One prominent distinction between solar power plants and many other conventional power plants, especially thermal or nuclear power plants, is the amount of time it takes to instal the power plant. While conventional power plants could take a few years from concept/design to commissioning, solar power plants, even those that are reasonably large (10+ MW) can be completed within a few months.
Once the PPA has been signed and the financial closure is through, the EPC selected is then responsible for the completion of the project in time. Usually MW projects of the scale of 1-5 MW takes around for 4-5 months for completion.
The expected project implementation schedule for a small (1-5 MW) utility scale project is given below.
The implementation of a solar power plant can be broadly divided into four stages:
Planning & Development
Comprises surveys, preliminary design, developing the approach to the site, and getting the necessary approvals.
This Phase also comprises survey of land and soil. Soil testing is one of the more important aspects that are not considered by many developers. The type of soil could significant impact cost as the types of foundations for the mounting structures could differ significantly depending on whether the soil is a loose soil or whether it is much better.
Approvals is another aspect that should be considered as an important activity during the initial stages. While most governmental approvals for solar power plant should be easy to obtain with the significant thrust that the state and central governments are placing on solar, approvals also include getting the necessary nods for the right of way from those who own the land along the way from your power plant until the sub-station. Right of way transactions have been a headache for many renewable energy power plant developers (not just solar), so please do be wary of this. We have known of cases where the owing to issues with the right of way approvals projects have gotten delayed for many months!
Comprises specific sections such as shadow analysis and arriving at optimal placing for the solar panels, design and layout of the entire power plant, for both the AC and DC sides of the solar power plant, and design for the evacuation of power until the sub-station.
This is a critical stage as well. A good EPC will ensure that he spends significant time and efforts during this stage. With sophisticated software solutions available for design today, a good EPC will utilise these technologies to arrive at optimal designs.
Procurement of Components
Procurement of both the core components such as the solar panels and inverters, as well as the balance of systems
Main civil works, installation of the main solar power generating system, installation of the evacuation system, and complete testing of the system.
Approximate timelines for each of the stages and sub-stages is provided below.