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You Are Probably Designing Your Solar Site Wrong, And This Is Why

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The solar industry is no longer the ‘new kid on the block’.

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Solar energy is one of the leading renewable sources in the world. Today, as solar becomes more accessible and cost-effective reaching grid parity, it’s no longer a question of if we should invest in solar power but rather how can we optimize its performance, reduce costs, and ensure stability and accessibility. 

With more energy players entering the renewables territory switching from fuel and gas to green energy such as solar, the industry is entering a new era. While solar tariffs are getting lower by the year and governments are no longer giving away subsidiaries, we see energy players struggling to keep a solar project profitable.  

Clearly, the economic repercussions of each phase in a solar project are massive, however, one of the most overlooked phases is the designing stage. 

While most site owners make sure that the design of a solar site will meet regulations, accessibility and optimal radiation capabilities, other elements that do not have an immediate effect on the project are often neglected. Operations and Maintenance (O&M) is without any doubt the leading one. 

Most site developers are mistaking O&M for a field practice focused on replacing worn parts, making sure the site will look and run smoothly. Sure, that is definitely one of the key factors of this discipline, however as the solar industry deepens its understanding of photovoltaic energy, we see just how much O&M has a direct impact on the site’s profitability. 

Take for instance soiling, one of the crucial aspects preventing solar sites to reach optimal energy production. If soiling implications would be considered during the design phase, calculating cleaning costs and factoring cleaning solutions that would have a huge impact on the site’s energy production over the years, sometimes even up to 35%-40%.

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If during the design phase a site owner would look over the ramifications of selecting the appropriate cleaning solution, taking into consideration all relevant factors that have an important bearing on the site for the entire PPA lifetime, then a significant amount of unnecessary future costs could be prevented right from the start. 

For instance, you could minimize the gaps needed for pathways for large cleaning vehicles such as cleaning tractors while maximizing the landscape utilization to increase production capabilities.  

Unfortunately, the fact is, that O&M  is not sufficiently considered during the designing phase. 

While we understand now just how important it is to include and calculate O&M in the designing stage, the question remains – how can we make sure that we factor in all the relevant aspects that can interfere with the site’s profitability?  

Let’s first assume that we can never always calculate and predict everything. Even if we consider the majority of the factors, developers do not necessarily have the proper resources to analyze and calculate all the possibilities the market has to offer in automized O&M.  

So, what can you do to ensure the proper measurements are being done? 

First, make sure O&M aspects are considered by the EPC, and that they have an understanding of the different factors impacting the site in the long run – during its 25 years lifetime. 

In many cases, the EPC tends to see short-term for the first 2-5 years of the project only, as later on the O&M will be handed over to a third party. 

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This is the reason that large energy players now choose their cleaning vendor themselves and engage with them directly for the 25 years duration. 

This way the site owners can enjoy the optimal production long after the EPC is out of the picture, regardless of any O&M vendor selected.

With that in mind, Covid 19 brought to the solar industry’s attention the importance of ensuring your site can be managed and maintained remotely. Especially due to multiple lockdowns and travel restrictions in the past year, robotic cleaning gained tremendous traction tilting the scale towards automized O&M. Robotic cleaning provides both effective and cost-effective cleaning, but most important – it is consistent and ensures the same level of cleaning throughout the entire site lifetime, no risk of abrasion to panels or hotspots created in sections that are not properly cleaned over time. Needless to say, they are not impacted by any lockdown or external restrictions.

Today as solar sites turn from MWs to GWs, we see robots are the only solution that is capable to cope with the mass, cleaning large scale installation.

The most important element when choosing your cleaning vendor is to make sure it is safe and reliable, using high-quality components and equipment makes sure that the cleaning operation has no risk of damaging the modules or structure ensuring a smooth and frequent operation. It is always preferable to be working with a vendor that has experience in different continents, understanding different O&M challenges and different landscapes and geographies has to offer. 

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Unparalleled experience, unmatched reliability 

With over 3GW of fully operational projects across 4 continents and almost a decade of proven experience, Ecoppia has been one of the vital pillars of the solar revolution. Ecoppia’s versatile portfolio of solutions allows site owners peace of mind throughout the entire project lifetime. All robotic cleaning solutions are fully autonomous, water-free, low maintenance and cloud-based, providing actual data from the site while keeping it spotless with no human interference. Tested by independent labs and proven in sites all over the world, the robots are proven not only to boost production and cut operational costs but also to remain safe on the modules for more than 25 years of daily cleaning.

Ecoppia’s sophisticated robotic cleaning solutions are ideally designed for large-scale ground-mounted installations, located in dry and arid areas, keeping them clean and safe, at year-round peak performance.

Leading energy companies working with Ecoppia such as Engie, AES, EDF, Fortum and others, are now able to hold up to their environmental goals and social responsibilities, achieving zero water waste, scalability, and ROI growth.

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