Industry players, PV project stakeholders, financers and developers have gone on record to stress the importance of utility-scale photovoltaic systems both for long term renewable energy and profits. Through the years the popularity of alternative power sources has increased, and experts say it will be more viable in the future.
While the importance of installing a solar panel has been emphasized, experts say this will only be possible if PV technologies evolve and the cost of electricity production goes down. In a presentation at the Solar Power International, the participants pointed out these utility scale PV systems have to be optimized so they provide sufficient amounts of energy and reduce investment risk.
At the centre would be the project lifecycle, which commences with the design and goes through the plant’s lifespan. The new line of PV systems have to be versatile enough to meet the demands of powerful, complex plants in different areas around the world. According to industry insiders, utility-scale inverters need to be fully integrated so lesser components are needed. The fewer parts used for operation, the lower the expenses will be.
In a survey among solar energy companies, the consensus was that component integration is a must for simplified design and operations. At the same time, system balance is required to reduce costs. There are many ways this can be done, such as the inclusion of a built-in power transformer, a tracker supply transmitter and other parts.
Other utility-scale systems now use greater DC-to-AC ratios which get rid of DC curtailment and optimization. With a DC-to-AC ratio increase, a PV system is able to produce more power, and the end result is that more energy is produced in the time of day when power is most necessary. Provided everything is in place, solar developers say this leads to higher system revenues and cutbacks on capital expenses.
The Solar Power International presentation also stated that an all-in-one DC-to-AC solution reduces logistical and project management expenses. Developers also stressed the importance of compact inverters as well as optimized power blocks, which leads to greater power density.
The majority of the participants also point out that the DC homerun and inverter cost have the biggest impact on optimal block sizes. As it is, the specific cost of inverters will go down to the point where DC and AC switchgear need to be increased, which leads to increased greater expenses. According to projections, the ideal block size for optimum system expenses is 1.9–2.2MVA.
With an optimized PV system and superior inverter technology, there will be better construction velocity and lesser site work. With solar energy development in full swing, experts say future PV systems will be faster and have the means to meet different types of grid connection specifications.
The Solar Power International presentation also stressed the need to use the proper block size for PV systems, as it will do away with the need for setting up other equipment. In the end, the goal is still the same though, which is to ensure reliable energy production without compromising profitability, reliability or the system’s lifespan. For this to work, optimization has to start from the design concept and all the way to development.