Solar PV Plant Performance Increased with Retrofit Technologies

Case Study

Date:   November 2016

Maurizio Manenti,, Alectris

Maurizio Manenti, Alectris

The promise of increased performance from operational PV plants is realized by a rigorous evaluation and testing process by Alectris. Increased energy production IRRs, reduced payback and O&M service cost reductions along with increased availability and PR have all been realized with the Alectris tested suite of retrofit technology applications.

By Maurizio Manenti, Alectris Product Manager – New Technologies

The promise represents an increase in the efficiency of the world’s built solar PV systems by an average of 5% or 10%. The implications of this performance increase in the global capacity to produce renewable energy is striking.  This is the vision we set out to prove at Alectris with technologies brought to our team.

By 2040 Bloomberg foresees renewable energy will command just under 60% of the 9,786 GW of new generating capacity and two-thirds of the $12.2 trillion of investment. Solar PV is projected to fulfill 26% of the global installed capacity in 2040 (around 3.700 GWp). They estimate also the Europe PV Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) could be competitive with coal and natural gas costs soon after 2020. By increasing the efficiency and performance of older built systems, the LCOE can be driven to grid parity faster with better returns for investors and owners. Source: http://about.bnef.com/content/uploads/sites/4/2015/06/BNEF-NEO2015_Executive-summary.pdf

In general an increase of the production of solar PV systems by an average of 5% or 10, for the global installed PV power,  means greater power installed without building new facilities, to a value proportional to the increase (180-370 GW more in 2040).

Such an improvement of performance would mean:

  • For investors, an increase of the IRR on equity compared to the one estimated at the beginning and a decreased payback period
  • For banks and lenders, it would mean greater guarantees of the return of capital, increasing the DSCR and reducing the pay back.

Generally for the grid it would mean LCOE moved to grid parity faster.

solar-pv-plant-performance-increased-with-retrofit-technologies-_-alectris-tThe improvement of these values cannot be estimated in general terms as they depend heavily on the local cost of energy, eventual incentive policies, irradiation and environmental characteristics, labor costs, and mounting system (ground, trackers, roof top), etc.

For example, a ground mounted IV CE (Fourth “Conto Energia”) PV plant in the center of Italy, saw an increase in production of 5% using new technologies. Less the cost of implementation, we achieved an increase of more than 2% on the original IRR and a reduction of the pay-back of several months.

We quickly realized that despite the interesting potential of new technologies, the main problem was the gap between labs and start-ups that develop new technologies for this scope, and the world of large PV energy assets (PV Investors and Funds), with their characteristics and peculiarities. To bridge this gap between the technologies and their practical application in the field, the role and experience of a leading asset management company as Alectris is essential

Alectris selects the best solutions among many potential new technologies evaluates and tests them for introduction to the international market of large PV systems.  The company’s role is to address and resolve bankability issues related to the selected technologies, including guarantees and insurance.

Technologies evaluated by Alectris must meet:

  • Investor return expectations
  • Regulatory compliance (FIT regulations etc.)
  • Financial covenants and constraints
  • Warranties on equipment in place
  • Technical characteristics of the PV plants
  • Local environmental peculiarities (dusty areas, northern countries, high temperatures, etc.)
  • Operation and Maintenance proper execution
  • Clear measurements of the over performance

What are the new technologies and what is their potential?

Some new technologies for PV built plants are more intuitive. For example, there are solutions that increase the irradiation on the module surface with the utilization of Albedo and ground reflection. Others improve the anti-reflective properties of the module glass.  While other solutions allow performance improvements with the use of advanced data analysis to optimize O&M services including cleaning, soil stabilization, etc.

Others are less intuitive. For example, could it possible to increase the peak power of 10-15% with a high intensity electric field across the panels, which significantly improves the panel’s overall efficiency and output? Or could it be possible to improve the behavior of the inverter from the outside by acting on MPPT algorithm input?

Innovation options can also be combined to maximize results. Many of the technologies are compatible with each other and so the final result will be the sum of the potential increments of production.

Current Technologies Selected by Alectris

moresun-imageNew Coating Technology

The first technology selected by Alectris is an Anti-Reflecting Coating called MoreSun® by CSD Nano.  Worldwide, 50% of operating solar arrays (82 GW, 320 million solar panels) lack an effective anti-reflective coating (ARC). With the application of this solution it is possible, and it is verified by several tests, to increase the production by more than 3%.

Coating robustness and durability has been verified with Highly Accelerated Stress and Durability Testing (including temperature & humidity testing and freeze-thaw cycling) with top tier laboratories; Wet and Dry Abrasion Testing and Wet Scrubbing Testing; accelerated Wash Testing, H&S Analysis and Testing. We are working on testing with the outside lab partner of TÜV SÜD.

The increase of production has been verified in different large solar PV plants, in several countries (Greece, Italy, China, USA etc.).

Some of the current tests and results with ARC MoreSun are:

  • 100 kW – Thessaloniki, Greece, May 2015: a 5% production increase
  • 100 kW – Jinan, China, August, 2015: a 6% production increase
  • 2 MW – Foggia, Italy, August 2015, on going: a 3% production increase
  • 8 MW – South of Italy September 2016, on going: a >54% production increase
Figure 1. ARC Results in an Alectris PV Plant in Greece.

Figure 1. ARC Results in an Alectris PV Plant in Greece.

 

Figure 2. ARC Results in an Alectris PV Plant in Greece.

Figure 2. ARC Results in an Alectris PV Plant in Greece.

Figure 3. ACTIS Performance Increase Real Time Monitoring for New Technologies.

Figure 3. ACTIS Performance Increase Real Time Monitoring for New Technologies.

img_3347-750x400High End Reflection Component

A second technology currently supported by Alectris is the new foil technology, CONFLECTOR® .  It provides for higher output in the morning, late afternoon and winter, through the energy utilization on the inter row space and Albedo utilization (Ground Reflection).

CONFLECTOR® by New Power Systems,  provides a power generation advantage with diffuse and off-axis sunlight. Both cloudy and sunny days bring a power increase, but with different profiles.

It is important to point out that peak power is not influenced on sunny days, to respect eventual regulations (such as authorization peak power limits, or grid connection limits or simply FIT program regulations).

Other operations and maintenance advantages to consider include the reduced need of grass cutting with CONFLECTOR®.

Actual tests and results with CONFLECTOR® are:

  • 7 MWp – Thessaloniki, Greece, May 2015: from 10% up to 15% measured performance increase
Figure 4. CONFLECTOR® Daily Power Increase

Figure 4. CONFLECTOR® Daily Power Increase

 

Figure 5. CONFLECTOR® Daily Power Increase

Figure 5. CONFLECTOR® Daily Power Increase

Want more information?

Contact Maurizio Manenti for more information and testing results.

Contact Maurizio