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ACME’s Technology Evolution Has Been In Sync, And Sometimes Even A Couple Of Years Ahead Of Time: Rabindran Sundersingh, CTO (Renewables), ACME Group

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Rabindran Sundersingh, CTO (Renewables), ACME Group

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In an exclusive interview with SolarQuarter India magazine,  Rabindran Sundersingh, CTO (Renewables), ACME Group told us about how technology has evolved over the years in ACME Group and how their projects have performed technically and financially. He also told us about the latest technologies available today to improve project designing and planning along with the technical proficiency that can provide a balance between performance and cost. 

How has the role of technology evolved in ACME Solar in the last few years?

Interestingly, ACME Solar has always been a tech-savvy company. In fact, technology is in the DNA of the Organisation. True to its logo “Leading through Innovation”, the Company is ever keen to adopt new technology well before its peers. Over the years, there have been many successful early adoptions of technology even in diverse areas far away from the core Solar business. Till today, technological advancement for the company and the country remains a primary objective of the Promoter.

In today’s fast-changing world, this approach has thrown up a number of opportunities. The global response to the threat of Climate change has fast-tracked technologies in myriad areas like RE, EV, energy storage, green hydrogen, green ammonia, fossil-fuel substitution, and Greening of the grid. Governments around the world have also responded to the challenge by providing Regulatory support, developing new Policies, rolling out support schemes like PLI, imposing a Carbon tax, etc, to name a few. ACME’s technology evolution has been in synch, and sometimes even a couple of years ahead of time. For example, the pilot integrated green ammonia project was commissioned in December last year, paving the way for the development of a 1.2 MTPA green ammonia project in Oman. 

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In keeping with this awesome DNA, we are in constant discussion with technology institutions and innovators across the globe to develop more such pilots.

What are some latest technologies available today to improve project designing and planning?

These days, multiple design tools are available. Software is available for site selection across multiple geographies. Once a site is selected, drone-based surveys enable a quick design of the Layout as well as a good estimation of grading costs. 

New software is available now for automation of the plant design. Today’s design engineer has to choose between so many modules, each with a different rating and IV characteristic. Trackers too come in multiple options and lengths. Adding the usual possible variations of MMS height, pitch, and DCAC ratio, the designer must choose one design out of hundreds of options.  The automated design software permits the design engineer to literally create dozens of Layouts and AC / DC / Civil BoQs in a matter of a few days. This is an important tool, enabling a quick determination of LCOE for each of the design options, and in arriving at the best LCOE. 

Other software/studies like Ray-tracing for Bifacial applications, CFD analysis, Electrical grid stability analysis, and Wind-tunnel simulation all have become mainstream.

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How to provide technical proficiency in designing & constructing large-scale plants for maintaining a balance between performance and cost?

Solar plants are getting designed for 25 years of life, and sometimes for 30 years. The focus is necessarily on ensuring the Reliability of modules, trackers, and inverters. When choosing between the offerings of multiple manufacturers, it is the reliability testing that ensures the successful life of the project. Therefore, the cost and time for testing are well spent. However, in other aspects of plant design, cost remains a dominant factor, especially in today’s low-margin high project risk environment. Luckily there are enough avenues for the creative engineer to reduce costs and maximize revenue without resorting to cost-cutting compromises.

How have your projects performed in 2021, financially and technically, especially with the Covid crisis?

Our O&M Projects have performed well in terms of reliable operation and revenue realization. We have several large projects under execution, and these have been hampered by the on-off situation with respect to the covid waves. Despite this, and with the active support of authorities, we have made good progress on the ground. We have recently commissioned our 5MW integrated green ammonia project as well.

What technological trends do you think we will see in India in 2022?

This year, one can expect to see Hydrogen Electrolysers coming to the market in a big way. Improvements are expected in the conversion efficiency (kWh/kg H2), current density, and expected life. The differentiating factors will be scalability, cost, and supply chain security (in terms of use of more commonly available raw material). 

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Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia are already getting a big push through the National Hydrogen Policy released by GoI. It is expected that many new ventures will be announced in the coming months leveraging the best RE sites and nearby infrastructure facilities for handling hydrogen and ammonia.

Non-lithium-based battery technologies, for example, Sodium-ion are expected to become commercially viable. Advances in battery storage (both EV and stationary) can be expected with support from Government Policy and Regulatory initiatives.

In the Solar PV sector, both Bifacial modules and Trackers have become mainstream and one will see a significant increase in their utilization.

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