By Andreas Wabbes, solar engineer and software product owner, PVComplete
The photo voltaic trade, like many different market segments since 2020, is going through a number of challenges that stop it from scaling on the ranges wanted to satisfy local weather settlement aims.
Expectations for photo voltaic market scaling are being hampered by various gear prices, labor shortages and uncertainty associated to efficiency, transmission upgrades and the provision of land. These challenges mixed with the schedules anticipated by company and public off-takers to hit their local weather targets make the present PV improvement atmosphere very difficult.
If we’re to comprehend the promise and international necessity of photo voltaic at mass scale, photo voltaic builders want instruments to sort out these shortage and uncertainty boundaries.
Instruments that cut back gentle prices and unencumber engineering assets by automating, optimizing and streamlining early-stage improvement duties for giant numbers of initiatives could make a world of distinction for a photo voltaic developer, particularly when confronted with extremely aggressive initiatives which may find yourself in a protracted interconnection queue with low probabilities of being constructed in any respect.
On the similar time, although velocity and gentle price reductions are critically necessary, PV designers nonetheless want the flexibleness to mannequin crops on more and more difficult terrain and adapt to native necessities on a project-to-project foundation.
Superior multi-disciplinary photo voltaic software program that may automate early design and optimization steps the place potential, with out constraining design engineering, is a robust benefit when scaling is hindered by shortage or uncertainty.
Land and transmission capability
The extra photo voltaic initiatives we construct, the scarcer land and transmission capability turns into — particularly flat land with appropriate soil situations and excessive photo voltaic assets near transmission traces with accessible capability.
PV builders from California to the Netherlands and different areas with fast photo voltaic PV market growth typically solely achieve entry to the grid after appreciable delays (and in some instances fail to achieve entry in any respect), partially as a result of any growth of the grid normally takes considerably longer than photo voltaic building. Within the US, greater than 600 GW of photo voltaic PV sits in interconnection queues as wait instances proceed to develop and completion charges decline.
Revised rules and interconnection reforms are urgently wanted, however the problem stays that to ensure that a developer to make an knowledgeable resolution primarily based on unsure info, all situations must be preliminarily designed, optimized and modeled. Doing so with restricted engineering assets and rising price and time stress requires superior photo voltaic software program that may remodel a largely iterative handbook course of into an built-in digital course of. Advances in computational know-how now enable us to robotically deal with terrain and element constraints to evaluate completely different mounting choices, run 1000’s of parametric sweeps evaluating varied design choices of DC:AC ratio, floor protection ratio, azimuth and skew to maximise preliminary mission economics and generate designs that may be seamlessly built-in in CAD software program for extra detailed topographical evaluation, last engineering and documentation in a matter of minutes.
Having higher software-based insights into the place to construct and the way to design initiatives on less-than-ideal terrain may help cut back mission improvement danger and uncertainty.
For instance, with fast design engineering iteration and modeling instruments, photo voltaic design software program may help builders consider whether or not the vitality yield and within-the-fence mission economics realized by constructing a photo voltaic plant removed from a transmission line with ample free capability on a flat rectangular piece of land with excessive photo voltaic useful resource however an costly interconnection is kind of economically viable than constructing a PV plant on fragmented or variable terrain — equivalent to parcels that hug farmers’ fields, comply with the contours of hills, conform to the boundaries of cloverleaf highways or circumvent wetlands, waterways and different valuable pure assets — that’s proper subsequent to a transmission line with restricted capability.
For the mission represented in Determine A, a developer selected to focus improvement assets on this 25-MWAC mission near an accessible grid interconnection level on hilly terrain fairly than increasing grid infrastructure on a parcel with extra supreme terrain and photo voltaic situations. Regardless of a 3% discount in particular yield (kWh/kWp), an built-in evaluation of terrain, topography, yield, mission and interconnection prices confirmed that this mission resulted in a decrease optimum LCoE (see Determine B) with the next completion chance. Utilizing superior photo voltaic software program this evaluation and optimization was accomplished in a few hours, whereas earlier processes required days and even weeks of iterations.
You may see how superior photo voltaic software program permits us to make knowledgeable selections and suggest extra initiatives on the similar time, resulting in the next probability of success at a decrease price.
Altering price buildings and provide chain woes
The place prior to now, PV initiatives have been characterised by a module-dominated price construction and glued or predictable tariffs, issues have modified drastically lately. Module prices have dropped considerably sooner than steadiness of system, set up and different prices, to the extent that in some areas the latter have turn into the dominant price drivers in utility-scale PV initiatives. As proven in Determine C, this development is anticipated to proceed for fixed-tilt utility-scale PV Techniques (Supply BNEF) . This altering price construction has led to denser and extra outsized (excessive DC/AC ratio) PV initiatives and makes it troublesome for PV designers to proceed to depend on basic specific-yield heuristics to outline the mission optimum design vector.
Moreover, persevering with pandemic-related provide chain woes and the lingering results of uncertainty about U.S. tariffs have delayed the deployment of gigawatts of capability. Consequently builders want flexibility to make use of elements which might be accessible on the time of building and quickly regulate designs to those elements specs and constraints.
As soon as once more superior photo voltaic software program that may rapidly run by means of total design vectors on a project-to-project foundation is required to offer PV designers and builders the perception and suppleness wanted to adapt their designs to altering markets and native regulatory situations. It additionally permits to preserve initiatives on monitor, even when gear has to vary, typically a number of instances earlier than a website is constructed.
Shift to multi-disciplinary PV design and evaluation
As many industries earlier than it, the photo voltaic trade has reached a maturity and complexity the place conventional engineering practices have to adapt to proceed scaling it to the degrees required to achieve net-zero carbon.
The method of growing a utility-scale PV plant usually requires the experience of a number of disciplinary groups – every with a selected performance-related objective. GIS groups search for appropriate terrains closest to grid infrastructure, buy groups seek for lowest-cost high quality gear, efficiency groups optimize the yield inside heuristic constraints, civil and electrical groups design a cost-driven civil and electrical structure, and finance groups consider mission economics. Within the conventional method, every staff incorporates its insights and suggestions in a sequential and iterative method till a workable design is achieved.
Superior photo voltaic software program is ushering in a brand new period of multi-disciplinary design optimization (MDO), the place all related disciplines and inputs are included into the event course of concurrently. As photo voltaic initiatives turn into extra complicated, software program facilitates info sharing and permits multi-disciplinary groups to leverage a shared platform as a “single supply of fact”. The method ensures every step of the event course of is seamlessly knowledgeable by the evaluation that has already been carried out, making all groups extra environment friendly and efficient of their roles as they’re empowered to grasp the affect of their particular design motion on the ultimate design objective. Built-in, superior software units and complex modeling instruments enable groups to work towards a typical objective in a multi-disciplinary, streamlined and versatile method.
Overcoming shortage and uncertainty
The photo voltaic trade is going through the very actual menace that fewer initiatives will see completion because of shortage and uncertainty. Although many elements will proceed to affect the photo voltaic trade’s capability to scale, superior photo voltaic software program’s means to cut back gentle prices, optimize engineering assets, handle complexity and allow higher mission design flexibility empowers PV builders’ with highly effective instruments to fight shortage and uncertainty, enhance optimization and economics, and convey extra initiatives to profitable completion.
Andreas Wabbes is a photo voltaic engineer and software program product proprietor at photo voltaic design software program firm PVComplete. With a level in Electrical Energy Engineering from Ghent College, he has in depth experience in PV design optimization merchandise.