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TotalEnergies Renewables DG APAC Is Focused On Developing And Implementing DG Solar Projects Across APAC: Sanoj James, Head Engineering, Total Solar Distributed Generation (SEA)

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Sanoj James - Head Engineering, Total Solar Distributed Generation (SEA)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Conversation Highlights:

pixon
  • Our portfolio covers a wide range from – Roof Top, Ground mount, off-grid systems, floating, etc
  • It is not just energy savings but we also provide reactive power compensation to reduce customer charges as part of our PV projects.
  • We have developed with our partners a robust platform for monitoring our assets and analytics tools that help us, deep dive, into the plant performance and take timely remedial measures in order to ensure the plant performs to design.

Let’s begin with a glimpse of your company’s presence and offerings in the South East Asia region. 

TotalEnergies Renewables DG APAC– short for Distributed Generation is focused on developing and implementing DG Solar projects across APAC. We set up DG projects across a wide range of customers and topologies. Some of our most interesting ones are a 25MW project for the food & beverage industry, around 10MW for a footwear manufacturer, and about 10MW for the automotive industry, including several major similar projects. We also provide off-grid solutions comprising a battery, PV, and DG for a reputed FMCG major in the region. The portfolio covers a wide range from – Roof Top, Ground mount, off-grid systems, floating, etc. It is not just energy savings but we also provide reactive power compensation to reduce customer charges as part of our PV projects.

Please tell our readers about how you started your journey in the Solar industry and how has the journey been so far. 

My first foray into the solar PV industry was developing manufacturing lines for Thin Film ASi modules. It was an interesting start when silicon prices were around 380$/Kg and module efficiencies or 10% and USD 1/Wp were targets. Later I moved on to join a reputed global EPC building PV projects across SEA. Was involved in Engineering and O&M of PV plants across various geographies. During the period 2010 to 2020 designed and maintained PV projects from a few KW to 100+MWp in a wide geography from Egypt to the Philippines.

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When it comes to solar asset management, what are the steps taken by the O&M team to increase performance while improving the lifecycle of the project?

As for performance improvement, it’s not just the O&M phase but it starts with conceptualization and goes on to the asset management phase. There is no one size fits all philosophy. But some of the key considerations are:

-Accounting for the ambient conditions of weather – wind, temperature, dust levels, lightning….

-Ensuring design to meet the required electrical parameters of interconnection – Voltage, frequency….

-Creating an asset management plan in line with the project:

1.Cleaning frequency to be adjusted in line with the actual soiling rates. The issue of a longer cleaning period is not just higher soiling loss but also the dust becoming resistant due to lack of cleaning on longer time leading to damages to module surface.

2.Checking the system components

Cabling

Module – I/V curve, Thermography.

Electrical distribution panel

Earthing.

3.A robust monitoring and analytics platform is key to effective management. We have developed with our partners a robust platform for monitoring our assets and analytics tools that help us, deep dive, into the plant performance and take timely remedial measures in order to ensure the plant performs to design.

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4. On a side note – we own and operate our assets in the long term at TotalEnergies so any non-performance has an adverse impact on our financials and this puts additional significance on our asset management tool.

What major tech trends do you see shaping the future of the solar sector in the near future? 

The trend for PV can come from multiple areas. To me, the first changes we will see would be wrt to modules moving towards the N-type potentially in the next year thus increasing the overall yield.

Flexible PV modules and BIPV would also evolve over time. Though may not be the next 2-year target but for sure in the next 8 to 10 years.

Energy storage clubbed with PV would be another trend that we see. The world of storage may see a significant evolution in terms of distributed storage with prices dropping.

But another significant change I envision is the potential for grid-based storage where the storage source would be available on a lease model in local grids. The generator would have the option to store the excess energy on this storage and draw as required. This might mean some changes to the grid regulation. But I see a potential for this to evolve a lot as this means the storage cost could be optimized by sharing with other generators and having distributed generation has the added advantage of reducing the burden on the grid.

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We could also see the potential of using new revenue streams from PV as most PV inverters can provide reactive power support. The grid operator and customers can utilize this feature to reduce the reactive power demand on the grid.

What is your growth plan for the South East Asian region for the next couple of years?

Well, this is more a sales question. Coming from the technology side I cannot throw too much light on this. But I do see us coming up with new approaches to the market and diversifying to newer countries as we scale. Having said that potential YoY growth of 50% is not too off the mark. But its not for my role to define the number here.

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