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In an interesting conversation with SolarQuarter India, Mr. Rohit Jaswal – Regional Manager–Operations & Maintenance (India) at Cleantech Solar spoke about the challenges faced as a rooftop developer and new technologies adopted by the company to improve asset performance. Moreover, he shared his inputs on what initiatives the company would like to see from the government to develop the rooftop solar market in India.
How have things been at your company overall in the pandemic scenario?
Overall, I think the impact of the pandemic has been felt by the entire industry. However, as far as Cleantech Solar is concerned, we have seen a lower impact owing to our diversified portfolio across 7 countries. Most of our systems in Southeast Asia were not impacted much. In India, we had an impact on revenue during the first lockdown. However, it was covered under force majeure events and net metering. After the first lockdown, the situation has improved.
What changes/initiatives would you like to see from the government front to higher impetus to rooftop solar?
I think one of the major obstructions to the uptake of rooftop solar is the policy. Policy makers should modify the regulations pertaining to net-metering. An example of the modification could be the removal of capacity limit, which would attract not only existing customers but also encourage new customers to switch to rooftop solar power. Ideally, all states should have the same policy for rooftop solar. However, if that is not possible, there should be a single platform for the entire process of obtaining approvals for rooftop solar, which would not only ease the burden on regulatory bodies but will also ease the process of building rooftop solar projects for developers.
What have been some new technologies that your company has been working on recently?
At Cleantech Solar, we focus on providing best-in-class service to our customers by employing latest technology and industry best practices. Accordingly, we have developed an in-house data analytics team, which gathers data from third party providers and uses it to extract important information to check the performance of PV systems quickly and efficiently. We have been working on live alarms from the sites in case of a breakdown and these alerts can be sent via email, phones or groups on messaging applications etc. Further, we have developed our own ticket management system, wherein data from our entire portfolio is refined to generate meaningful information. Cleantech Solar has a live dashboard that helps in identifying issues with one glance, improving the efficiency of asset managers. To add to this, we have also been working on the deployment of bifacial modules in one of our solar parks, which will help us in evaluating the difference between the efficiency of bifacial and monofacial modules.
What are some challenges being faced by you as a rooftop developer?
I think managing a distributed portfolio of rooftop PV systems well can be quite challenging. Below are a few of the challenges we face as developers:
- One of the key challenges is resource management since it is not economically viable to place a dedicated resource for each solar plant. We must apply a cluster-based approach, wherein a cluster of projects is managed by one team. We have identified different clusters in all the states and thus far, the cluster-based approach has been effective.
- Obtaining a skilled workforce in remote areas is a challenge since working at heights is a high-risk activity requiring specific ‘work at height’ training. We have developed skill development programs and every worker who joins us for any project undergoes mandatory work at height training and safety induction.
- Monitoring of hundreds of rooftops requires a robust monitoring platform. Cleantech Solar uses one of the best hardware systems to ensure the longevity of monitoring systems and in a few areas where the network connectivity is not optimal, we have implemented the M2M solution as it can work in remote areas with 2G availability as well.
- With the weather patterns being uncertain for the last few years, it is imperative to build high-quality PV systems to avoid issues related to poor workmanship, equipment failure, and the like, which are bound to crop up during operations, thereby affecting the rate of return adversely. Cleantech Solar has been working towards ensuring the delivery of high-quality systems to our customers by using only Tier-1 equipment and maintaining high standards of workmanship through continuous supervision and process improvement.