First Solar opens global monitoring and control center

First Solar Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) launched its global Operations Center located in Mesa, Ariz., a centralized monitoring and control center where power plants in the company’s operations and maintenance (O&M) program can be monitored, operated and connected to utility and customer networks.

The Operations Center collects and processes a wide range of real-time power plant data, including electrical performance, equipment status and weather data, which are monitored and analyzed against key performance and operational parameters. Automated data analysis detects issues in the plants and automatically dispatches maintenance crews to resolve them, and proprietary algorithms developed using years of O&M data enable the system to predict potential issues and schedule preventive maintenance before a problem occurs.

A key feature of First Solar's power plant design is its advanced plant controls, which are critical for managing grid reliability and stability and can be controlled remotely from the center. Features include ramp-rate control, which limits how fast a power plant's output increases or decreases in order to minimize grid disruption; ride-through capability, which enables a power plant to operate through faults and other grid disturbances; active power control, which can be used to modulate power output; and frequency droop control, which enables a power plant to provide critical grid support when grid frequency is changing.

The Operations Center is fully compliant with North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) standards and is designed to be scalable to accommodate the growing global fleet of PV power plants in First Solar's O&M program. First Solar currently operates 14 plants with 460 MW of peak generating capacity, which will increase to 23 plants with 850 MW of capacity by year-end and 27 plants with 2,200 MW of capacity in 2013.

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