South Africa and Kenya
South Africa and Kenya
Sustainable Power Solutions (Pty.) Ltd is Africa’s leading solar PV EPC and O&M for commercial, industrial, tourism and agricultural solar PV projects, with over 20MW of online solar PV plants and 1MWh of battery storage solutions throughout sub-Saharan Africa since 2010. The company has established itself as pioneers of off-grid & battery storage, hybrid, and grid-connected solar PV technologies. They focus on offering their clients specialized and complete turn-key EPC solutions as well as funded solutions and thanks to their strong technical knowledge, SPS provides their clients with a very interesting business model - guarantees on the return on investment from a PV system.
SPS provides quality service from inception of communication with the potential client and, offer a follow through guarantee on the return on their investment. This is a testament to SPS’s thorough knowledge and expertise, which is not offered by all solar EPC’s & O&M’s, however, it is highly beneficial and appreciated by their clients. SPS identified the crucial role of using accurate solar irradiation data and simulation software for planning and accurate yield calculation of a PV system to ensure a healthy ROI for their clients.
Once a PV system is built, for regular evaluation of performance, SPS identified the critical role of reliable site-specific solar irradiation data. SPS started with the use of the silicon cells (also called reference cells), which showed to have several challenges. For example, the upfront costs of getting the sensor, as well as the difficulty and exorbitant costs of maintaining a clean sensor. Moreover, the sensors are often located in remote areas or places with difficult access, such as rooftops. In addition to the difficulties regarding the location, the environmental factors need to be considered and managed, such as dust or debris caused by birds and plants. Silicon cells also become less accurate over their lifetime, so they require regular annual calibration which is a tedious and a sensitive task. Other challenges are the data management and the possible communication issues from the site causing no access to measurements.
The SPS team identified that the best option is to use the pvPlanner PV simulation tool for their preliminary assessment as they found that it provides very accurate PV yield calculations. When it comes to in-depth design and yield simulations, they export Solargis irradiation data from pvPlanner to a third-party simulation software, where they make a final calculation based on the detailed design with components, soiling, and shadings.
“I would recommend using pvPlanner because accuracy is paramount to designing specialized solar PV systems, and using pvPlanner is helping us to forecast plant yields effectively.”
Maro Turner, Design Engineer at Sustainable Power Solutions
One of the benefits of using Solargis data is its high and stable accuracy and also its reliability when used in other African countries, where free or low-cost solar data sources often provide misleading values. Therefore, SPS relies on pvPlanner in some of their other markets too, such as; Namibia, Kenya, and neighboring island states.
As for the performance evaluation of PV projects in operation, SPS searched for an alternative solution to overcome identified challenges of sensors using silicon cells. SPS selected to use pvSpot online tool which is based on Solargis solar resource data. Among the main features of pvSpot which is important to SPS, is the high and stable accuracy of solar irradiation data, ability to access data instantly, daily updates, availability for almost all sites in Africa and no need to clean sensors. Furthermore, the online platform is intuitive and has excellent customer support. pvSpot also calculates theoretical PV production (in kWh) which can be compared to actual PV production (in kWh), thus allowing direct comparison of kWh to kWh (not only comparison of produced kWh to irradiation) for any period of interest.
“The convenience plus reliability for us to be able to accurately check the performance of our plants without needing to go to the site is an invaluable benefit of pvSpot.” Thaine Sasman, Head of Operations & Maintenance at Sustainable Power Solutions
For several years, SPS has been using pvPlanner for feasibility studies, tenders, preparation of proposals, pricing, design, etc., typically on a daily basis. With help of pvPlanner, SPS is providing PV yield estimations which can be used by their customers for reliable financial modelling and decision making.
SPS has been relying on pvSpot for several years to date. pvSpot is also helpful during commissioning of a new PV powerplant to immediately double-check whether the installation went well by comparing real production to theoretical production. Then, during the operation of a PV powerplant, SPS uses pvSpot to check how a PV power plant’s performance diminishes the dirtier it gets and thus SPS is able to predetermine in advance when cleaning is needed for the site. Thanks to pvSpot, SPS has a reliable performance reference even for projects constructed in remote areas, which is quite often the case. As pvSpot is a hardware-free solution, performance alarms can be identified as false or true immediately and remotely from any computer or cell phone connected to the internet.
pvPlanner long-term estimates and pvSpot near real-time estimates are consistent as both are based on the same solar model. Thus, the combined use of pvPlanner and pvSpot provides unique opportunity to develop and operate PV systems at a high level of technical quality which results in client’s expectations being met.