If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots instead of feet. I have lived this adage to the hilt in the past month with wheels on my feet spinning through Europe, South America and finally disembarking at the Inter Solar Middle East Conference September 2016 in Dubai.
The conference shone light on the various components, system architectures and applications for solar electric (PV) systems. With focus on utility-connected PV systems -the largest and fastest growing segment of the PV industry. The topics of discussion included site analysis, system sizing, array configuration & performance estimation in addition to electrical design characteristics such as module and inverter specifications.
Two presentations from IRENA’s lead analysts on Renewable costs and policy design discussed recent solar power cost trends, future cost reduction potentials to 2025 and their implications for competiveness; as well as how to set the right regulatory and policy frameworks to unlock the lowest costs in auctions and tenders. But what really captivated us, the solar harnessing enthusiasts were the discussions on proper installations and assiduous Operations & Maintenance. What if O&M was viewed as a way to increase production levels throughout the lifespan of a project?
If you look at the beginning of a project, you have ever increasing opportunities to ensure that what goes into your site and project is of first-grade quality. “There is an opportunity to try and reduce the glide path down of watts or energy out of the site and reverse that to use maintenance as an opportunity to increase output.” Designing a project with maintenance in mind, and we’re not talking just solar-specific maintenance—you never know what kind of maintenance will be necessary on the site. It might not be raining now, but what happens during a flood? Or, that HVAC system might need to be accessed on the roof amidst all those solar panels.
The other primary cause of damage, in some cases more significant, is caused by handling after the modules are received at the job, through construction, assembly or long-term O&M. Trying not to manhandle those panels and instead treating solar modules as the fragile glass products they are in order to prevent mini, invisible cracks that can affect the whole system for years to come. When O&M providers get to spend less time fixing problems that started during construction, they’re able to find ways to increase system output and make solar even more attractive to the masses.
Availability of technology driven tools like Thermal Imager to detect string faults, early module damages, heating problems in inverters and Cable fault detectors to detect cable faults quickly can be very helpful to contain downtimes and generation losses. Time is Money and the phrase is practically true in a Solar plant, to milk the irradiance through the day, track the sun through the seasons and generate copious electrical energy.
Another interesting workshop that was a highlight for me , focused on the unique characteristics of the new solar markets and the challenges and risks associated with EPC activities in these markets, It also covers an effective approach to managing these risks and creating a successful execution formula. The workshop clarified the view points of the Developers, International EPC, and local Contractors, and presents solutions to enable win-win-win situations. More on this in my future blog.
DO NOT GO WHERE THE PATH MAY LEAD, GO INSTEAD WHERE THERE IS NO PATH AND LEAVE A TRAIL.
SANJITH S. SHETTY