The world of supervisory controls and data acquisition systems (SCADA) is evolving at a rapid pace to meet the changing needs of the PV industry around the world.

The latest edition of GTM Research’s annual report on the topic, Global PV Monitoring 2017-2022, identifies the trends that shape and sometimes shake this small yet increasingly critical component of modern PV plants.

1. PV monitoring is commoditized

Basic monitoring functions are now commoditized and subject to price pressure in most markets. Clients assume that any monitoring solution will reliably collect information and present it in a useful and intuitive interface. Offering such functions is no guarantee for success, and doing them well does not command a price premium. On the other hand, any shortcoming with these core functions can quickly result in loss of market share and lasting brand damage.

2. Monitoring platforms must improve plant returns

Increasing production and reducing operating costs remain the key battlegrounds for differentiation in the utility and industrial segments. All monitoring vendors support alerting and performance deviation analysis, which thus is not differentiated. More vendors seek to stand out by leveraging new technologies like machine learning to provide better fault detection and diagnosis, as well as to enable fault prediction.

3. Control functions remain differentiated

Control functions drive higher prices and margins, especially in the utility segment where advanced grid integration functions often require complex SCADA systems. Even in distributed generation segments, in markets favoring self-consumption (like Germany and Australia) or imposing grid export limits (like Hawaii), these features are core to the functionality of the PV system itself. For example, in self-consumption markets, the focus is to increase local usage of solar-generated energy and to reduce grid imports. To this effect, some monitoring systems offer automatic optimization of energy expenditures via control of home or business appliances, and via integration with energy storage systems.

4. Fleet operators want process integration

Tight business process integration between monitoring systems, computerized maintenance management systems, and asset management software is a key requirement from fleet owners and operators around the globe, whether via a single platform or multiple point solutions integrated together.

5. The utility PV monitoring market is becoming global

While most residential and commercial monitoring markets still favor local vendors, globalization is accelerating in the utility segment, where large portfolio investors own plants in multiple countries and often standardize on a single data platform.

6. Major inverter vendors are strong competitors

Monitoring hardware is now commonly built inside residential and commercial inverters. Software packages from major inverter providers like SMA, SolarEdge and Enphase are increasingly feature-rich, especially for self-consumption and energy storage integration, and commonly offered at a low (or for no) price. As a result, independent software vendors must find areas of differentiation, especially in self-consumption markets where the homeowner is now the main user of monitoring (vs. the installer) and does not value inverter independence or fleet-level functions.

7. Monitoring adoption rates are increasing in every market

Self-consumption drove residential monitoring adoption rates from 10 percent to practically 100 percent in Australia. Japan’s new FIT rules mandating that PV systems have a maintenance plan should drive monitoring adoption rates up in the residential and commercial segments. Free or near-free solutions offered by inverter firms are also pushing higher adoption rates for residential and commercial PV.

For more global and country-by-country PV monitoring trends, as well as market size and forecasts to 2022 and competitive landscape analysis by segment (residential, commercial, industrial, utility) and key country, please refer to GTM Research's new report Global PV Monitoring 2017-2022: Markets, Trends and Leading Players.