Module Mounting Structure
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has a target of achieving 100 GW of solar power by the year 2022. Even though this is an ambitious target, it can be achieved if the growth rate of installations remains same for the next few years.
At the end of calendar year 2016, the total installed capacity in India is around 10 GW. Only 4 GW out of this 10 GW was installed in 2016, remaining was installed prior to 2016. The target for the year 2017 is 9 GW which is more than double of the previous year’s installations. We would need even larger annual targets for 2018 to 2022 to achieve the 100 GW target by 2022.
We have had a very large number of companies who have entered this sector in the last few years. Many of the big corporates have also setup new subsidiaries to tap into the rapidly growing solar market. This has led to enormous competition which has negatively impacted the bottom lines of these companies by such an extent that new companies are wary of entering this sector now. Some of the companies have even closed down their businesses. Given the current scenario, maintaining the same rate of growth as was seen in the last few years could be difficult.
One important yet often neglected consequence of this competition is the construction quality and durability of the solar plants which are being set up. The timelines and costs to set up a solar plant is so low that it becomes difficult for EPC contractors to maintain the level of quality that would be desirable.
During setting up of a solar power plant, one of the most time consuming activity is the installation of module mounting structure which support the solar panels. The design life of a module mounting structure is 25 years, the same as the design life of the solar plants. But it has been seen that some of the module mounting structures are falling apart in less than 5 years due to poor design or inaccurate installation.
Nevertheless, designers and fabricators are innovating every day to find that perfect solution for the module mounting structure which would not only speed up the installation process but also ensure flawless installation with little care. We now have various tracker systems, structures which use tensioned Wire Ropes for installation instead of conventional steel structures. We also have floating structures. Further optimization and improvement in these designs of module mounting structures could be one of the keys for the success of the solar mission in India.