The Design to Development Gap in Solar PV Assets — and how digitalization can help

Excerpt from a virtual panel in partnership with EQ Magazine

4 min read

Just like every other industry, the solar photovoltaic energy sector stands to benefit from digitalization significantly. “Digital Tools and Analytics for Efficiency in PV Operations” was the topic of discussion at a recent panel hosted by EQ magazine, in association with SenseHawk. Various industry experts came together to share their experience and knowledge as well as look at the future market opportunity of digital solar. The panel consisted industry veterans 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

Watch the excerpt

Mr. Sudhir Pathak, during his session, began by sharing an interesting perspective on the significance of all the different stages of the entire asset management process, right from the design or drawing phase up till the assets are finally handed over. “For any plant, most of the story gets written once you design and execute. If you take care and are able to ensure that whatever you’ve designed is being implemented and tested before taking forward for O&M, you will have the maximum output. From a design perspective, there are two or three ways to ensure that it is being implemented in a right way.” he began.

Bridging the Design-Delivery Disconnect

“Whatever we design, we need to deliver it to our execution team and there are two or three ways for us to communicate with them,” continued Mr. Sudhir. “Our first mode of communication is definitely through the drawings itself; however, with a lot of things between the lines, we have to deliver through SOPs, which the execution team ensures to comply. Just like the testing instruments, whichever transformers or model structures being designed need to be tested, it has to be recorded before being shipped to the site for execution. As the name SenseHawk suggests, it’s a Hawk’s eye to the system, that is, you can monitor the plant even when you are not physically present at the location. As a design person cannot monitor the working of the execution team, we being in the execution process, delegate and monitor the complete process through our quality inspection. Here, we need a list of RFIs, the request for inspections, wherein we can sensitize our execution, as well as our OEM partners to ensure that whatever we have designed, there should be a request specifically for it to be just implemented. For instance, in case of an MMS with a defined piling of 1.8 meters, or a transformer being tested for some kind of insulation resistance; if not tested and charged directly, it might lead to a new set of problems. It’s on us to ensure that whatever we have designed through SOPs, drawings, and through our quality process, it has been implemented,” added Mr. Sudhir.

Talking of the impact of digital tools on the Capex, Mr. Sudhir said, “In the older times, we used to have reactive maintenance, then we came down to preventive maintenance, then predictive maintenance, and now it is more of prescriptive maintenance. So, the digital tools and technology is leading us to a particular process, where if you are able to predict that an inverter is going to fail in the next 10 days, you can even prescribe what to do in order to ensure that the inverter is revived before it gets failed. For another instance, if your module has hotspots, you can leverage the artificial intelligence to have a prescriptive maintenance which your system or anybody with a background of creating artificial intelligence based outcome and prescription, can very well define. With this prescriptive maintenance enabled, once the system is in place immediately after the handing or taking over, on the day one, you are able to generate to your desired level, which will in any case, improve the system and lead to whatever else it had been designed for.”

Inferring from the takeaways that Mr. Sudhir left us with, Viral Patel, VP Sales of SenseHawk, and also the moderator of the webinar adds, “From design to O&M, every individual process needs to be made more robust, and a set of SOPs need to be followed alongside the use of digital technologies, such that you can move from a reactive to a prescriptive maintenance kind of an environment and help improve asset management as a function.” 

There’s no Room for Improvement without Feedback

Mr. Brajesh Jha, who handles a wide scale of rooftop projects across the country, seconds the points made by Mr. Sudhir, adding, “No matter whether it’s a rooftop asset or utility, the O&M should begin right from the development stage. That is a key area.”

Mr. Brajesh continued, “As we can see the solar industry maturing with lots of bad or average projects. Precise feedback from the asset management must go to the designers or design engineers, who can take these personal comments and incorporate the changes in their new designs or projects. This way, whatever has by far been the main reason for the plant to not perform as desired or as designed, can be taken care of, for the future projects. A strong feedback system from operations to EPC team or the engineering to the project team, might be the key. While as of now, this system has been Excel and manual or verbal-based, there is a prospective scope for digitization here. Digital tools can help direct the feedbacks to the related project or design engineer, with not much confusion or delay. All the feedbacks, inspection, and issues identified by the officers’ team, asset managers and owners, who are going to take care of and manage their assets for the next 25 years to get the desired output, are important. When the feedbacks are done verbally, one or two out of ten can be taken care of and the flow can be based in Excel. This is not going to give a good outcome, so digitization is the only way for good projects to be done thus easing the life of the asset managers. The feedback system has to automate, record, and monitor the number of issues that are open, closed, and critical, out of around 1000 feedbacks. Digitals tools can therefore filter out the worst problems which will in time impact my plant in a big way.”

With an asset-centric lifecycle management solution, SenseHawk is already working towards making your plants easier to manage across pre-construction, construction, and O&M. Contact us to get a free consultation on building and maintaining robust systems that work as designed.

SenseHawk

SenseHawk

SenseHawk, Inc. is a provider of cloud based drone data analytics and productivity tools for the solar industry. With customers in 20 countries, SenseHawk solutions are used by solar & EPC companies for terrain analytics, construction monitoring, thermography and task management on solar sites

Sign up for insights and opinions from the best in the solar.

Leave a Comment