As India is fostering a digital future for solar, many companies in this sector have announced their support for further digitalization by investing in solar smart installations. Much similar is the story of SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India) as mentioned by Mr. Prashant Upadhyay, Manager BS of the company, in a recent webinar hosted by EQ magazine, in association with SenseHawk. Serving as a platform for the industry to come together and share their experiences, the topic of this webinar was “Digital Tools and Analytics for Efficiency in PV Operations.” A panel of solar industry veterans joined Mr. Prashant, including:
- Mr. Rahul Sankhe, President and Co-founder of SenseHawk
- Dr. Negi from MNRE,
- 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
“SECI, being an offtaker, we have a different perspective,” begins Mr. Prashant. “Solar plants have been looked at as just about crossing the line so that you can have a lot of unpredictability involved. I look at the solar generation facility as an asset that needs to be managed properly for profitability, and not just minimum benchmarks. What amuses me specifically about solar plants is that other generating stations are not as geographically spread out. Besides plant data, there is a variety of data involved, including weather data and that coming from other equipment. These must be led and viewed holistically even from the perspective of bankability of solar projects.”
A One-of-a-Kind Professional Approach
Mr. Prashant believes, “What is desired is a professional approach backed by state-of-the-art tools that allows easy decision making for all the project managers, alongside enabling frequent assessment of different model parameters. The key is to approach the entire system as energy governance from a holistic perspective, rather than addressing issues in a piecemeal manner. To that end, a solar PV plant needs to be looked at not just as a generating unit, but as a complete ecosystem, that includes even other elements like water supply. Furthermore, we also have obligations as the government, rightfully so, wants us to show concern to things like water harvesting as solar is not the only resource that we are responsible for. There is auxiliary consumption, road infrastructure, power evacuation, many other infrastructure, and also O&M service employers, a segment we have created to ensure there is an entire service sector looking after an asset. This approach requires us to look at it much more diligently, lest we fall prey to the broken window syndrome.”
“Standing where we are in the national solar mission, these approaches are increasingly becoming important. We should further take a cue from the Digital India mission, where data itself is emerging as a source of offering tremendous competitive advantage. The decision-making right is moving from the elite few to the empowered many, which is in line with the government’s Digital India mission. With this, the decision making systems are available to the frontline managers, who are closest to where the decision is to be taken,” he adds.
The Digitization of SECI
Talking out of his engineering design experience, Mr. Prashant shares some of the new tools and techniques SECI has started deploying. “While we have done or are in the process of doing some of our own projects, we are offering project management consultancy for many of the government clients alongside being benefitted with a bit of learning ourselves. All we are trying to do is create a continuum and free flow of information between the engineering, operations, and field teams. To provide you with an analogy, let’s picture how Facebook works. With different teams working from different places, all the information is still posted on a universal wall giving everybody a simultaneous access and the know-how to use it. Here, documentation and its control is very crucial, checking if the information is shared from the engineering, how it has been implemented at site, if the field quality plants are in place, and whether what has been designed is actually being implemented. Not every element of it can be or at least till now has been diligently deployed or used during the engineering and design phase, mostly because of the lack of GIS tools involved in the designing phase. Also, the drawings that we are preparing and dealing with are mostly 2d. For something that is such geographical spread, should we move to 3d drawings, perhaps? As many things go wrong because they are not properly visualized, 3d drawings might help see how the things are actually coming up.”
He continues, “To encourage the use of tools of collaboration within the engineering team, at SECI, we are using an online document management system where submissions are made. This way, we are moving away from the email response mechanism where drawings are submitted, and then we respond and comment on it for coordinating over. We are certainly trying to do that on the online platform as well, by commenting right there, which will simultaneously be available for approval by the design people, and also be directed to the project managers who can highlight the issues at the right time, and to the field team who might provide an input in the documentation or design stage itself, when something has not been taken care of. We are already on this, hoping that revisions happen less frequently and the information is conveyed fluidly in a continuum to all the teams involved. Even for the SCADA system used for getting information from our plant, we have moved towards distributed IoT-based controllers so that the IT plus OT layers can be put together, and information systems are created.”
“What I’ve inferred out of experience is that seamless documentation helps in better coordination and in setting things right at the first foot itself. We are also putting our mind to things that an organization would like SECI to do. Maybe SECI could be the organization with a national portfolio, and also cross project benchmarking also to give people a sense of where they stand. SECI could be an enabler for driving this particular change,” concludes Mr. Prashant.
With the vision to digitize solar, SenseHawk helps all organizations to digitalize and organize asset data and processes. Contact us for a free consultation.