Viz-A-Viz with Dr. Avishek Kumar, Director, Sunkonnect

Q. To begin with, please tell our readers more about Sunkonnect and its offerings and key specialities?

Sunkonnect is a global renewable energy management consulting firm based in Singapore. We work with system owners, developers, EPC players and manufacturers in making significant and longlasting improvements to their systems, products and processes. Our team has over ten years of experience within the renewable energy field, including the areas of solar PV technology production, manufacturing, quality assessment and systems deployment. Our consultants include engineers, research scientists, lead auditors and energy policy analysts who work closely with our clients to achieve their goals.

Q. Being a newly formed company, what are your plans to strengthen your footprints or to compete with the existing players in the renewable energy space?

Dr Avishek Kumar

Dr Avishek Kumar, Director, Sunkonnect

We think of ourselves as partners of the existing players in the solar energy space. We bring PV quality services to the table, an area that is currently not addressed within Asia. We are probably the only company that works with players in both downstream and upstream segments to ensure the quality of modules produced and deployed.

This helps us bridge the gap between manufacturers and developers in ensuring optimal system performance of PV power plants. We are also developing a data analytics and machine learning platform that can intelligently study client data and reduce their losses. Such activities are giving us significant traction with established module manufacturers and large developers to reduce their overhead costs and minimise risks.

Q. What future scope do you see in the Indian solar market segment and what you will offer to your Indian clients?

We envision the future of the Indian solar market to be more adaptive to technological changes and advanced data analytics. However, the industry is currently dealing with the issue of PV module and system quality, an area that we feel is not well understood. Although there has been immense interest in the growth of the Indian solar industry, component and system knowledge to support this growth is not readily available.

We have found room for improvement in basic areas, like poorly defined spec-sheets developed by manufacturers, which when coupled with poor planning leads to under performing systems. We plan to define and introduce a systematic approach for project planning and establishing quality standards. This will be achieved using best practices and standards developed by us for the Indian ecosystem as well-as intelligent data analytics platforms that can automate improvements and increase efficiency in the future.

Q. During your analysis, what are the common issues you find in PV module manufacturing?

The common issues faced by PV module manufacturers are prevalent in both the quality of the materials used and manufacturing processes. Firstly, an over-focus on material costs often leads to usage of cheap and lowquality materials which compromises the quality of the final product and impacts its power output. In this way, although manufacturers may think that they reduse production costs through using cheaper materials, they produce cheaper products with lower efficiencies which hurts their profits in the long run due to lower $/Watt selling prices. There is also a lack of control on manufacturing processes.

For example, many manufacturers have not defined their internal spec-sheets properly. Hence, quality monitoring and troubleshooting for finished products are almost impossible. Internal qualification standard is also not well defined nor well followed and process recipes like soldering of ribbons don’t follow industry best-practices thereby compromising the finished product.

Q. Recently, Sunkonnect joined hands with Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) to bring PV quality to India. Kindly shed some light on it.

For effective characterisation of PV materials, highly qualified personnel are required. SERIS’ laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art testing tools that are internationally certified and operated by qualified engineers and scientists. This gives us the assurance that the results obtained from tested modules are scientifically rigorous for accurate interpretation. Our partnership with SERIS also allows Sunkonnect to closely tailor or modify product tests for our customers such that they are more relevant to their individual requirements and future goals.

Q. Are there any pristine technologies on which Sunkonnect is currently focusing?

We are currently developing a bifacial-PERC double-glass module which is expected to have a 5-7% higher energy yield under standard conditions over conventional technology. The technology is ready for market acquisition and we are looking to deploy it for projects across India. In addition, renewable energy is incomplete without a safe and reliable energy storage solution. For this, we are working together with V-Flow Tech to develop a long-lasting Vanadiumredox flow battery. The technology is made from 100% recyclable materials and does not degrade over 25 years even at 100% depth of discharge. It is also one of the safest ways to store energy.

Q. Kindly tell us about some of your major projects on which you are currently working or in queue.

We are currently providing technical consultancy for a 100 MW PV power plant in Andhra Pradesh. We are also working with leading manufacturers improving their PV quality and output.

Q. What are your plans in the coming five years for the renewable segment?

We are developing the “RISE with Sunkonnect” programme where we partner with educational institutes across India to install solar rooftops at the institute and achieve a two-fold benefit for the institute and its students. The installed solar energy system not only reduces the institute’s energy consumption, but also functions as a live-lab to facilitate renewable energy education for the students. We aim to take this programme across educational institutes worldwide to develop a global solar network of solar schools that can learn from each other.

In addition, we are developing a blockchain platform connecting PV materials to the installed solar energy system to accurately connect PV materials to system performance. This will empower developers to predict their energy yield with accuracy when using these materials for their projects.

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