12 Apr, 2011
Solar Power Plants have mushroomed in different parts of the world as Global Solar Demand has increased by more than 150% in 2010.Solar
Power Plants built on the Ground differ from that put on the Roofs of Houses as they require to go through feasibility,environmental assessment, grid connection, siting etc. which is typical for a large industrial project.
The time taken to build a solar power plant project is also much more than a rooftop residential solar installation.Solar Farms are being mainly being built in countries which have subsidy program like tax rebates,feed in tariffs etc.
However building a solar plant has become quite easy unlike in the past as solar panel, solar inverters and installation expertise is more easily available.
The regulations and permits for building a solar plant or a solar farm on the other hand differ from country to country and region to region depending on federal and state laws.
For a Large Solar Plant like the Aqua Caliente,there are a number of permitting steps that have to be passed before the plant can be built.For smaller power plants in the 5 MW range the requirements are less.In general the smaller the size of the solar installation,the lower the number of regulations required.
Here are the steps required in building a Solar Power Plant
1) Site Identification – Identifying a Suitable Site for Building the Solar Plant.Note the Area should not be heavily forested and have easy access to the Roads and the Power Grid.
2) Preliminary Financial Analysis – Preliminary Financial Feasibility with inputs like the Land Costs,Solar Insolation,Interconnection possibility with the Power Grid Operator
3) Land Leasing or Buying – After Step 2 has passed,then begins the Acquisition of the Land through Lease or Ownership.
4) Basic Engineering Design/Technology Selection – An Engineering Layout is prepared along with the Selection of the Technology and Vendors of Solar Equipment
5) Permitting – Various Permitting Procedures need to be followed in this Step.This is specific to an Area and can be quite cumbersome.For eg. in the USA the permitting involves very heavy costs forming almost 15-20% of the cost of a Solar Project.
6) Power Purchase Agreement – A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) needs to be signed with the Power Utility who will buy the Electricity
7) Selection of EPC – A System Integrator or a Solar EPC Contractor is selected. In case an EPC Contractor is selected then Solar Panels , Mounting and Inverters needs to be purchased if the Contract is not a Turnkey One
8) Financing of the Solar Project needs to be done.Note Solar Power Plants require a high initial investment with very low O&M costs.In general 60-80% of the Project is Debt Financed.
9) Testing and Connection to Grid –
After the Solar Plants is built,Testing of the Plant has to be done before it is connected to the Power Grid
10) Ongoing O&M – A Solar Plant has a life of between 25-30 years and requires minimal maintenance and monitoring.
Solar Inverters have to be replace after 10-15 years.
In case a Solar Module fails,it needs to be replaced as well as it degrades the performance of other Solar Panels. Note the Above Steps are a basic procedure for a Solar Power Project.It can be further be refined into more steps.
building a Solar Power Plant requiresProject Management skills typical of an industrial project with some unique characteristics.
The above steps are a simlistic procedure of a how to go about building a solar power plant.
The process in fact requires more detail and solid execution skills.A Solar Plant can be built in 3 months to 2 years depending on the expertise and the permitting required.
Note building a Solar Thermal Plant is much more time consuming typcially taking between 3-5 years.