Digitalization is spurring new approaches to developing next generation technology for the solar industry. EQ magazine, in association with SenseHawk, recently hosted a webinar on “Digital Tools and Analytics for Efficiency in PV Operations.” The panel was embraced with the presence of top-notch veterans of this industry, including:
- Mr. Rahul Sankhe, President and Co-founder of SenseHawk
- Dr. Negi from MNRE,
- Mr. Prashant Kumar Upadhyay, Manager BS from Solar Energy Corporation of India,
- Mr. C. Chaudhary, COO of Amp Solar,
- Mr. Kapil Kumar, Head O&M division from Azure Power,
- Mr. Dinesh, Head Asset Management from Sprng Energy,
- Mr. SK Madhusudhana, VP and Head O&M, SB Energy,
- Ma’am Shilpi Dangi, Senior Manager from Sembcorp Green Infra Limited,
- Mr. Brajesh Kumar Jha, DGM Distributed Solar Operation and Maintenance from ReNew power,
- Mr. Sudhir Pathak, Head Central Design and Engineering from Hero Future Energies, and
- Mr. Premchand, General Manager at Tata Power Solar Limited.
Watch the excerpt
Mr. C. Chaudhary started by sharing an IPP perspective about asset management. “I think asset management is going to play a key role in the near future, as there is an enormous pressure of achieving the government’s targets of 175 to 225 gigawatts by the year 2022 and 2025. From the POV of an investor in an IPP, O&M is going to play a key role in terms of the IRR as well as the tariff, because the O&M prices are always calculated as the NPV for over the next 25 years. So, there are two and three parameters which are going to impact our financial model while putting the tariff reduction or tariff expectation. The first one is the CapEx, including the BBS and module prices and the other one is the O&M prices, taking in account the 25 years in the calculation. We are looking forward to all the digital market people to come up with a robotic and digital solution to help the IPP as well as the investor to get the tariff within the expected range of 2.36 and 2.37,” says Mr. Chaudhary.
A Construction or Engineering Point of View
Advocating a holistic approach to asset management, Mr. Chaudhary says, “As it has been iterated time and again, asset management starts right from the development stage till the operation management. Development here means identification of land as getting an entire patch of land, and not just in bits and pieces, is a notable problem in India. The key is to depend on the drone survey to take all the geotech and all the leaps and bounds of the boundary coordinate using a drone to picture how much area is exactly required, before spending a lump sum for the land whose cost is significantly higher in comparison to the last decade. Digitization should therefore be an integral part from the development stage, whether you use the drone site survey or some other digital tool to minimize the timeline.”
He continues, “Post the development phase, the focus is on the construction phase, which is engineer-required. If you have a 300 megawatt requirement from 1200 acres, it is very difficult to conduct a site survey. Even if you go to the site physically, it is very difficult to capture all the data and making sure it is right. During the construction, it is important to maintain the quality. The solution is to put the quality guide which is made by either a civil or structure or an electrical person. However, while doing the piling, or marking, or pouring the concrete, it is not ethical to keep a quality person constantly keeping a check on the quality of cement, the ratio of the concrete used, and what’s happening in the mixer. A setup of drones can be the way out to capture the ratio of the concreting used for piling. If the pillar is not good, the quality of the overall plant will fail. This generally happens in the high wind area because in India, wind speed ranges from 33 meters per second to as high as up to 180 kilometers or 250 meters per second, as it was marked recently. As we have a data for 25 years, while designing, we capture only for 250 meters per second. If the wind speed goes beyond that, and your pillar or pile is not as strong, then the entire structure is going to be damaged.”
O&M as The Most Critical Phase of Asset Management
Mr. Chaudhary continues, “Post construction, comes the O&M phase which requires a project manager who’s going to hand over the project to the O&M following all punch lists. Digitization is required even during punch listing, because an Excel sheet is incapable of capturing thousands of items manually. O&M being the most critical phase of asset management comes with a huge set of problems, starting right from your plant level all the way till your application level. In the plant level, you have a lot of inverters, modules, and cables, hence managing all of these are a prime issue. Digitization is required here, even for the cold and hot commissioning during the project execution. Cold commissioning requires the capturing of all the cables, sizing, and everything, while hot commissioning deals with cloning. Digitization helps capture each and every item. As the module data is not taken for 25 years, it will degrade. For checking the hotspots and the degradation rate, drone-based thermography is required. To ascertain that your plants will run smoothly, drones are required for capturing data from the inverter modules and the results should be right and in line with the data you collected on your previous financial model for the PVC analysis.”
He further adds, “Beyond data capturing, digitization can also be leveraged in robotic cleaning as India has an ongoing water scarcity. A dry cleaning mechanism also has to be placed which runs parallelly with the digital cleaning system. Besides this robotic cleaning, another future of asset management in India is manless security. While the country is still investing in a lot of gunmen, other countries have already adopted the manless fencing. You can easily go manless by having one of two watchtowers with one security at the main gate and one in the control room. For as large as over 1200 acres of land, a part of the manless security system arrangement must directly be able to detect and alarm if somebody is going inside of the plant.”
“Talking of the overall portfolio, digitalization plays an important role in breakdown, services, reporting, monitoring, invoicing, and calculations. If we are sitting in the head office, and our management wants to see if our plant is reporting and performing right, everything has to be taken into consideration. When you have a 1200 acre plant with some of the modules not performing, it’s very difficult to detect that even for the people sitting in the control room. Among 500 megawatts of the plant, if just two or three modules are down and the current is varying between 8.5 to 9 MPR, you cannot detect the minute amount of MPR lost. So digitization is required this kind of monitoring of data and assets,” concludes Mr. Chaudhary.
SenseHawk has simplified round-the-clock construction monitoring and quality checks, for every stage for your solar plant’s lifecycle. Contact us to get a free consultation right away.