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MENA’s Largest C & I Project: An O & M Challenge

MENA’s Largest C & I Project: An O & M Challenge


Pv magazine recently caught up with Stefanos Lialios, Head of Project Execution at Phanes Group. Established in 2012, Phanes Group is an international solar energy developer, investment and asset manager, strategically headquartered in Dubai, UAE. Together with its asset construction division, Oryx Solar System Solutions LLC (Oryx), the group is delivering the Middle East’s largest distributed solar project (DP World Solar Power Programme). Lialios updated pv magazine on the challenges faced in building and operating the landmark project and finding the right equipment and solutions to address these challenges.

Oryx overlooks the entire Engineering, Procurement, and Construction Management (EPCM) process from inception to completion, for all of Phanes Group’s projects. The group has a growing portfolio of solar investments and developments spanning multiple geographies, with a distinct focus on emerging markets, especially MENA and sub-Saharan Africa. Lialios mentions a total of fourteen countries the company is active in and in many of these markets both Phanes Group and its EPCM division are paving new ground with their innovative solar PV projects.

One of these innovative projects is the massive 23.2 MW rooftop project for the international port operator DP World in Dubai. Phase I of this project involves the installation of 88,000 photovoltaic modules, which will supply enough electricity to power 3,000 households. With its solar program, DP World is making a significant contribution to the increased adoption of clean energy in Dubai under the “Shams Dubai” initiative.

According to Lialios, 95 percent of this Phase I project has been completed and one of the challenges facing construction crews is the extreme heat at the construction site, especially during summer. Temperatures can reach up to 70 degrees Celsius, making very robust and capable cooling technology in the string inverters a must. Oryx initially deployed inverters with active fan-based cooling for the DP World project, but O & M became challenging with hundreds of fans needing to be either cleaned or replaced. This O & M constraint can be overcome with Huawei’s inverters, which do not use fans and utilize natural cooling to keep the inverters from heating up.

Of course, even inverters using natural or passive cooling can fail, but in the case of Huawei, Lialios is very impressed by their after-sales service. He recounts one incident at the DP World project, where Huawei delivered a replacement inverter just one day after one of its inverters seized operating. As Lialios sums up: “Their string inverters are easy to install, and Huawei offers a very strong after-sales service. If an inverter needs to be replaced, they come the next day.”

Another big challenge in desert environments like those faced at the DP World site is extreme soiling, especially after sand storms. As Lialios points out, the DP World site has a soling rate of 0.3 to 0.4 percent per day and this very high rate poses a major challenge for both the inverters and the panels. His goal is to keep soiling below 2 percent at DP World, since rates above this threshold result in a yield decrease of eight to ten percent.

Since the housing of Huawei’s string inverters is completely sealed with no openings required for a fan unit or display panel, extreme soiling and sand storms will not impact the performance of the inverters. On the module side, Lialios uses both dry and wet cleaning, since just doing dry brush cleaning will not remove all the soiling left on the solar arrays. Furthermore, cleaning routines involve both scheduled and unscheduled procedures, with the latter being required after sand storms impact the plant.

All in all, the DP World Solar Power Programme shows the impact the right selection of PV components and O & M routines can have on the bottom line. If the wrong inverters are selected or soiling is not addressed in a comprehensive manner, yields can plummet by a double-digit rate, leaving the return on investment far lower than anticipated.

Source: PV Magazine


Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network