How Operation and Maintenance Holds the Key for a Successful Solar PV Project

The development of solar energy PV systems to generate electricity harnessing solar energy has been a spasmodic phenomenon in India. Nevertheless, there are many solar projects that have started to enter the phase of maturity. It is estimated that by the end of this year, the total installations will exceed 2 GW and almost half of these would have completed over 1 year of operations and maintenance. No matter how well planned and precisely implemented your Engineering, Procuring, and Maintenance (EPC) services were, once the plant starts to become older, solar operations and maintenance services becomes more important to enhance the performance of the plant. 
Let us highlight some important challenges and their solutions related to solar O & M services that hold the key for a successful solar PV project/plant.

Solar PV Modules:
The energy yield from solar modules depends upon the optimum cleaning frequency of the panels. Since there are no moving parts in the PV modules, cleaning of the panels is not a tedious task. In dusty environments, however, the panels need to be cleaned more frequently.

Inverters:
Solar inverters form the heart of a solar PV plant, and are one of the most complicated components. Since they are electronic devices, one must take care of them as required for other electronic devices, protecting them from the hot, humid, and dusty conditions of the Indian subcontinent.

Warranty Management:
It is mandatory to have a clear understanding of warranty terms from the suppliers. The O & M personnel must also have a good idea about the types of defects covered, the duration, and the key personnel from the supplier who takes up and enforces warranty claims.

Availability of water: 
India’s geography facilitates availability of plenty of sunshine. But it also means that the plants that receive abundant sunlight are mostly located in remote places in arid regions where availability of water is scarce, and the dust accumulation on the panels is high. Since the panels require more frequent cleaning, as part of O & M services, in these regions, water must be used with discretion.

Skilled manpower: 
O & M activities demand highly skilled manpower in electrical and electronics engineering, and sometimes it becomes quite challenging to get these skilled people to move to remote locations for work.

Summing it up: A solar power plant generates returns over a long period, about 25 years. And a good O & M process is critical for its success. Being careless about O & M activities is like squandering the potential of your PV plant which could otherwise would spell magnificence, rather than falling into the pit of insignificance. So, the choice is yours!

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