While the whole may be much more than the sum of parts, the quality of each part of any system matters too, doesn’t it!

Same is the case for solar power plant components.

While it would be impossible to guide you on evaluation parameters for every component in the system, do check out the necessary parameters for the major components of the solar plant.

What are the major components in the power plant?

Panels that produce electricity, mounting structures that support the panels at an optimum elevation and tilt, inverters that convert the DC electricity produced from the panels to usable AC form and cables that transmits the electricity generated are deemed to be the major components – in the sense they have a significant effect on the total output that can be expected from the plant and also are pricey.

Now, how do you evaluate the major components?

 Solar Mango, after months of industry interactions and research, has come up with a tool that can enable a common man to evaluate his power plant. Check it out at www.pvsavvy.com

A quick snapshot of the aspects that are covered in the tool, with regard to component evaluation, are given below:

Panels:

  • The panels need to adhere to IEC certifications as made mandatory by the respective governments in order to be eligible for any financial incentives or approvals associated with the solar plant.
  • The panels need to have efficiencies falling within at least that 15-16%
  • The panels should have an anti-PID feature will will make it less susceptible to early and high degradation rates
  • The panels should have junction boxes with a protection rating of IP 67 to ensure increased resistance to dust and water
  • If they come with features like an anti-reflective coating and high transmission at low irradiance, they will have a superior performance over the ones without it
  • The panels temperature dependence need to be minimum and therefore a panel flaunting a low temperature coefficient for power and also a low NOCT (Nominal Operating Cell Temperature) will do better in hot conditions
  • One of the critical aspects in a high quality panel is the positive power tolerance associated with it. With this feature you can be rest assured that the panel will not underperform when compared to its power rating at standard conditions
  • Over and above this, you might also need to look at the reputation of the panel manufacturer. Only a manufacturer who has been around for more than five years and has large shipments are considered to be stable in the industry. And this stability is vital to honor the warranties provided up to a quarter of a century

Inverters: 

  • The most critical aspect in an inverter is the efficiency level it has. Ensure the efficiencies in your inverter is rated above 97%, if you are looking for quality in generation
  • The repute of the installer and the local service support the company can provide is also of prime importance to a component like an inverter, which is almost always expected to break down over the years
  • Another critical aspect when it comes to an inverter is the protection rating it has against dust and water penetration. Look for a minimum rating of IP 65, especially in inverters mounted outdoors
  • Inverters are made to de-rate its output or shut down when subjected to high outside temperatures. So look for very high-temperature tolerance, high-quality inverters can tolerate up to 60°C
  • Inverters having extended warranties are better equipped and can expect a trouble-free trouble shooting and also a longer life than the others

Mounting Structure 

  • When it comes to mounting structures, the most important parameter is that it should be designed according to the site’s conditions
  • It should have a minimum wind speed tolerance of 150 kmph
  • It should have a ground clearance of around 3-4 inches to ensure that in case of water logging, the panels and wires are protected
  • The galvanization thickness in the structure should be a minimum of 90 microns to ensure that
  • The mounting structures should be at an optimum tilt. This tilt is decided by the latitude of the region of installation
  • Another very important aspect in mounting structures is that the fasteners, nuts, and bolts used should meet the necessary grades and standards

Cables 

  • When it comes to the DC side cables, ensure that they are copper based
  • Also since they are meant for long-term exposure to UV and high temperatures, the insulation used should be UV, weather and fire resistant
  • High-quality insulation material like XLPO is considered to be ideal for high-quality DC cables
  • Also, make sure that the cables used have a temperature tolerance up to 160°C

Now comes the big question, how do you know whether the above-mentioned parameters applies to your components?

When it comes to panels, cables, and inverters, all the above-mentioned aspects can be easily cross-verified with the corresponding data sheets. You should be able to access these datasheets through the current plant owner. But mounting structures are a bit tricky. You might want to demand a sitting with the design engineer who can document proof regarding the pre-requisites in the structures. Do remember that a due diligence of the components, even though it could be time-consuming, is an absolute must when it comes to evaluating power plants.

You might want to check out these questions on Solar Power Plant Evaluation- Components:

  •  Presence of local service support from component manufacturers?- Here
  • What have been the degradation rates in panels?- Here
  • How good are the inverters?- Here
  • What types of monitoring solutions are employed by the power plant?- Here
  • What kind of trackers is employed?How do you ensure its quality?- Here
  • Are the components suppliers in business?- Here
  • What are the warranty clauses attached to key components?-Here
  • Can you retrofit additional components to an existing power plant to increase generation? – Here