Once your system is in operation, you will be eager, to say to the least, to see how much energy your system is generating. This capability is provided either by the micro-inverters or the string inverter and power optimizers, depending on your system configuration, combined with the monitoring system. Optionally, a stand-alone monitor could be installed as well.
In most cases, there is one micro-inverter per solar panel. Although each micro-inverter’s main function is to convert the Solar Panel’s DC form of electricity into the AC form of electricity, it also measures the amount of AC electricity it outputs. Each micro-inverter feeds these data, continuously to a central controller that delivers these data to a cloud based data storage and application system. Using the internet or a mobile application, you can then view or download the data in table or graph format. Since data is sent by each micro-inverter, you can see the energy production at the individual solar panel level.
Since a string inverter central, it can only report on the total electricity from all the panel connected to it – i.e. a string inverter cannot report on a per solar panel basis. If power optimizers are used with a string inverter, then the system can report on each solar panel since there is usually one power optimizer per panel and each can collect production data for its connected solar panel.
Although different manufacturers’ energy monitoring devices display data in different formats, all of them convey the same basic information: amount of energy (kWh) and power (kW), on a per panel or system wide basis, at a certain time or over a certain time period (as small as about every 15 minutes, hour, day, week, month, year, and lifetime).
The data are usually provided in graphical format or in a tabular format that you can usually download and then analyze further using a spreadsheet application, if you so desire. Using these data, you can see: amount of energy generated on a certain day; from what time to what time energy was generated; what time of the day generated the most energy; what affect does a cloudy day have on energy production; what affect does shading have on energy production and which panel(s) are affect and at what time; how much does each side of the roof generate (if you have panels on multiple roofs); and much more. Additionally, since historical data are available, you can notice any abnormalities in production and pinpoint it to an inverter, optimizer, or panel.