At first glance, such an ambitious project may seem little daunting. Even in the best of times, scaling up that much PV capacity would be a herculean feat. However, upon closer inspection, the nation’s energy goals might not be as unachievable as they seem:
– India currently receives an average of 4 to 7 kWh per square meter of solar radiation daily, which translates to 5 quadrillion kWh of clean energy potential annually.
– The country is already proven itself a leader in solar development, having achieved its previous 2022 target of 20 GW – a full 4 years earlier than expected.
In overcoming pandemic-related challenges, however, India hopes to leverage a host of current and emerging technologies. And if successful, the nation could establish a solar template for others to follow.
Looking at Technology to Unlock the Sun’s Potential
Managing large-scale solar facilities has always been a complex process. Although PV technology is itself resilient – with no moving parts – there are millions of interrelated electrical components. And as the size of the facility increases, so do the maintenance and repair requirements. This explains why having “boots on the ground” is often mandatory. You need on-site technicians to monitor and service solar PV assets. The same is true for site selection, with survey teams needing to be physically present to conduct everything from geological studies to environmental impact reports.
COVID-19, however, has made this type of access difficult – creating hurdles for solar project developers and site managers throughout India and across the world. Faced with these challenges, the solar industry is now exploring how digital tools can help them unlock more of the sun’s potential – even with lockdown restrictions in place.
Although still in the early days of this digital transformation, below are some of the more promising trends worth to look at :
Fading are the days when on-ground manpower is necessary to survey and monitor solar PV facilities. Cutting-edge technologies like terrain analytics platform will aid
teams to quickly and accurately conduct site analyses without having to commit costly personnel to restricted areas. And now with the help of drone thermography, teams can also remotely identify “hotspots” in underperforming PV modules that require immediate intervention.
3-D Modeling Software
3-D modeling software is playing an increasing role in project development, with construction teams able to map out different “digital” configurations before spending on actual construction. Add to this the growing pool of integrated monitoring and management tools that allow project developers to closely track progress once construction finally does begin.
Software as a Service (SaaS) in Solar
A wave of new SaaS companies are now helping solar stakeholders with everything from data analytics to site security to equipment monitoring to sales. Providers like SenseHawk have adopted artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help independent energy producers and solar construction companies make automated real-time decision normally left to human actors.
In addition to being cheaper than using local servers and bespoke software, these scalable cloud-based solutions also benefit from real-time updates and anytime-
anywhere access (provided you have an Internet connection). Moreover, this SaaS model is also gaining traction in the B2C market, with residential solar customers able to monitor, customize, and control their PV systems from browsers or smart devices.
Although certainly not a new technology, electronic task management is helping to simplify a range of time-consuming tasks – from scheduling to equipment maintenance to quality control – all without involving paper.
This trend is happening across all industries, and solar is no exception. With the help of paperless management system specifically designed to help PV plant operators, they can manage the overwhelming number of schematics, technical manuals, warranty certifications, and other digital documents required to run large-scale solar facilities.
Aside from being cheaper and more efficient, electronic file management should be a prerequisite for any company in the business of “sustainability.”
India imports roughly 85% of its solar cells and modules from nearby China. However, Prime Minister Modi has recently committed the country to producing 36 GW of solar components domestically within next 3 years. Moreover, this lateral shift isn’t limited to physical hardware. For although many of the technologies outlined so far are being developed outside of India, the country has enough in-house IT talent to quickly close the gap if early successes generate enough interest.
A large company has already committed to a $6 billion manufacturing deal with the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI). And more investment will likely follow if India continues to focus on cultivating local talent and building more pandemic-resistant supply chains.
Demystifying the future
Across the globe, solar project developers and facility managers are switching to digital tools simply out of necessity. Doing so is often the only way to perform essential tasks normally reserved for human actors on the ground. What developers in India and elsewhere are quickly discovering, however, is that digitization delivers unmatched improvements in efficiency – often with faster and more accurate results.
Better still, modern technology is helping to drive down development costs by eliminating the need to hire, train, and transport large teams now that many critical tasks can be done remotely.
If India continues to build on these gains, it will almost certainly reach its 100 GW solar goal by 2022. And if the nation succeeds, it’s hard to imagine the global PV sector wouldn’t follow the country’s shining example.[This piece was authored by Rahul Sankhe, President & Co-founder, SenseHawk] [DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETEnergyworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETEnergyworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.]