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Performance monitoring of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems is very essential for initial system evaluation, and continuous output optimization. Currently, PV system monitoring is complicated and expensive and limited to large scale grid connected solar PV plants. This paper surveys PV system monitoring methods and proposes a simple and economic method that can be used by stand alone PV power systems. The method uses reference cells to collect real time data and an electronic subsystem for processing. Experimental results show that reference cells power output correlate well with monitored module output and can be used for monitoring and optimization.