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Published:Tuesday, January 22, 2019 4:40 PM

Operation and Maintenance Techniques for a Solar Power Plant

Infraline Energy RE

 Life of a solar power plant is considered to be 25 years and the modules are also guaranteed to perform for the mentioned period as per the technical specifications. In this duration, solar panels get subjected to various kind of stresses ranging from thermal to mechanical including wind and snow load, lightening or surges from grid. Such stresses which causes module degradation.

In order to maintain and operate the power plant efficiently at its maximum capacity, effective maintenance should be carried out at regular intervals as specified by module manufacturer and/ or EPC contractor. According to regulations, a specific amount is fixed for operation and maintenance for each year, so it becomes mandatory for the developers to optimize the best available resources. The below table depicts bench mark O&M cost and its associated component values in Indian solar power industry.

Operations & Maintenance Cost of Solar PV Power Plant

Operations & Maintenance

6 Lakhs/MW

Escalation (Annual)









Some practices like module level temperature monitoring, module/string level power output monitoring, analysis of such power output curve, protection device check etc., needs to be carried out in the plant on daily basis. This is because, with such huge scale power plants, it becomes very tough to detect faults and more importantly, its root cause. Any such faults, if remains in the power plant could drastically reduce its generation/output/efficiency. Thus, it is necessary to innovate, develop and adopt new techniques in O&M. Some of the techniques in O&M for efficient operation of solar power plants have been discussed below:

Aerial Site Survey with Drones

A constant check for visible/invisible defect is required to ensure smooth operations of modules. One method to check such defect is by taking thermographic IR image of the modules. If a specific defective string cannot be identified, then the entire plant shall be scanned for defect identification which is almost impossible as it would require days to do such mapping. Similarly, all the operational parts of power plant shall be checked for any faults which may generate heat and cause any problem. This is where aerial site survey with drone is most suitable. Drones are becoming very popular these days for their ability of scaling large area in short span of time. It can easily detect the problem which leads to less repair time.

Smart Communication in various Components of Power Plant

A solar plant spreads over large area of land. For 1MW of solar plant it generally requires 5-6 acres of land. The large area makes it difficult to reduce the downtime. It is important that both problem identification and its rectification is done immediately. In case of large number of components, problem identification may become an issue. Modern-Day components come with smart communication technology. This technology allows the associated component to communicate with the cloud and send pre-set data. Such data are received and analysed to ensure that the plant is running as desired. This Smart communication helps the operator to monitor the plant at micro level which leads to less rectification time and efficient operation of the plant.

Innovative Cleaning Methods with Cost Cutting

Cleaning of solar modules play a vital role in the performance of solar plant. As the dust accumulates up on the modules, their performance start decreasing. But cleaning of solar panels is not easy. Cleaning of panels requires huge amounts of water because it is very difficult to clean modules by just one splash of water. A common myth generally among consumers having rooftop is that the solar panel only requires water cleaning whereas, water with neutral PH is suitable for cleaning of solar modules. According to estimation of CEEW, water requirement for cleaning of 1 MW solar plant is 7000 to 20000 Litre. Challenge arise here is to find the huge quantity of water, as maximum plants in India are in Rajasthan, Gujarat and other dry areas. Sometimes due to lack of ground water availability, developers use water from nearby water bodies which may have other impurities that can cause scratches over panels. For such kind of problems waterless dust cleaning of solar modules could be important or should be practised more.

Waterless dust cleaning device consists of a nylon brush along with pair of wheels and solar module as source of power. This invention can cut the water consumption in solar plant up to 80% with efficiency of cleaning up to 90%. This invention also cuts down the power consumption and manpower requirement for cleaning of modules.

Advance Software’s for Scheduling and Forecasting

With the help of available advance software/technologies, it is possible now to forecast the generation of plants. Central Government and State Government are focusing on each major problem related to renewable energy. Scheduling of power from solar plants was a big problem prior to the development of the forecasting software’s. Now, many states have already issued scheduling and forecasting regulations which will help the plant operator to know well about the behaviour and the associated plant output. This enables them to pre-plan their schedule and preventive maintenance chart well in advance. Additionally, it is also important to understand that forecasting helps in escaping from penalty due to under or over injection of energy into the grid.

O&M is a critical phase in power generation from solar modules. Thus, the advancement in technology leads to better and cost-effective operation and maintenance of the plant. Advance software’s help in better monitoring and scheduling of power from solar power plants and reduce the shutdown time for maintenance across the whole plant life cycle.


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