Accreditation: Validation of Data Accuracy and Consistency with Aerial PV Inspections

Join us as we continue our series on maximizing profits from PV installations with a deep dive into aerial inspections, featuring Michał Frys, Co-Founder and CRO of Solar Spy.

Whether you’re a PV asset owner, manager, or O&M specialist, understanding the standards for aerial inspection reporting is key to optimizing your assets. This interview will provide you with the latest information and insights to ensure the accuracy and consistency of your inspection reports. Whether you contract out your inspections or handle them in-house, you’ll learn how to elevate your inspection game and make the most of your PV installations.


Previously we were talking about the value of integrated performance monitoring platforms with advanced analytics and maintenance management solutions. Let’s jump right in then - can you tell us, please, what is your approach to ensuring accurate and consistent data from aerial inspections and how does it address the challenge of limited measurement in PV sites?

The challenge with PV sites is that they are not as extensively measured as wind farms with diagnostic sensors at every point of the installation. This makes it difficult to get a deep understanding of the modules’ condition and performance, and as a result, aerial inspection is the only way to make an in-depth analysis. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that the inspection is the most accurate it can be. Many companies capture the modules’ thermal pictures using drones, but the analysis is often done manually, which comes with a big potential for human errors and missing values. Given the market transformation towards larger-scale solar sites, relying solely on manual aerial inspections is not only impractical but also cost-inefficient. This can result in bigger costs, difficulties in warranty claims, insurance site condition confirmation, and even operational staff having difficulty scheduling service operations. Automated third-party analysis provides reliable results that are compliance-ready across all interested parties, including investors, asset managers, and O&Ms, ensuring the utmost transparency and accountability. Thanks to the automatic nature of our diagnostic process, the measurements are not only efficient but also reliable and repeatable, adhering to established industry standards. At Solar Spy, we understand the importance of accurate data for the performance of PV installations, and we are constantly finding new methods and learning about new standards that will take us even further.

In what ways can meeting the accreditation standards for aerial inspections, such as IEC TS 62446-3 and Solar Power Europe best practices, benefit photovoltaic installations and their maintenance and operations?

IEC TS 62446-3 and Solar Power Europe best practices are more than just accreditation standards. By following them, you can ensure that your aerial inspections are reliable and accurate, saving you time and money in the long run. The benefits of meeting these standards include the ability to eliminate the need for double-checking reports with on-ground teams, accelerating the speed of inspecting large-scale sites, reliable prioritization of maintenance works, building a reliable site maintenance track record, creating reliable claims documentation, and ensuring full proof that detected anomalies can be pushed to site logs where the ticketing system can assign the work to the technical team, fully prepared to fix the issue including having spare parts. So, it’s not just about meeting the standards; it’s about the value that they bring to your PV installations and all stakeholders.

How does your team ensure proper analysis of drone inspection data, and what benefits does this provide to PV site owners and managers?

Using accredited drone operators is just the beginning of the process of proper site inspections. At Solar Spy, we not only train our customers’ pilots, but we also recommend cost-effective drones to fly. However, the real value lies in the analysis of the data collected through the inspections. Our AI and ML algorithms minimize human error and ensure accuracy and reliability in the analysis of the 1500 RGB and 1500 thermal pictures per 1 MWp. Our defect recognition process is staged to include sharper recognition, temperature delta measurement, and locating the defect at the cell level. This is critical for cost savings and efficient maintenance, especially when technicians are on-site in extreme weather conditions, e.g. all year long heat in the Middle East, cold or rainy over half the year in Europe or North America. Thanks to our AI-driven and standardized approach, our ability to measure the estimated loss is reliable and repeatable, making it a unique feature in the market that provides several benefits, including cost savings and better-informed decision-making. It’s worth considering the measurement methodology of your current provider and asking how they perform their measurements to ensure reliability and accuracy.

Can you please elaborate more on using such reports for legal matters like warranty and insurance claims that you mentioned?

When it comes to making a warranty or insurance claim, the quality of the aerial inspection reports is crucial. It’s not just about capturing pictures with drones, but about the analysis of the data that is gathered. Many companies rely on in-house drone pilots to conduct their inspections, but often they manually analyze a small percentage of the pictures with no special software or staff training. This is where the real game changer lies – in the ability to accurately analyze the data that is captured. By having high-quality inspection reports that provide a detailed record of the condition of your PV systems, including any issues or problems, you have the proof you need to make successful warranty claims and ensure a quick resolution. So, it’s not just about the accreditation of the company conducting the inspection, but the quality and standardization of the analysis and reporting that makes all the difference.


Furthermore, you also get a clear and credible record of the condition of your systems over time as you continue conducting these inspections, which can be invaluable in the event of any legal disputes. This is especially important in the case of insurance claims, where the credibility of the inspection report can play a key role in determining the outcome of the claim.


We’ve actually been working closely with a major insurance provider who has highlighted a common issue in the PV industry. Newcomers to the industry often rely on inspection reports from the EPC as sufficient proof for insurance coverage, but this is not adequate for insurance providers. Accredited and independent inspection reports are crucial for insurance companies to assess the risk of insuring a site. The importance of working with accredited drone operators cannot be overemphasized for PV site owners, asset managers, and O&Ms, as they provide a trusted evaluation that insurance providers require.

I can imagine that this kind of trusted report also plays a vital role then when buying or selling a site?

Most definitely, yes when buying or selling a PV site, having a trusted and accredited inspection report can provide valuable insights into the performance and condition of the installation. This information can play a crucial role in negotiations, helping both parties make informed decisions. The report can provide peace of mind for the buyer, knowing that the site has been thoroughly evaluated and any potential issues have been identified. For the seller, a trustworthy inspection report can demonstrate the reliability and quality of their installation, making the property more attractive to potential buyers. When of course the site comes with a long history of such consistent reports you can also expect that the seller can count on getting a better price – you can almost think about this as selling a car with a service history and log book that substantiates the condition. In short, an accredited inspection report can add significant value to any PV site transaction.

We've covered a lot of ground again today, anything you’d like to add or emphasize as we conclude?

Working with accredited operators is only the first step towards ensuring the highest quality aerial inspections for PV sites. The next critical component is a thorough analysis of the thermal and RGB images collected during the inspection, using advanced AI technology, such as that used by Solar Spy. By partnering with a company that not only adheres to the latest industry standards but also uses cutting-edge technology to analyze and interpret the data, site owners and managers can gain deep insights into the condition and performance of their installations. This information is invaluable in making informed decisions about maintenance and optimization strategies, ultimately leading to better performance and ROI for the PV assets.


I would strongly recommend readers who want to learn more about getting accreditation in Europe to visit the Solar Best Practices page, dedicated to the matter which goes into great depth and provides incredible resources. This is the accreditation given by Solar Power Europe, which we are proud to present to clients.


Additionally, leveraging the aforementioned best practices, as well as our own extensive industry knowledge, we have created a useful checklist that we are offering to all industry professionals for free. This checklist can assist in the process of selecting the optimal partner to achieve superior results.

That's a great message to end on. Thank you again for your time and expertise today. Your insights will be invaluable for anyone looking to stay ahead of the curve in the rapidly evolving world of aerial inspections for solar PV.