IBC SOLAR AG, a global leader in photovoltaic systems, has finished the construction of a 5.5 MWp photovoltaic (PV) plant in Bhadla, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Bhadla marks the first megawatt plant in India that the company realized as a full-service EPC contractor (engineering, procurement, construction) in cooperation with its Indian subsidiary. Being responsible for the overall project management, IBC SOLAR successfully managed the challenging topographic conditions and ensured continuous quality control.
Rajasthan is one of the federal states with the highest installed solar capacity in India and pursues a dedicated construction policy. The 5.5 MWp plant in Bhadla is part of a huge PV installation area with several PV power plants currently under construction near the Pakistanian border in the middle of the desert. The installation area has its own high-voltage grid substation constituted on behalf of the federal government of Rajasthan. IBC SOLAR successfully finished its project by connecting the plant to the public grid in August – in fact, IBC SOLAR’s PV power plant has been the second project within the whole PV construction area that has been grid-connected successfully.
India: Topographically Challenging
The arid landscape made project execution a logistically and topographically demanding task. The next available connection to public train transportation is more than one hour’s drive away, the next airport almost a four hour’s drive. Due to bad road conditions and thus a high risk of damages, IBC SOLAR decided to transport the modules in containers from the harbour in Mumbai to the construction site near Bhadla. Another challenge was related to civil works and construction requirements. The soil on the construction site consisted of a 3 meter top layer of loose sand, which at first had to be levelled and freed from vegetation by local farmers. Secondly, IBC SOLAR implemented a detailed analysis of the soil conditions and executed a series of on-site tests with different foundations, such as ramming or piling. In a third step, IBC SOLAR decided to use special, so called under-reamed foundations to fit the needs of the loose soil and to create more stability against wind loads. To counter the increased costs caused by the special foundations, modules have been mounted four-row horizontally so that fewer rows are needed which reduces the necessary foundation.
Next to special foundations the engineering team decided to use decentralized string inverters. Main reason for preferring string inverters to centralized inverters was the fact, that they can be easily repaired or replaced in case of damages. This makes operation and maintenance services much easier on the one hand and on the other hand minimize the time and costs of down times in energy production. Furthermore, the special design of the string inverters allows making use of the installation’s shade and protecting components from sand and heat.
To meet highest quality standards with regards to the components and the demanding pricing requirements, the Indian investor consciously opted for branded IBC PolySol modules. Thanks to in-house stringent quality assurance IBC SOLAR is able to provide long-term product and plant performance guarantees.
Success Through Local Based Subsidiary
“The EPC project in Bhadla was a huge success for IBC SOLAR and its subsidiary”, concludes Reinhard Ling, Business Manager at IBC SOLAR Projects Private Ltd. in Mumbai. “We worked closely together with local workers and specialists realizing a tailor-made PV construction and thereby meeting all special and price requirements. Our goal was not only to deliver high quality components and German engineering standards, but also to ensure an effective transfer of knowledge, which is especially important in emerging markets like India. In the end, we can guarantee a maximum performance ratio and a quick return on investment for the investor.”
Successfully performing as a full-service EPC contractor has been the outcome of IBC SOLAR’s former activities in India. Reinhard Ling. “In India, we have already overcome a steep learning curve, especially as far as the business culture is concerned. It is particularly important to develop a relationship based on mutual trust with partners in this country which allows you to understand their mentality and also involves having a great deal of patience. India always makes its presence felt upon entering the PV market. We have discovered that the process of exchanging knowledge and expertise also plays an important role in this country, especially when it comes to the part of system construction. As a result of our experience in India since 2008, we know all too well about the special climatic requirements of PV power plants in India. With the foundation of our Indian subsidiary, we achieve high flexibility and control over local content regulations. We guarantee NSM-conform planning and construction following the highest German engineering and product standards.”
Securing the Investment: Operation and Maintenance
The Bangalore branch of TUV Rheinland certificated the plant according to the international standard IEC62446. IBC SOLAR also commissioned an independent yield assessment and further evaluations of international norms concerning low voltage, electrical security and the safety of the PV modules. Thereby, the company sustainably ensures the plant’s best possible outcome and maximum security: The independent report offers additional security for both the investor and the EPC contractor.
To gain high profits in the long-term over the entire service life of the plant of 20 years or longer, it is absolutely vital to ensure that the PV plant continues to deliver a high performance. Therefore it is advisable for investors not only to focus on short-term profits, but instead to look at generating long-term IRR. This also involves ensuring the long-term performance of the plant under the extreme climatic conditions – only plants that are kept running at all times offer the investor the desired profitability. This can only be guaranteed with operation and maintenance (O&M) agreements. IBC SOLAR, for example, offers continuous plant supervision and evaluations. Reinhard Ling: “This enables us to identify problems at any time and to quickly recognise and eliminate errors. We also rely on staff that are directly on-site and are able to repair or replace faulty components quickly. O&M is not yet widespread in India, but should definitely be taken into consideration by investors!”
This article is authored by Reinhard Ling, Business Manager at IBC SOLAR Projects Private Ltd.