In June 2014, Elon Musk’s company, SolarCity announced it is buying panel maker, Silevo. The $350 million acquisition will result in the development of a Buffalo, NY factory and the creation of more than 2,900 jobs. According to a post on the company’s blog, the plant will be “one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world.” It will be followed by even bigger facilities in the coming years.

SolarCity has taken over an abandoned steel plant in South Buffalo. The facility is currently under construction in the RiverBend complex on South Park Avenue — and there’s already talk that Japanese manufacturer, Solar Frontier may build a second solar plant in the city. In fact, state officials are hopeful the region is moving toward becoming a center for solar energy manufacturing.

The state has pledged to invest $750 million from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative to build and equip SolarCity’s factory. If Solar Frontier decides to build a plant in the city, it would also provide millions of dollars to support the project.

Thermal Imaging in Solar Projects

It’s certainly no secret that solar panels are the ultimate energy saver. However, panels can become defective which can result in a severe drop in energy production and may even start a fire if left unmonitored. These deficiencies can be easily corrected if spotted in a timely manner, which is why an increasing number of installers are using thermal imaging cameras to carry out regular inspections.

FLIR cameras can be used to identify hot spots in the panels from a distance, making it much easier to combat flaws that can lead to breakdowns. These cameras can be used to inspect the solar panels under load, meaning a shutdown is not required. The devices show accurate temperature differences between cells or within a single cell to find problems early on.

This method can actually be used to inspect the entire system — connections, poor insulation, fuses inverters, air leakage, heating and plumbing issues, water damage caused by leaks, condensation, mold issues, and all other electrical components in the system — so if any parts start to wear down or develop a high resistance, the consequent temperature increase can be spotted very easily, allowing operators to fix the system before it shuts down.

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