EPC photovoltaic process – The Engineering phase


Engineering a photovoltaic plant is one of the crucial phases of the entire EPC photovoltaic process; at this stage, variables and calculations must be taken seriously because the ultimate goal is to provide the customer with the best photovoltaic solution achievable according to the stated needs and the availability of space and investment.

Although preliminary studies, like site inspections and a sizable dimension of the photovoltaic system have already been taken into account before the contract is signed, the next phase of “Engineering” defines in detail the various tests and key projects for the realization of the photovoltaic plant.

The main phases that characterize the “Engineering” phase are:

Specialized tests
The proper design of a photovoltaic plant can not ignore a preliminary test phase that defines the features of the site where the plant will be installed.
Among these are the “Pull Out Test” that verifies the degree of compactness of the ground in order to establish the correct length of the fixing poles of the photovoltaic modules, the “Orographic Surveys”, like the hydrogeological and rainfall analyzes, and the suitability of the cover, such as static load tests and wind actions. A “cadastral verification of the perimeter” is also carried out so as to be sure the size of the plant within which the photovoltaic system will be designed.

Standard verification
This is a series of checks to define some aspects of the photovoltaic project, including roadworthiness, positioning and height of the fence, height of the supporting structure of photovoltaic modules and other limitations dictated, for example, by landscape constraints.

Detailed design of the photovoltaic system
Once the various design specifications are confirmed and defined, you can go through the detailed design of the photovoltaic system. These include the “Layout”, which represents the layout of the photovoltaic system, and the “Unifilare Scheme”, ie the electrical connection diagram of the elements that make up the system with utilities and network. There are also plans for some elements such as the layout of cavities, civil works, the drainage system and the surveillance and monitoring system. The design documentation of the photovoltaic system ends with the “Bill of Quantity”, which is a summary document necessary to order the materials and quantify the final costs of the plant.

Detailed design of the connection solution
As with the photovoltaic system, the connection system with the national power grid also needs a design. In addition to the design work already seen, a particle analysis should also be carried out, given the possible distance between the generation point and the point of connection to the network. Although usually trying to make the line cross over to public land, it may happen that you have to pass on private land: in this case there are also plans for expropriation.

Produceability checks
After completing the design of the photovoltaic system, it is possible to make the calculations of its producibility. There are special software that, relying on statistical irradiation data for different latitudes and longitudes, yields an estimated annual energy value (kWh / year). This value depends on several design factors, including the tilt and azimuth orientation of the PV modules, as well as the various system losses and possible shadings.
Producible plausible values can range from about 1000 to 1200 kWh / kWp per year in low-irradiating regions (eg central Europe) up to over 2000 kWh / kWp year in high-radiation regions (eg Africa, South America)

Study of authorization practices
While it is good to start all the authorization procedures immediately after signing the contract, at this stage it is important to note the importance of the “connection practice” to be requested by the competent network operator and required to obtain permissions to connect the system to the National Network of electricity once the plant will be realized. The data and documents to be submitted relate mainly to technical design and safety specifications at the electrical level of the photovoltaic system.

Next week we will look at Procurement EPC phase.

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