Solar Power Plant Evaluation – Is there scope for expansion of the existing power plant, in terms of scale?

One may think that an additional revenue source for investment will do the trick for expansion options in a solar power plant. However, this is not true in most cases for solar power plants. You may have to face several issues that may negatively impact your expansion plans for the existing power plant. We have listed below a few areas that can cause challenges:

  • Land availability in the site for additional capacity increase:

This is the prime challenge. When you have expansion plans for the plant, it definitely would not be an insignificant increase, in which case you might also need proportionate land to accommodate for it. In some cases, you might have the option to buy out nearby land to help the expansion plans.

  • Limitations by the PPA

If you are bound by a Power Purchase Agreement, either under the sale to utility model or sale to third-party model, you might not be able to scale up the power plant capacity. This is because there will always be an upper cap to the generated units that the buyer is legally expected to pay for.

  • Option to accommodate few extra panels to improve generation

This might be possible in an existing power plant, after taking the loading capacity of the inverters into consideration. Inverters can usually be over-loaded up to 20% more of its rated capacity. If additional land area is available, you can explore this option instead of going for trackers to improve generation (as of 2016,tracker technologies available now cannot be retrofitted to existing mounting structures)

  • Evacuation infrastructure available

In case of a utility scale ground mounted power plant, you might have to get a load  flow analysis at the local substation to see whether there is adequate evacuation infrastructure available for the capacity increase planned. The same limitations apply for a rooftop solar power plant. In the case of the rooftop power plant, in most cases,  its capacity should be lesser than the local distribution transformer.

  • Availability of local manpower for the erection and O&M activities for the proposed capacity increase

In these days of neck to neck competitions among service providers, this might not be too much of an issue. However, if the plant is located in extremely remote locations availability of adequate maintenance personnel sometimes may pose a challenge for large plants. The same logic applies to limitations in water availability for cleaning additional panels.

You might want to check these questions on Solar Power Plant Evaluation- Plant Performance

  • What is the average CUF (Capacity Utilisation Factor) of the power plant?-Here
  • What are the performance guarantees provided by the installer?-Here
  • What is the generation data from the power plant? Is it according to the industry standards?-Here
  • What have been the cleaning practices for the panels over the years?-Here
  • What are the O&M practices followed?-Here
  • How do you check the quality of the  O&M company and personnel? – Here
  • What are the innovations employed in the power plant? How can they impact your  financial returns?-Here
  • What were the key problems the power plant had faced and what were the causes for these?-Here

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