The solar market has grown in the double digits over the last few years. A study by Mercom showed that there was a 34% year-on-year growth in India’s solar power generation in Q1 – 2019. Falling tariffs and a fast-growing solar market have made operations and maintenance (O&M) of solar plants more important than ever.
A solar plant is built to last for 20-25 years, and O&M is key to sustain its performance for that much time. An efficient O&M practice is that which reduces downtime and improves solar power generation, resulting in a higher power output and therefore greater revenue. However, O&M of a plant is expensive, comprising about 1-1.5% of the plant’s annual capex. O&M constitutes module cleaning, manpower and security which work out to about 40% of the cost, followed by other expenses like tools, spares, etc.
Other than monetary costs, O&M involves a lot of challenges when it comes to dealing with utility scale plants or distributed solar assets. Unavailability of skilled labour, transportation of machineries, lack of adequate water for module cleaning, carrying of spare parts to far-off sites are some of the issues plant managers face. The larger the plant, the more complex it gets.
That’s why we at Mahindra Teqo use the latest technology to overcome these hurdles, and rise above traditional methods of plant maintenance. Here is how we have changed the landscape of O&M:
- Robotic Module Cleaning – The conventional method of module cleaning requires a lot of water and manual labour which is both time consuming and expensive. For example, a 3,600 MW PV farm in a hot region could require approximately a billion gallons of water in its lifetime which is a substantial waste of resources. We have water-free cleaning robots that clean utility scale solar panels by sweeping, blowing, and vacuuming the panels to remove dust and dirt. They use a lot less water and power than a human would – and cost less to run too.
- Centralised Monitoring Systems – Having unsupervised O&M practices for distant facilities could cause difficulties in defining performance metrics which investors love to look at. It’s also a nightmare for asset owners to manage distributed solar PV assets. At Teqo, we offer a single source to manage your entire solar portfolio. Our products and services help collect, store, visualize & analyze data from distributed solar assets making it seamless for plant owners to manage their assets.
- Real-Time Solar PV Monitoring – Scheduled maintenance & routine inspections, traditionally, were done manually from time to time. Possible issues with the plant would only be discovered when the inspection team arrived and checked it personally or upon actual breakdown. Teqo has digitised the whole process by introducing software like SolarPulseTM which effectively monitors real time conditions of solar panels. It collects data, analyzes it and sends an alarm notification if a fault is detected, reducing field visits and manual reporting. The software’s advanced capabilities mean that problems are usually detected long before they occur, and most maintenance is preventive.
- Drones for Solar Plant Inspection – A failure in the solar panel components could be very expensive and so preventive maintenance is necessary to maintain a plant’s generation capability. However, inspecting and servicing each panel is a long and tiring task when considering maintenance of a utility scale solar plant. At Teqo we use drones for inspection of solar plants. These drones can perform a variety of tasks like visual imaging of modules, wires and other plant components; infrared thermography for efficient identification and diagnosis of PV system performance and more. There are many more applications that are under development.
Teqo’s initiative of infusing the latest technology has not only made O&M services cost effective but also optimized the generation capabilities of solar PV plants and eased the solar maintenance process.