Fault detection in pv tracking systems using an image processing algorithm based on pca

Tito G. Amaral, Vitor Fernão Pires, Armando J. Pires

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Photovoltaic power plants nowadays play an important role in the context of energy generation based on renewable sources. With the purpose of obtaining maximum efficiency, the PV modules of these power plants are installed in trackers. However, the mobile structure of the trackers is subject to faults, which can compromise the desired perpendicular position between the PV modules and the brightest point in the sky. So, the diagnosis of a fault in the trackers is fundamental to ensure the maximum energy production. Approaches based on sensors and statistical methods have been researched but they are expensive and time consuming. To overcome these problems, a new method is proposed for the fault diagnosis in the trackers of the PV systems based on a machine learning approach. In this type of approach the developed method can be classified into two major categories: supervised and unsupervised. In accordance with this, to implement the desired fault diagnosis, an unsupervised method based on a new image processing algorithm to determine the PV slopes is proposed. The fault detection is obtained comparing the slopes of several modules. This algorithm is based on a new image processing approach in which principal component analysis (PCA) is used. Instead of using the PCA to reduce the data dimension, as is usual, it is proposed to use it to determine the slope of an object. The use of the proposed approach presents several benefits, namely, avoiding the use of a wide range of data and specific sensors, fast detection and reliability even with incomplete images due to reflections and other problems. Based on this algorithm, a deviation index is also proposed that will be used to discriminate the panel(s) under fault. Several test cases are used to test and validate the proposed approach. From the obtained results, it is possible to verify that the PCA can successfully be adapted and used in image processing algorithms to determine the slope of the PV modules and so effectively detect a fault in the tracker, even when there are incomplete parts of an object in the image.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7278
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Fault detection
  • Image processing
  • Photovoltaic systems (pv)
  • Principal component analysis (PCA)
  • Tracking system
  • Two-axis


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