Interview: Digitalizing Indian solar operations to enhance returns

pv magazine: You decided to enter the Indian market about 18 months ago. What is shaping the evolution of the Indian market today?

Eric Daniel:  The Indian market is growing very fast, and we see a lot of potential.  We meet clients who own several hundred plants and GW. They have huge development ambitions in India and other continents. The focus is today on development – EPC & cost-oriented – but things are moving.

Indian Developers, EPCs & Asset Managers understand the critical importance of monitoring & maintenance solutions to sustain long-term performance. Indeed, plants are built within three years but will be operating for more than 20 years.

 

In which market segments is QOS Energy mostly active today?

Our cloud platform is capable of monitoring, analyzing and managing any renewable plant, be it solar, wind, storage, bio or hydro. We are very active in the solar utility-scale and solar rooftop markets in India.  Each market has its specific needs.

The utility-scale market follows a rapid development trend. Large players have very high expectations to monitor their solar, storage and wind plant. We understand that they want both the global overview and the in-depth analytics going down to the string level of a utility-scale plant.

Most utility-scale operators are now seeking Data Science and Machine Learning Technologies to help them manage their portfolio, optimize processes and increase returns.  Indian renewable utilities have genuinely embraced these technologies because they have understood its value, for example in energy forecast applications. Predicting production for the future can be challenging as the plants are more and more complex, besides accounting for planned or unplanned maintenance.  Data Science and Machine learning technologies are here to help operators get an accurate forecast by learning from the past data. QOS Energy uses the latest technologies, such as Data Science and Machine Learning, to transform raw datasets into insightful decision-making.

We have an extensive expertise & experience in monitoring large utility-scale projects. Our cloud-based solar monitoring solution monitors the largest solar PV plant in Europe (300 MW) and some of the largest utility-scale plants in North America.

The rooftop market is also surging with very heterogeneous types of installations. Developers have PPAs on the rooftop market, and they need to identify underperforming plants and repair faults quickly to avoid energy losses.

Considering the target that the Indian market has put on the rooftop segment – 40 GW by 2022 – we can expect that the rooftop market will reach more than 100,000 plants in the country. Managing such a significant amount of power plants will no doubt need centralized monitoring, analytics & plant management solutions to optimise operations & increase yield.  Rooftop and grid operators will also require aggregation capabilities centralized in one single data hub.

 

How does QOS Energy manage data acquisition and analytics visualization?

In a perfect world, solar plants produce as expected and suffer no failure. The reality is that many plants underperform and consequently suffer profitability losses. Competition is fierce as PPA prices went down as low as INR 2.44 ($0.043)/kWh. Indian developers optimise each Rupee. Monitoring plants’ performances are critical for plant owners who want to be profitable in a competitive market.

Each Data Acquisition System (SCADA, Datalogger, Sensor, database…) has its way of working, communication protocol and type of data. Data collected on solar plants can use multiple protocols, formats, frequencies, mapping, and types. Collected data are sometimes missing, incoherent or inaccurate. Equipment undergoes slight changes in their behavior that might indicate future failure, which is often too minor to be detected by humans.

Very few companies can genuinely collect and analyze data from any plant in a reliable, quick and efficient manner without retrofitting expensive data acquisition systems or SCADA. Even fewer companies monitor in the same portal the performance of trackers or storage plants.

QOS Energy continually invests in developing and maintaining more than 250 communication methods, thus ensuring full compatibility with any plant and data acquisition system.

Acquiring data is only the first step of the process to create powerful analytics and visualization enabling clients to intervene in real-time on performance issue for a plant situation in the north or south of India. Then come data cleaning, categorization, storage, management, and visualization. A key performance indicator needs to display instantly for immediate action in case of a performance issue.

Managing data for an asset owner or service provider is an important responsibility. Raw or source data cannot be lost or altered in any way.  It requires the highest level of data accuracy, quality, security and reliability using a very efficient and scalable data acquisition and management methods. QOS Energy has an extensive experience in this complicated process, rendering complex data into real-time analytics to power intelligent decisions.