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VIZ-A-VIZ with Shyam M. Gupta, Project Manager – Saurya EnerTech

Shyam M. Gupta

Shyam M. Gupta, Project Manager – Saurya EnerTech

“Outsourcing of manpower and other sources might prove costly in case of O&M so it may be good option to take local help for this work. In some cases, if the O&M cost is going high by influences of local unions/demand wages. These all issues may be sorted out in local Gram Panchayats/Local courts by offering their people jobs and contracts.”

Q. What kind of installations do you currently provide O&M for and why is that the focus of your company?

We provide O& M for large rooftops and ground mounted solar PV power plants especially on Megawatt scale having both central and string inverters. Apart from ground mounted plants, we see that there is a potential in large rooftop a in India.

Q. What are the prevailing trends in the operation and management of plants in the Indian solar market?

O&M of Solar plants is an emerging field in India. Many large firms which were previously in EPC are now setting O&M department.

Q. What characterizes contracts in India for O&M of ground mounted PV plants?

Generally in Capex model, the EPC vendors have to provide O&M services for certain time limit (for 1 to 5 years) based on signed contracts. The developers may or may not continue that contract with the same vendor after finish of this contract. The EPC vendors may include the charges for O&M on per year basis if the O&M contract is for long term (for 25 years). In Opex model (Tariff based model) the O&M cost is included in the tariffs and generally in this model the O&M contract time in accordance with signed PPA.

Q. What are the general concerns for PV operations under around the effects of harsh climatic conditions and what are the challenges for the PV industry?

In India, there is mixed climatic condition and for most part, we have bright sun. Except for some part of northern area, we have approximately 8 months hot and humid climate in a year which affects plant performance. For generation yield calculations, there is high ratio of thermal losses which have to be counted. In desert areas there are huge soiling losses taking place. To avoid these losses, the frequency for module cleaning has to be high which causes extra financial burden.

Q. What technologies do most O&M providers use to monitor production of an installation?

In case of string inverters, almost all manufacturers are providing cloud based generation monitoring systems which has inverter level monitoring facility. This monitoring can be classified in detail by integration of data loggers. Data logger connects with weather stations, inverters, LT & HT Panels, Compact substations. This technology is also being used on large rooftop plant and small ground mounted plants. In case of central inverters, software based on SCADA is more important which facilitate from modules string level monitoring to power evacuation monitoring systems.

Q. What are the strategies to lower O&M costs for India based solar plants?

High quality of work following correct procedure and certifications, compliances, tested & certified products, use of latest monitoring technology, good design study will lead to lower O&M cost. Also by making and following good O&M strategies on regular basis. The above factors and activities saves time and increase the plant performance life which ultimately lowers the O&M cost.

Q. Some experts in the industry believe that the only activity in a solar O&M is “just module cleaning and de-weeding”, what initiatives and steps have been taken to break this myth or rumor?

Of course, module cleaning and de-weeding are also necessary activities which maintain the plant performances. There are also many things which have been adopted by many plants for O&M and should be done time to time as follows:

• Plant monitoring.

• Data Collection & data analysis.

• Performance and quality analysis of Modules, Inverters etc.

• Power quality analysis e.g. THD.

• Conducting other necessary tests time to time.

The above activities give the exact information and behavior about the plant performance.

Q. In many places, it is mandated that locals need to be employed for O&M. While this is a noble objective and also is important for the economic development of local communities, in some cases the locals form unions and demand wages that make the O&M cost to go very high. How do you address this?

Yes, the local employment could be mandatory and it perhaps also needful to save O&M cost. Outsourcing of manpower and other sources might prove costly in case of O&M so it may be good option to take local help for this work. In some cases, if the O&M cost is going high by influences of local unions/demand wages. These all issues may be sorted out in local GramPanchayats/Local courts by offering their people jobs and contracts.

Q. Theft of materials (even PV panels) is rampant in some parts of the country. What measures are adopted to prevent this? How well the safety and security of the solar plants should be addressed?

Theft is a definite nuisance. They can be minimized by following security compliances with online supervision of plant using CCTV/ PTZ cameras etc.

Q. What are the major parameters with which one can evaluate the performance of the installation? What kind of Performance Monitoring Solutions is employed?

The important Parameters There are also many things which have adopted by many plants for O&M and should be done time to time as follows:

• Plant monitoring, Data Collection & data analysis.

• Performance and quality analysis of Modules, Inverters etc.

• Power quality analysis e.g. THD.

• Cable losses analysis.

• Conducting other necessary tests like earthing , structure GI thickness.

• Visual Inspection- breakage, orientation etc.

• Design analysis and comparison with actual layout.

• Comparison of BOM list with actual material on the site.

• Electrical test of modules/String measurement.

• Shadow analysis.

• Hot spot analysis for module cell quality.

• Inspection of AJB, transformer, and inverters.

• Inspection of system’s protection system such as lightening arrestor and Earthing.

• Accuracy & variations in weather data (Solar Irradiation, temperature, wind etc.).

Q. Training for the O&M team is very vital to provide better O&M services. With the kind of growth likely in the solar space, India needs trained manpower to man its large solar power plants. Compared to other countries, India lacks good vocational and skilled hands. What steps are being taken to educate and train the O&M workforce?

There are many initiatives being taken by Indian Govt. for better O&M ser-vices. There is a program called “Surya Mitra” conducting by National Institute of solar energy, India which helps to new graduates and experienced site technicians and engineers to improve their knowledge and skills in solar power sector. There are also many programs held time to time by Ministry of renewable energy (MNRE) and certified partners to educate individuals for improve their knowledge and skills in solar.

Q. Compared to markets as USA, China and Germany the installed PV capacity in the India is relatively booming. Is the Indian market actually behind with respect to operations and maintenance of PV plants and does it benefit sufficiently from the fact that best practices have already been developed (to a certain extent) abroad?

India already has been blooming landscape for solar projects and initiatives; Government of India has set the ambitious target for cumulative capacity total 175 GW capacities (Including rooftops and ground mounted) by 2022. The practices for O&M to achieve this target have already initiated. However India needs more through training in O&M. We have to develop more means which are useful for this work.

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