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Solar Repowering: The Resurrection of Solar Energy

  • Is solar technology becoming the new future? Technological advancements have made solar technology more efficient and economical since its popularization advanced. Solar technology is one of the first renewable energy widely spread globally.
  • With solar technology getting more affordable and efficient, a call for a facelift is necessary to create a big innovative subsector of the comprehensive solar industry. Repowering and revamping will be an obvious choice for many developers in the years ahead, throw in sunsetting tax incentives, worthless warranty claims, and a diverse array of poorly built projects will be an obvious choice for many developers.

Solar power panel

The Degrees of Revamping

  • The term “revamping refers to the partial replacement, removal, or reinstallation of modules or inverters to redistribute the system and optimize the grid connection. This may replace other balance of system (BOS) components wholly or partially, alterations to PV system supporting structures, and changes to the plant’s electrical layout. The addition of retrofit technologies that improve energy efficiency is the third component.

Revamping energy aims at improving the asset manager’s performance by either returning the performance ratio to the initial financial archetypal or boosting the internal rate of return above and beyond the original calculations. The massive drop in investment expenses over the last ten years determines the improvement compared to the initial operating budget. Beyond the traditional commercial channel selling to new PV power plants, upgrading energy create new sales channels.

When To Repower Solar Farms

  • Depending on the project age, subsidies, the expenses of the contract, and the regional policies that you will consider when revamping, each solar may, however, require updating at different periods due to their varied distinct nature. A previously established solar that does not give its predicted performance will require an update.

Some of the common reasons leading to solar revamping and repowering include;

1. Poor Builds

  • Most solar facilities built before were left distressed and malfunctioning due to the haste of the contractors in a rush to meet the feed-in traffic deadline. Owners of those projects have a strong economic incentive to act if they are still eligible for generous feed-in tariffs.
  • In some circumstances, projects completed with equipment from vendors no longer in the market make it harder for O&M companies to source some of their parts. Due to fierce price competition, even major solar inverter vendors like ABB have departed the business recently.
    This could result in the shutdown of significant portions of solar installations until the issue is resolved.

2. Leveling Up Batteries and Bifacial

  • Besides negative incentives, why would an investor decide to revamp a project that is running fine? Batteries and bifacial modules, in particular, have the probability of providing new benefits. Energy storage might prepare projects for post-subsidy life in addition to preventing curtailment and increasing grid services revenue.

Bifacial solar modules have the potential to increase the value of existing sites, particularly for projects with favorable site conditions and ample support. In a case where the companies have to replace old modules, though still functional, they can be used as spares in younger sites while the replaced bifacial modules still provide a set of valuable data.

3. Regional Solar Policies

  • Local legislation will also play a role in whether or not solar installations are repowered. Various subsidy regimes have varied restrictions on how they can modify operating projects.
  • Some governments are concerned that a proliferation of repowering will cause their subsidy resources to be blown out. For instance, if a government set aside $700 million to finance the construction of 500 megawatts of solar in 2012, it will be disappointed to see that repowering has increased the capacity of those plants to 800 megawatts. That’s the equivalent of replacing your old 250-watt panels with 400-watt replacements.

However, some regulators want to ensure that any modules they are replacing are indeed defective and ready to be recycled. Increases in project capacity are limited to 1% in some nations, such as France. On the other hand, Italian projects can boost their capacity by up to 10% without compromising their funding.

4. Project Age

  • The efficiency of silicon solar cells is being pushed closer to its theoretical maximum by clever engineering methods. Photons must first collide with an electron before they transform them into energy. Patterning the silicon in solar cells in microscopic pyramid forms is one way to boost the likelihood of a photon/electron collision. The light is engrossed in a pyramid; it travels further, increasing the chances of colliding with electrons in the silicon before leaving the cell.

Anti-reflective coatings for solar cells have been developed by chemists and material scientists that prevent the required light from being reflected into space without ever reaching an electron in the solar cell.
You can track the solar power output and energy using the metering and verification method. If your community or company installed a solar system that needs this advancement, it is time to repower.

5. If The Project Is Non-Operational

  • The project may not have reached the estimated lifespan before it stopped operational. In such cases, bringing in new spares will be necessary.
Why You Should Repower

If you believe your solar farm is underperforming or want to get ahead of the game following the metering and verification process, there are various advantages to investing in solar repowering. These are;

1. Effective Performance and Reliability

  • You will enjoy many benefits by revamping, such as higher energy yields, increased capacity, and higher security installation while utilizing the current land. Repowering will restore technology reliability, eliminating the need for repairs and maintenance.

2. Return on Investment

  • Solar repowering can lower operating and maintenance costs, remove the need for costly repairs, and boost efficiency and capacity. It will result in a lower Levelized cost of energy (LCOE), which is the cost of solar power produced over time. With more excellent uptime, these enhancements or the amount of time the Photovoltaic system can produce energy to the load will boost your investment’s return. The asset’s worth will also rise as a result of the repowering.

3. Extension on The Lifetime of a Project

  • Solar repowering can extend the life of a project that has reached the end of its term after 20-25 years by correcting performance issues. It will also boost the financial profitability of projects that have not lived up to their expectations.

4. Repowering Technology and Costs

  • In recent years, the remarkable drop in component costs and equally impressive advancements in component technology, quality, and performance has fueled its rapid growth. The module prices have dropped by more than 80% since 2010.
  • The price drop is striking when comparing average European pricing from 2007 to 2009. Large installations in southern Europe were carried out during this period, with prices exceeding $3/W. At the same time, average module efficiencies skyrocketed, climbing by more than 25% from 2006.
    The technological changes in the inverter since 2010 have improved utility installation performance while lowering prices by 75%.

The shift from early central technology, which consisted of 500 kW central inverters, to central inverters with more significant outputs of 1,000 V to 1,500 V, which integrate data analytics and cloud connectivity and the acceptance of various PV layouts, are examples of these shifts. For instance, the string inverters.

Overall, revamping and repowering interventions improve the performance of the existing PV generation fleet. Still, each intervention must be evaluated on a plant-by-plant basis, considering policy and technical considerations. Any intervention not covered by the warranty is an additional cost. Thus, asset owners must guarantee that they realize the benefits during the plant’s life.

5. Repowering Opportunity Size

  • More than 40 GW of PV systems in Europe will be subjected to component modifications such as repairs, repowering, redesigning, and replacements in the coming years. These older installations were made by investors rushing to meet the feed-in traffic deadlines.
  • However, these older installations have the highest incentives and internal rates of return and higher component faults and plant underperformance. Although inverters are less susceptible to general problems, they are expected to be replaced after ten years unless they are maintained using spare parts.The number of module and inverter firms that have recently quit the market has also contributed to the number of repurposing options. Asset owners frequently experience significant problems with warranty claims and technical support. Inverters, for instance, maybe plagued by poor servicing and expired warranties, prompting asset managers to seek inverter replacements.

Germany, Italy, Spain, and France are home to most of Europe’s older ground installations. Despite this country-specific concentration, PV asset ownership remains fragmented, limiting the ability to repower extensive portfolios.

Conclusion

Solar technology, portrayed as the cheapest and the fastest globally spread renewable energy, will be a big future for the economy in the coming years, replacing the expensive electricity. However, repowering is necessary to modernize the nature of the ancient machines and make them more effective and easier to maintain. A little more restructuring, revamping, and redesigning will help achieve this.

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