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Digitalising The System Will Help Utility Scale Solar – EQ Mag Pro

Digitalising The System Will Help Utility Scale Solar – EQ Mag Pro


The webinar was held by EQ Magazine Pro on 25th May 2022, powered by SINENG Electric. In this webinar, panelists talked about inverters pricing, demand, supply, technology and roadmap of utility scale solar. It was moderated by Mr Abhilakh Singh, Sr. Associate, NSEFI.

Mr Arun Chaudhary, Sales Head, India, Sineng Electric Company Limited put his views in front of the panelists. He said, “The industry has gone really far from 1996 to 2022. In 2010, the total installed capacity in India was around 120 megawatt which was a substantial capacity. The total solar capacity which can be installed in India is around 950 or 970 gigawatt. Nowadays, we are seeing a lot of changes in inverter technology. With time, the size of the inverter also becomes compact. They have much more refined designs than before. We are doing a lot of optimization, thanks to the R&D teams of the various industries, they are supporting us a lot. In the near future, we are going to see big size inverters in central and string inverters. We are coming up with a new inverter of 320 kilowatt and 6.25 megawatt central inverter. This is how the industries are involved. In the near future, there could be changes in terms of a DC voltage. Earlier, we saw 1000 volt technologies, now we are witnessing 1500 volt technologies And soon we are going to witness 1800 volt and 2000 volt which would be a very good advantage for IPP and EPC players in India.”

Mr Srinivas Popuri, Vice President, Group Quality, Greenko Energies Private Limited said, “We are developers and into large scale utilities. For us it is very important that our solar powers get the best inverter in the market. We already have installed central inverters as well as string inverters. We have seen that the performance is almost the same in both types. We are going to install a very large scale project in solar. The technology has improved a lot and a lot of advancement has gone into the inverter. Both central and string inverters have got their own advantages. I would be looking at the reliability and quality of these inverters and for me getting confidence in reliability is more important. The IEC has got standard features and is confident that if the manufacturer confirms to all these standards we will be getting the delivery of a reliable quality product. We generally follow IEC & IE standards for tests but some of the inverter manufacturers ignore this a lot, especially such as heat run tests. One of the major concerns that we have is the grounding at the DC input cabinet or the main cabinet or AC output cabinet. These are some of the things which generally the manufacturers ignore. There are few more things like the grid production function tests. These are various scenarios in which you would like to see how the inverter performs, especially when we are having such large scale utilities.”

Mr Sarvesh Singh, Head, SCM, Azure Power put his thoughts in front of the panelists. He said, “We have a large base of installation. Earlier it was mostly central inverters but now in the last 2 years we have installed more than 900 megawatt of string inverters out of 1200 Megawatt of install capacity. When we decided to move on from central to sting there were a few specific reasons to take a call because the delta price of this system was higher than the benefits we were getting from the string inverters in the terms of costing. However, when we discussed there were certain benefits going ahead with the string inverters like efficiency, losses and ease of installation. In case of a central inverter, if there is a fault you lose a large capacity of generation whereas in case of string inverters it is smaller capacity. The replacement time is also quite less as the other side pointed out that the cost of the inverter in the total project costs approximately 3% to 4% but it’s basically the heart of the solar plant. The efficiency and performance of inverters largely reflect in your generation numbers as well as in your revenue.”

Mr Sudhir Pathak, Head, Central Design & Engg (CDE), Hero Future Energies said, “The solar business, what I perceived as of now, has become commodity business. Since, we have a lot of manufacturers on board which means we have a lot of choices to pick and choose. So, fundamentally it has become a commodity business. The module technologies are still growing. The module size and rating from polycrystalline, gradually it became monocrystalline. Now, in future it can become a heterojunction. So, fundamentally modules are the heart and inverters are the brain of the plant. So, the brain should always be equipped whether it is ageing or it is new, it has to always be able to control the complete system to make the overall body healthy. The cost pricing is coming down and the advantage we have with string inverters is humongous as compared to the central inverter. The only challenge is, in this commodity date, is obsolescence. First of all it is a commodity, second thing is that still the technology of the modules is changing from 1000 volt to 1500 volt, tomorrow it might be 2000 volt, even the modules itself are changing, whether my present inverter is suitable for tomorrow. We ourselves face this issue with central inverters where we are scouting for the people who can provide us the inverter retrofit for the 1000 volt system.

We found only one which became the supplier market. Second thing is MTTR and MTBF, ‘mean time to repair’ and ‘mean time between failures’. This is a fundamental issue which is going to happen even from the operations perspective because whenever we tie up with any inverter manufacturer, they should ensure that they keep things in stock, they have their services in the vicinity of the plants so they can immediately repair. They keep their stock even if they are going to make it obsolete. They keep those important stocks for the future. This is as far as the running assets are concerned. As we move ahead, the market will never be like this because solar is going to change its shape and size like a solar wind hybrid, it is already happening. Now, inverters have to be adaptable. From a storage perspective, there should be a fleet of inverters which are hybrid type, which can seamlessly connect to the battery systems which are coming up. Regarding the green hydrogen part, since the electrolysis are DC inputs, we will gradually see a lot of DC to DC converters come into the picture where we can directly connect with the electrolyzer from the solar modules. One very important part which I want to connect it with from the telecom industry, we are moving towards 5G and then towards 6G. With 4G, we have 20-30 mbps, with 5G it is going to be 20 gbps. If you see the progress in our solar industry, the sizes are now the plot size, the complete plant size is now a minimum 250mW which means huge area, many components. It is humanly not possible to analyze troubleshooting with this kind of competitive market where we win the tenders at very low tariff. So, our revenue depends upon the future operations. If we are very smart in operating by digitizing our complete system.”

Mr C Chaudhary, COO, Amp Energy India put his views in front of the panelists and said, “In inverter technology, advancements have happened in the last 5 years, drastically. People have gone up to 5 megawatt in the central inverters and in string, up to 250 kW from 90 kW. In terms of pricing, it has also dropped significantly. In 2010, the prices were around 60-70 lakh but now it’s just 10-12 lakhs. It has happened both in utility and CNI business, because demand in India is increasing. There are a lot of manufacturers who entered into the Indian business and they have drastically reduced the price while following ‘Make In India’. While buying inverters in India, one can definitely get benefits from the duty. There was tremendous pressure because of the COVID-19 and a lot of shipment was taken to China, due to which we were not able to commission the projects on time. If people will come and invest in India, particularly in the inverter and module segment, we will get the extra benefit of reduced time taken to commission any project.”

Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network