Solar PV projects at utility scale are generally developed when governments or State level companies establish funds for solar energy generation. Multiple proposal methodologies are implemented depending on the jurisdiction, but in most cases, the answer tends to be an auction or tendering scheme where solar companies bid to develop a project with a specific power capacity to be connected to the grid under a power purchase agreement (PPA).
However, a project can receive multiple bid offers, not only from companies at the national level but also from companies located overseas with probably longer and better experience developing PV projects at utility scale. Therefore, it is important that your proposal stands out from the rest to have a better chance to win the project.
Detailed and innovative technical methodologies, but also economic factors will offer government or utility entities a better idea of the advantages of selecting your project proposal instead of the others. The idea is always offering the most realistic and yet innovative solution at the lowest cost. Let’s analyze some important tips that you should consider when developing your project proposal.
1. Present a 3D design-based proposal with shading analysis
The key to innovation is offering something that is very unusual and that your competitors will not offer.
One of the best ways to do this is by presenting a 3D design of your PV project. While many other developers may present 2D designs of a utility-scale project, you can stand out from the rest by presenting a unique and more realistic PV design.
Currently, there are many software applications such as Sketch Up that are available to make 3D designs. However, most of them are not intended or designed to cover specific PV projects, therefore accuracy and tools are not specifically selected to improve the performance of your PV design.
PVcase is a new PV software specially designed to help solar engineers in the process of designing a utility-scale PV system that allows the projection of a 3D model of the entire solar power plant.
What makes this software different from the others is that it allows integrating a 3D topographical layout of the terrain designed in AutoCAD. This offers the most realistic and accurate sizing of the PV plant. By presenting a project with this software you can show the most accurate calculations in materials, components and energy yields while impressing government or utility entities with the precision and aesthetics of your design.
One of the most interesting and valuable features that you can add to a utility-scale proposal is performing a detailed shading analysis that offers an accurate estimation of one of the most important factors in energy yields.
Here, there is no question that the best software for this analysis is PVsyst. The software performs the detailed near-shading and far-shading analysis that must be carried out in project proposals.
PVcase, as a software integrated to AutoCAD, can provide a precise object sizing and measurements with respect to a reference in the 3D space. Moreover, with topographical layout integration, the simulated PV plant will offer the most accurate representation of real-world conditions.
Thanks to the export tool of PVcase, you can obtain the best of both worlds as you can export the .DWG file to PVsyst to obtain accurate shadings estimations and create the perfect 3D-based proposal.
2. Develop a detailed P50/P90 analysis
PV loss factors and component selections are is very important factors. Nevertheless, the basic parameter that must be carefully evaluated is the irradiance model data.
If you are performing analysis based on inaccurate Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) and Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) values, then your PV system proposal may seem better or worse than what it should.
It is very important to spend some time selecting approved and accurate irradiance values for your PV project, but it is also important to size the PV project using P50/P90 analysis.
After all, irradiance values projected over a 25 year period can vary in real-world conditions. Therefore, despite that you have accurate model data, there can be unexpected variations in irradiation values, thus variations in energy yields.
Then, project developers should use P50/P90 analysis in applications like the System Advisor Model (SAM) from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
This financial tool allows calculating energy yields based on a probability of exceedance of irradiance values of 50% and 90%. The P90 value of DNI will be lower than the P50 value, representing a higher probability of achieving this irradiance value. SolarGIS and PVsyst also have a P50/P90 analysis option, although SAM´s version is much more intuitive
This will give more credibility to your PV project and will give investors the chance to evaluate risks and revenues of your proposal.
3. Wisely choose your PV module company
There are multiple solar panel manufacturers in the market and each year more manufacturers appear as well.
For a project developer, the heart of the PV system is the solar panel. Therefore, brand and model type must be carefully selected.
Quality during manufacturing and product warranties of the modules are important parameters to consider in the selection of PV modules as they can represent millions of dollars in investment. However, each solar panel manufacturer claims to be the best and most reliable brand, but how can you be certain?
The only way to minimize these potential risks in large projects is by trusting in an independent financial entity that certifies the quality and bankability of a brand. Today, that is possible thanks to the tiering ranking system.
Bloomberg offers the most reliable Tier 1 ranking list of the PV market where you will only find the top solar panel manufacturers in the world with the best bankability (and therefore the highest probability of covering warranties over a 25 year period).
The Tier 1 list is not free and can be expensive, but when compared to the budget that you are generally dealing with for large-scale PV projects is an investment that is worth it.
Showing to your client (government or utility) that you chose your module based on a Tier 1 list and that your proposal has the highest probabilities of getting covered on warranty during the entire lifetime of the solar power plant also gives you a competitive advantage over the rest of solar companies.
Basically, we have approached valuable tips that you must consider when developing solar PV projects for large-scale utility farms.
Using valuable software applications gives you additional tools to verify your calculations and present the information of the project in the most attractive and yet accurate way.
The solar company that combines the perfect balance between project costs, technical specs, deadlines, legal permits, experience and presentation of the utility-scale PV farm, will have a considerable advantage that will be hard to compete with. Make sure that your company is located in the list of top competitors for any large-scale PV proposal by following the simple tips that we have reviewed