The plan of attack for every new proposal should start with creating the most effective and efficient solar power plant layout possible. This approach not only benefits you as the customer in the form of efficient use of resources, but the team building the project in optimizing the hardware and processes required to construct on a specific site.
As a solar energy developer, it is important to partner with an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) provider that takes the time to understand what you are looking for and then determines what would be feasible. The process should start with a review of your solar project specifications in the form of alternating current (AC) requirements at the point of interconnection (POI), the direct current (DC) they intend to procure, and land available. Being open and transparent about how much equipment can fit based on the land area available and required spacing is critical.
The ideal EPC provider will not only create a layout that meets your criteria, but also explain why it may differ from what you might have received from a consultant. In building a project, safety and productivity should be fundamental drivers of scheduling. On occasion, you may have to have the hard discussions about plant sizing if the professionals conclude you will not be able to reach your energy goals with the equipment specified. It would be unethical for an EPC to not inform the customer and to continue to build at their desired specifications, if after running the calculations their end goal was not sufficiently met.
Energy project developers should look for a partner whose mission is to arm clients with knowledge so that they can make the most educated decisions and avoid situations that may end up costing more to construct.
During the process of determining the optimal solar plant layout, you should be provided a very detailed layout of the solar site with the proposal. This layout is shared with the customer before the estimating phase begins to ensure the customer approves of the layout and understands exactly what the proposal will be based on. The layout takes into consideration how best to use the land the owner has acquired, but also to ensure it is efficient to construct; the ground coverage ratio (GCR) is optimum; the shading is minimum; and the design is safe to build — which will carry over to the maintenance crews having a site that is safe to maintain.
It is critical the EPC also reviews the client-provided survey drawings as well as the environmental, wetland, and hydrology studies to ensure the layout will work on the site or meet the approval of local jurisdictions. The goal is to make sure the preliminary design is as accurate as possible and will not require any changes to either it or the pricing after the award of contract.
Today and in the future as more solar photovoltaic (PV) projects are coupled with battery energy storage facilities (BESS), EPC teams with in-house engineers must consider the most effective solutions to pair the technologies and meet energy generation expectations, including ancillary services to the grid, plant sizing, substation sizing, and all the equipment required to make the project run harmoniously.
When it comes to large-scale utility solar projects, you need an EPC provider whose goal is always to make the most effective and efficient solar plant layout possible for the client. For best results, look for a partnership in which they will explain how to approach the site and the reasoning behind it in order to get the ball rolling on fostering a strong relationship.