Solar Power Plant Evaluation – Can you retrofit additional components to an existing power plant to increase generation?

In most power plants, the main source of energy can be manipulated in order to increase the output generated from the plant. This logic is not applicable to wind and solar power plants, since energy from the sun or wind is not controllable like coal or petroleum.

So how do we increase generation from a solar power plant which is already up and running?

 Deployment of advanced control technologies is the key to increased generation from solar power plants. Solar power plants exhibit changing dynamics, nonlinearity and uncertainties – challenges that need to be addressed by advanced control techniques .The use of more efficient control strategies can not only increase the performance of the solar power plant but can also increase the number of operational hours for it.

What are the strategies and technologies you can add to an existing solar power plant to enhance its generation?

 With advancements in technologies and constant innovations, the industry now offers excellent monitoring solutions and power electronic devices that can increase the generation from plants.

We have listed the main devices and strategies, for improved generation, below:

  • Advanced monitoring solutions:

To achieve a high-performance PV plant, the incorporation of automatic data acquisition and monitoring technology is essential. This allows the yield of the plant to be monitored and compared with calculations made from solar irradiation data from weather sensors to raise warnings daily if there is a shortfall. Faults then can be detected and rectified before they have an appreciable effect on production.

In addition, power plants typically need to provide 24-hour forecasts (in hourly increments) to the maintenance personnel. Daily forecasts help the maintenance team ensure continuity of power supply.

Most power projects work with monitoring systems provided in conjunction with the inverters. But, however,  the use of extensive monitoring solutions that can log data from the string combiner boxes, meters, weather data sensors, in addition to the inverters, can make your power plant more immune to faults and can enable extended and enhanced power generation. The extensive analytics and forecasts provided by premium monitoring solutions can help identify or resolve faults quickly, since data is available at a more granular level.

Advanced monitoring solutions also come with remote monitoring provisions whereby the Cloud or Web-based reporting system conveys data for those managing the power plants, and also sends alerts to the developers and other stakeholders in case of any trouble. Depending on the exhaustiveness of the solution opted for, they could cost anywhere between Rs.5-10 Lacs/MW.

  • Power Optimizers

Power optimizers are devices that can be attached to each module. These devices ensure that each module is working at its peak efficiency under a given atmospheric condition.

Remember that each module is connected to its neighboring module. Solar power plants come with the interesting and unfortunate feature that the reduced performance from one module could significantly amount to the entire generation being affected. This is where essentially these power optimizers play their role.

Power optimizers help negate traditional power plant issues like losses due to module output mismatch, shading, temperature differences, etc. These devices, in effect, monitor and control the modules individually and ensure enhanced generation. They, due to all the glitzy features they offer, are pretty pricey and comes at around $50 per module. A MW -scale solar project usually houses thousands of modules and you might have to carefully to do your math before you think of investing in these.

  • Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)

Computerized Maintenance Management Systems are increasingly being used to manage and control plant and equipment maintenance in modern solar power plants. These software solutions can accelerate productivity of the maintenance personnel by ensuring that maintenance practices are scheduled well and comply with the standard operating procedures

The most important feature in keeping O&M cost to a minimum and maximizing production is through a thorough review of the plant design, construction inspections and establishing adequate preventive maintenance. A CMMS software package maintains a computer database of information about an organization’s maintenance operations. CMMS is intended to help maintenance workers do their jobs more effectively by determining which machines require routine maintenance along with storeroom inventory and spare part allocation. This process allows management to make informed decisions by calculating the cost of machine breakdown repair versus preventive maintenance for the same.

  • Security Systems

Most power plant developers usually overlook the importance of security systems and other security measures for their power plants.

Now, what does this result in?

Power plants house expensive components like panels, cables, and other spare electricals. And in most cases, large-scale power plants are located in remote areas and are not manned throughout the day. This gives ample opportunity for miscreants to take advantage of the situation. Though this might sound too far-fetched, Solar Mango team is aware of multiple cases where a power plant generation was affected by stolen cables and damaged panels.

While almost no one talks about it, investing a bit into good quality security cameras and barbed wires for the compound wall can ensure that there is no theft or disruption from other sources, which can result in significant loss of generation.

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

  • How well have the components been chosen?- Here
  •  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

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