Outcome of project audits unraveled certain findings that were quite universal

Industry Insights
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Plant Audit is a service designed and developed around the plant owner/investor`s need to identify, record and locate the primary source of anomalies in a solar power plant.

To achieve optimum generation and maintain a higher performance ratio, it is imperative to study the active performance of the system in reference with designed energy output to understand the health of the plant.

Over the last few years, we have carried out Plant Audits & Quality check exercises for various ground mount MW and rooftop kW projects spread across different parts of India. The outcome of these audits unraveled certain findings that were quite universal/familiar/characteristic. Even though the projects were installed in different locations by various competing vendors for a diverse clientele with dissimilar technologies, we found several findings to be identical. In this article, we would like to focus on the common issues that have plagued several solar projects across the country over their operational history.

Solar Modules:Solar Modules:

  • Formation of hot spots within the cells
  • Snail trails on the modules
  • Failure of bypass diodes in the module junction box
  • Sagging of frameless thin film modules

MMS:MMS:

  • Lack of code compliance in the design criteria of the structure
  • Utilization of smaller/lighter sections that are not in keeping with the design to reduce overall material utilization per MW
  • Absence of concreate or re-bars below the pile foundations
  • Inconsistency in the mixing of concrete used
  • Inaccurate pile foundations leading to misalignment of the structure columns
  • Pile caps of column post missing
  • Holes drilled on the purlins at the fabrication shop being inaccurate leads to on-site drilling; workmanship of such fixes tend to be poor
  • Rusting of parts due to improper galvanization 
  • Sagging and buckling of structures
  • Aluminium sections of inadequate load bearing capacity being used for rooftop installation
  • Rusting of fasteners and the threading of the bolts being worn off
  • Nut bolts mounting the module to the structure are found loose
  • Necessary grade of fasteners not being used

Inverter:

  • Central Inverters not maintained properly.Layers of dust are found inside the equipment
  • Inadequate equipment earthing

Trench:

  • Route markers essential to identify cable routing missing
  • Inconsistent depth of trench in reference with design drawings
  • Bricks, safety tapes, non-rocky sands missing in the trenches
  • Mixing of AC cables along with communication and DC cables in the same trench

Grounding:

  • Shearing of the bonding between the earth strip and the earth rod 
  • Structure grounding disconnected from the earth strip
  • Interconnected AC & DC earthing
  • Post installation verification of earth resistance values not carried out

Cables:

  • Cables missing proper tagging/ferruling making it difficult to trace the cables during fault finding
  • Improper crimping of lugs at the equipment
  • Cable insulation is not tested post installation to find if any damage took place done during laying of cables. This results in faults occurring in the system
  • Use of inferior quality cable

Civil works:

  • Due to the use of local and un-skilled workers site, there were several issues with the civil works of control room, equipment foundations, peripheral walls etc
  • Proper compacting of the ground not being carried out causes the building or equipment to tilt post the monsoon 
  • High speed winds damaging doors and causing street lights to fall

O&M:

  • It is a common notion by several clients that cleaning modules regularly is the sole O&M practise to be carried out
  • Preventive and predictive maintenance activities of equipment’s are hardly carried out
  • No proper record of spare parts consumption, fault analysis, grid shutdown are found
  • Personnel’s on site are not given professional training to handle the equipment and safety procedures to be followed

These observations are not the findings of an individual project. These are common observations made by our site team; learnings of which are to be shared with everyone in our industry. The future holds in store for us an utopia where we successfully execute long term power purchase rates cheaper than conventional thermal power or be left with a graveyard of Megawatts of under-performing, inferior quality solar power plants.

To counteract aggressive bidding by cutting corners for small savings, will always be met with a negative impact on the project. The solar projects will not be able to withstand 25years of working life cycle if we compromise on the material and workmanship quality.

Credits: Mr. Uday Doshi (Founder),Excelsior Engineering Solutions

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