With their compact size and all-in-onefeature, embedded computers consume less powercompared with traditional industrial PCs.4. Fit for harsh environments: The robust design of embeddedcomputers makes it possible to use them in hazardousenvironments, such as deserts and rain forests.A typical solar power system is easy to describe. When the sunshines on the solar panels, the solar cells produce a steadystream of electrons in the form of direct current (DC)electricity. When sent to the inverter, the electron stream is
  • 3. Moxa White Paper Using Embedded Computers to ManageYour Solar Power SystemCopyright © 2008 Moxa Inc. Page 3 of 7converted into alternating current (AC) electricity. Theelectricity created by the solar photovoltaic system is thencombined with the electricity supplied by the local utilitycompany, with the combination routed to the buildings and/orcommunities.In recent years, people have also begun adding intelligentmanagement systems to their solar power systems to monitorthe efficiency of the system. For larger systems, it is alsopossible to connect the management system to a centralcontrol center for easier real-time tracking and to integratedata from several solar power systems. Implementing aweb-based interface makes it easy for users to check howmuch energy the system is saving, and to provide ready accessto the billing service.Moxa’s Embedded ControllerUsers have had good results using Moxa’s embeddedcomputers as the core of their control system. The controlsystem uses a distributed embedded controller to read datafrom several sources, including the inverter, electric meter, andre-chargers. Data is retrieved through the serial ports, afterwhich it is redirected through the LAN or wireless connection towhichever hosts have been configured to receive it. Whatmakes Moxa’s embedded solutions ideal for use with solarpower control systems is the variety of communicationconnection types that are supported:1. Serial Communication Interface: RS-232/422/485Lower level devices often need to communicate with thefront-end controller using serial transmission. Moxa’sproprietary 3-in-1 UART supports RS-232/422/485interfaces and non-standard baudrates.2. Universal Serial Bus (USB)Provides an additional expansion option for adding storagedevices and/or special purpose USB interface devices. Keepin mind that users may need to install a USB driver for theirdevice.
  • 4. Moxa White Paper Using Embedded Computers to ManageYour Solar Power SystemCopyright © 2008 Moxa Inc. Page 4 of 73. Network: Ethernet, Control Area NetworkOften used with industrial applications to receive or senddata.4. Discrete I/O: General purpose input/output (GPIO)Programmable I/Os for controlling I/O devices. Users canconfigure the I/O mode for their particular application.5. Analog-to-Digital/Digital-to-Analog (ADC/DAC)Used for controlling AI/AO and DI/DO devices.6. Wireless Interface: WiFi, GSM, GPRS, CDMAUsed for receiving or sending data through the wirelessinfrastructure. Often used for environmental monitoringapplications in remote areas that do not have cabling.
  • 5. Moxa White Paper Using Embedded Computers to ManageYour Solar Power SystemCopyright © 2008 Moxa Inc. Page 5 of 7Examples of Solar Power ApplicationsApplication 1: Solar CommunitySolar energy communities rely primarily on solar power fortheir energy needs, and consequently it is important that suchcommunities set up stable and reliable remote monitoringsystems. Moxa’s W325 and UC-7112 embedded computers, forexample, are ideal solutions for setting up the entire system.The W325 and UC-7112 can be used as front-endcommunication computers that connect to the PV inverter, AIand counter input module, and power meter. They can also beused for remote monitoring, data acquisition, data logging, andprotocol conversion.
  • 6. Moxa White Paper Using Embedded Computers to ManageYour Solar Power SystemCopyright © 2008 Moxa Inc. Page 6 of 7Application 2: Solar Transportation SystemSolar power can be used to operate traffic signals, roadsidedisplays, and various peripheral transportation devices. Forthese types of applications, embedded computers can be usedto control, manage, and remotely monitor not only the trafficdevices, but also the equipment that makes up the solar powersystem. Moxa’s UC-7408 embedded computer, which features8 serial ports and a PCMCIA card for wireless transmission, is agood choice for a variety of transportation systems.
  • 7. Moxa White Paper Using Embedded Computers to ManageYour Solar Power SystemCopyright © 2008 Moxa Inc. Page 7 of 7Application 3: Solar Tracking SystemSolar power plants and other sophisticated solar powersolutions use solar tracking systems to maximize the amountof solar energy that can be absorbed from the Sun’s rays. Inthis case, the embedded computer serves as the centralcontroller for mapping and tracking the Sun. Moxa’s x86-basedV468 and RISC-based IA261-I embedded computers are agood choice for controlling a solar tracking system, and forsending data back and forth between the tracker and centralcontrol center.NOTE: Moxa provides a rich selection of embedded computersfor solar energy applications. For details, check our website atwww.moxa.com, or contact the author, Ella Liao, atsys.support@moxa.com.DisclaimerThis document is provided for information purposes only, and the contents hereof are subject to change withoutnotice. This document is not warranted to be error-free, nor subject to any other warranties or conditions,whether expressed orally or implied by law, including implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, orfitness for a particular purpose. We specifically disclaim any liability with respect to this document and nocontractual obligations are formed either directly or indirectly by this document. This document may not bereproduced or transmitted in any form for any purpose, without our prior written permission.