Technical designs of PV projects in admisitrative phase vs. construction phase


The energy sector is currently experiencing a moment in which a large number of photovoltaic projects are under development. These projects primarily aim to meet the electrical supply needs of the consumption market, or in other words, the famous challenge of resolving the energy matrix for each location where supply may be required.

Throughout the development of these projects, which typically span about four years, each phase can be analyzed and optimized. The main phases of a PV solar project are as follows:

  1. Evaluation and feasibility study, where availability is assessed.
  2. Design and planning: Once project feasibility is confirmed, detailed design and planning are carried out.
  3. Financing and resource acquisition: As the name suggests, the necessary funding is sought to execute the project.
  4. Construction and installation: Once financial and material resources are secured, the construction and installation phase of project components begins.
  5. Testing and commissioning, where various tests and verifications are conducted to ensure the correct operation and performance of the project.
  6. Operation and maintenance.

As a result of these requirements, the project will undergo various modifications, adjusting the energy supply at each phase based on the specific characteristics of the project location.

Now, let's delve into more detail about each of the phases of a PV solar project from its inception.

For the development of a photovoltaic project, it is common to start with land prospecting (i) and grid connection capacity (ii). This involves analyzing how much land can be secured and how much energy can be fed into the system. This marks the beginning of the transformation of a project as it progresses toward execution. In this initial phase, it is common to propose unit generation sizes (typically 1 MW) with the intention of scaling this unit and adapting it to conditions (I) and (II) mentioned above.

Starting from the initial land prospecting, an assessment of the land's characteristics is carried out, using public data such as (a) power lines, (b) bodies of water, (c) public roads, (d) urban centers, (e) infrastructure, (f) topography, (g) geomorphology, (h) archaeological zones, (i) mining concessions, and/or (j) protected/restricted natural areas, among others. Additionally, a site visit is conducted to confirm the identified elements and include any that may not be found in publicly available databases. This assessment will be used to make the initial power installation proposal.

This design proposal should take into account the identified land characteristics as well as potential reductions in the installed capacity. To do this, future equipment that will be available for purchase is considered, along with an occupancy of approximately 35% of the total planned area for this stage. These measures will allow adjustments to be made to address the constraints that will be determined in future stages.

After this process, the project is ready to undergo the first administrative scrutiny by the authorities, taking the first step towards the construction phase, which will run in parallel with the administrative phase. If preliminary approval is obtained from the administration, the verification work in the implementation area will continue.

The above paragraph is generally carried out based on studies of (a) environmental impact, (b) effects on heritage, (c) hydrology and hydraulics, and/or (d) geotechnical assessments, to name a few. The goal of all this is to refine the details for the installation limitations and fine-tune the proposal as the administrative process progresses, considering that all surfaces whose occupation would entail excessive additional costs or that are restricted or prohibited by legal and/or administrative frameworks must be excluded.

Based on the conclusions drawn from detailed technical studies, the project will undergo a review and the proposal will be adjusted to meet the requirements of the environmental authority. For projects with a positive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), it is common to receive conditions that must be incorporated into the next design stage. By this point, readers will realize that a project is not a static concept but rather a dynamic one with a life of its own, to which requirements are added and subtracted based on the characteristics encountered during its development. Although the scope of review is very similar, the findings vary significantly from one project to another.

At this point, we can consider the project to be in an advanced stage of development. It is now necessary to gather all the licenses and permits that have been processed in parallel with administrative design reviews. After considering all the changes and constraints that affect the administrative project, it will be handed over to an awarded Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) company for final adjustments.

As the EPC company is responsible for detailed engineering, component procurement, and project construction, they often make adjustments based on their experience as builders. Among the most common changes are the replacement of equipment models and manufacturers, adjustments to component specifications, and variations in plans that do not compromise the integrity of the permits obtained thus far.

Vector Renewables has a specialized team to provide technical advisory services at any phase of a renewable energy project.

With a technical track record exceeding 130 GW in various technologies, the Vector Renewables team supports funds, independent power producers, developers, and banks with their Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) and consulting services to maximize the potential of their projects. If you are seeking technical advice for your project, do not hesitate to contact us through our website.

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