Drone Inspections Reveal Health of U.S. Solar Plants: Zeitview’s Insights

In a revelation for the U.S. solar industry, Zeitview, a front-runner in advanced energy inspections and previously known as DroneBase, disclosed that 51% of large-scale U.S. solar plants are in top-notch condition. This data comes after Zeitview's comprehensive manned aviation surveys and drone inspections, known as the North American Solar Scan, reviewed over 90% of U.S. solar power plants of 1 MW or bigger.

These findings offer a fresh perspective on the renewable energy sector, especially at a time when solar energy is booming as America's fastest-growing renewable source.

Highlights from Zeitview's Manned and Unmanned Inspections

The nationwide scan by Zeitview, shared after their recent acquisition of Heliolytics, indicates several insightful trends:

  • 51% of the U.S. fleet is in excellent or good operational condition, meaning an asset rating of BBB or higher.
  • 47% of Large-Scale U.S. Solar Plants require varying degrees of service to obtain a ‘good' or ‘excellent' rating
  • Less than 2% are in a genuinely poor state.
  • Factors like age, size, positioning, and location influence a site's operational longevity.
  • Among older plants, about a decade old, 25% still showcase excellent or good operational status.
  • Plants with tracker-mounted systems have shown better durability over time compared to their fixed-tilt counterparts, 54% to 44% respectively.

“More often than not, the U.S. solar industry has operated in a peculiar blind spot, devoid of the transparency that has long been a hallmark of fossil fuel energy sources. While the latter has enjoyed insights into their condition and performance, the solar industry has been navigating without such crucial information,” said Mark Culpepper, general manager of global solar solutions at Zeitview. “The insights offered by the North American Solar Scan provide the oversight crucial to maintaining high-performing assets to enable a successful clean energy transition.”

Culpepper emphasized the significance of this data, remarking, “This data can tell owners and O&M firms specifically where to troubleshoot while saving them money on inspection costs.”

Drone Inspections Reveal Health of U.S. Solar Plants: Zeitview's Insights
DJI of a solar plant. Photo courtesy of DJI.

Manned Aviation and Drone Inspections and AI for Precise Data

Incorporating AI-powered software for detecting common photovoltaic (PV) equipment defects, Zeitview ensures accuracy in every manned aviation survey and drone inspection. The data collected offers a panoramic thermal and standard photographic view of solar assets.

Such exhaustive insights have attracted companies like Nexamp, a prominent solar energy firm, to utilize Zeitview's analysis platform, enhancing their business operations.

Highlighting the benefits of partnering with Zeitview, Skip Provost, Vice President of Operations and Maintenance at Nexamp, said, “These new features allow us to optimize our plants further while comparing performance to broader industry benchmarks. With access to Zeitview's comprehensive reporting, we can quickly make more informed decisions.”

Looking Forward

Zeitview's manned aviation surveys and drone inspections successfully captured data on a whopping 95 GW of the U.S. solar power plant fleet during the 2023 North American Solar Scan. Beyond this, Zeitview is gearing up to obtain over 200 GW of aerial imagery across the global renewable sector this year.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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