Multi-Mega-Scale PV Systems
Image from Gujarat Power Commission Ltd.
Multi-Mega-scale photovoltaic (PV) projects have been in news for a while but are they really the way to go? We analysed the pros and cons of such centralised solar electricity-generation systems to get some insight.
- Technology forerunner: The largest solar project commissioned in the world so far is the Agua Caliente Solar Project in the USA, 26 MWp larger than the Charanka Park, Patan district PV power plant. Developing a project over 500 MW project would not only establish the nation as a technology leader but also prove its seriousness towards the fight for climate change.
- A step closer to energy sufficiency: India is a power-deficit nation, with a generation deficit of 10–12% of its peak demand. Large-scale solar projects would help in bridging that gap quickly and in reducing the nation’s CO2 emissions per MWh.
- Cost–benefit: Large-scale projects would benefit from economies of scale and hence potentially lead to lower bidding price. Other factors, such as lower overhead costs per MWh, would further lead to lower cost of generation.
- Ease of implementation: Distributed solar and rooftop schemes have been effective in many parts of the developed world but at the same time have proved to be expensive and unsafe if not controlled or regulated properly. Also, in a country like India, where grid stability is still an issue, it would be difficult to reap full benefits of such schemes. Therefore, the centralised multi-Mega-scale projects would be more beneficial and easier to implement.
- Lack of experience: With the current largest plant in the world being a 250 MWp plant, designing, installing and commissioning projects larger than 500 MW would pose new problems requiring innovative solutions.
- Lack of local expertise: Projects of such scale would require several hundred technicians and engineers to be working onsite at any given time. Although this would create job opportunities for the local workforce, training the workforce onsite in the local dialect would be a major issue.
- Grid stability issues: An important factor that directly affects the performance ratio of PV plants, the lack of a stable and robust grid capable of handling large fluctuations would be one of the biggest issues when implementing such projects.
- Safety: Raising the capacity bars would require generation at higher voltages and transmission of higher current. Such high-current, high-voltage DC supply might render the plant unsafe.
- Transmission losses: It makes sense to install these multi-Mega-scale projects in areas of high irradiance and, because of their size, the systems would require large open areas for installation; therefore, the projects would generally be located far from demand centres. This would mean higher transmission losses and lower overall energy efficiency.
- Technology is critical: Selection of appropriate technology suited to the location and the local climate would be of utmost importance. Lack of prior experience in such projects would mean devising new techniques to categorise technology based on local requirements.
- Boom–bust cycle trend: It is important to maintain certainty in the market for sustainable industry growth. Large-sized projects often lead to on–off cycles in the market, making the market unsustainable.
- Village remoteness: In India, there are a large number of remote villages and towns without access to the electricity grid. Large-scale centralised generation systems bring no light to villages in darkness.
With a widening energy deficit, rising oil and gas import burdens and global pressure to act on climate change, the country needs innovative solutions and quick reforms in its electricity industry. Large-scale PV plants, if successful would not only support India’s burgeoning manufacturing industry but also establish the nation as a world leader. However, large-scale systems form just a part of a three-pronged solution, with small-scale distributed systems and standalone off-grid hybrid systems forming the other two. Equal emphasis has to be laid on all three to meet the energy demands of this fast-growing nation.
We would love to hear back your comments and opinions. Write to us at email@example.com with ‘GSES September newsletter’ as the subject.
Solar Training at ANERT
This month GSES India conducted two days of comprehensive training in the Inspection and Evaluation of Solar PV systems for engineers and officers of the Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT).
ANERT is the Nodal Agency for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). It is located in the southern state of Kerala, which is implementing an ambitious project of 10,000 solar rooftop systems. This course was the first of its kind in India - its aim was to build the skills of Engineers at ANERT to inspect, evaluate and monitor Solar PV Systems.
The course combined the GSES experience in the Asia Pacific region and included both classroom and hands on identification of issues. 28 ANERT engineers and officers from different districts and field offices attended. They are responsible for the inspection and evaluation of PV systems.
GSES India has designed and distributed an inspection manual for a step by step PV system inspection and evaluation. Training in system inspection, monitoring and evaluation is critical to ensure India's solar installations continue to improve in quality and last the lifetime they are intended.
Latest REEEP News
Here is the latest news for the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP). You can also subscribe to their news yourself to keep abreast of what's happening in renewables and energy efficiency around the globe.
REEEP News, May 2012.
IEA-PVPS and European Hybrid Conference
On the 23rd of April, Geoff Stapleton attended an IEA-PVPS strategies meeting in Stockholm, Sweden. Other Australians in attendance were Muriel Watt, Chair of APVA, and Greg Watt, Australia's expert on Task 1. Geoff has represented Australia on Task 9 for over 10 years. Current tasks of IEA-PVPS include:
The purpose of the workshop was to develop the strategy for IEA-PVPS tasks and activities relating to the period of 2013 - 2018. Through the collaboration of member countries, IEA-PVPS has developed useful technical and non-technical information. Historically it has aimed at identifying issues in the deployment of PV, working at developing solutions through collaboration and then documenting the outcomes in freely available reports.
- Task 1: Exchange and dissemination of information on photovoltaic power systems
- Task 8: Very large scale photovoltaic power generation systems in remote areas
- Task 9: Deploying PV services for regional development
- Task 11: PV hybrid systems within mini-grids
- Task 12: PV environmental health and safety
- Task 13: Performance and reliability of photovoltaic systems
- Task 14: High penetration of PV systems in electricity grids
Discussions included; what are the upcoming issues for the PV industry that PVPS could be involved with, and how to more widely disseminate the information that is developed by PVPS. The strategy would day would then be used by the executive committee (Exco) to formulate the direction of IEA-PVPS for the next 5 years. The Exco was meeting on the following two days, the 24th and 25th of April.
Geoff then travelled to Chambery, France, to attend the 6th European Hybrids and Mini-Grids conference. There were 175 delegates at the 2 day conference which included formal presentations and a number of poster sessions. A number of the presentations and posters related to the control issues within hybrids and mini-grids. There were also a number of presentations on actual systems installed around the world and the technical/physical issues involved in installing and maintaining those systems in remote regions. One point that was raised many times was the fact that diesel fuel is expensive in these remote regions while PV prices have dropped significantly in recent years thereby making the economics of PV more attractive for hybrids and mini-grids.
Susan Neill and Geoff had prepared a paper and poster titles: Applying lessons learnt from the implementation of Solar Home systems to the implementation of Hybrid systems in developing countries. Those with posters were able to present 2 slides only on their poster to entice people to visit their poster. Susan and Geoff's focus was that the main reasons for system failures in developing countries were generally not technical, and regardless of equipment quality, many other issues needed to be addressed to make the sustainable energy based hybrid systems sustainable!
Chambery is in the French Alps, and Geoff had a day off of driving through the Alps before flying home to Australia - though delayed 22 hours at Heathrow due to plane mechanical issues flying out of France!