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Engineering Earths Development, Preserving Earths Integrity

RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE


OPERATION OF LARGE SOLAR PLANTS
Main Author: Francesco Belfiore Originally Presented at:
Co-Authors: Tekla Taylor, Beth Moisan, Solar POWER-GEN 2013
Mario Zappia, Ettore Cinarelli San Diego, CA, USA
Article Re-Print

1.0 INTRODUCTION in 2010 while the project was under construction. lated to the upstream phases of the project lifecycle
A primary objective for any power plant is to Golder analyzed and validated both general and (siting, development, design, etc.) and may have
ensure the plant continuously and reliably operates, technical factors affecting the productivity of the very significant effects on the downstream phase
thereby generating the maximum economic and power stations. Since 2011 Golder has supervised (performance, production).
energy performance returns. the completion of construction and continues to
provide supervision of the O&M activities. The operation model presented here assumes that
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) power plants are no excep- a primary O&M contractor has direct responsibil-
tion. The operation and maintenance (O&M) of In the U.S., Golder is able to provide ad hoc integra- ity, using its own resources or sub-contractors, to
large PV plants requires an integrated management tion of engineering and environmental services manage all electrical generation and transmission
system that is implemented throughout the entire for the entire solar project lifecycle (such as the systems, security systems, visual mitigation (green
lifecycle. Montalto di Castro PV plant) from site selection, areas on the perimeter) management and pest
planning and environmental permitting through control. Other contractors are responsible for civil
Since PV power plant management practices are commissioning and operation and finally, decom- works and general housekeeping, including clean-
still emerging and evolving, Golders experience in missioning phases for any solar PV project. ing of the panels, and specific parts maintenance.
managing a very large facility in Italy, can provide In particular, on behalf of the owner of the plant
critical insight to the actual risks and opportunities This paper is based, in part, on the experience of Golder directly supervises the entire operational
involved in the operations as well as their impact on Golder in the assessment and supervision of O&M structure and related activities.
return on investment. activities of the Montalto di Castro power station
and other similar large scale PV plants.
The consortium of the international investors for
the Montalto di Castro PV Plant retained Golder to Our practical experience suggests that many issues
conduct a Technical Due Diligence of the project emerging during the O&M phase are strongly re-

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2 Article Name

from tax incentives currently available only to


fossil fuel projects. The proposed Master Limited
Partnership Parity Act (S 3275) would amend the
federal tax code to allow wind and solar schemes to
fall under the attractive Master Limited Partner-
ships business structure and thereby be taxed as a
partnership with access to capital at a lower cost.

The Update and Streamline REIT Act (H.R. 5746)


calls for revisions to the tax code to clarify the
eligibility of renewable energy generation to allow
for REIT financing. Like Master Limited Partner-
ships, REITs avoid the double taxation of traditional
corporate structures, and are limited to investing in
certain asset classes, which in this case means real
property. REITs pass through their income, rather
than their tax liability to investors and the dividends
Figure 1: Renewable portfolio generation goals are treated as ordinary income to the investor. It
is perhaps unlikely that such bills will be passed
1.1 THE US ENERGY POLICY AND providing further confirmation of the continued so late in an election year, but it may herald a new
MARKET FOR LARGE SCALE patchwork regulatory and incentive status that vision of renewables financing in the US.
SOLAR PV PROJECTS solar developers must contend with across the US.
The current political climate in the US and lack of The US Department of Interior, in an effort to
a long term energy strategy make it increasingly Despite the challenges and uncertainty, the US promote solar development has identified 17 solar
unlikely that a federal renewable energy plan continues to be a bright spot in the global solar energy zones across six western states total-
will emerge any time soon. The extension of key market. The trend in the US is toward larger capaci- ling 285,000 acres of public lands, which will be
stimulus programs remains uncertain and continued ties for utility scale projects and it is estimated that regarded as priority areas for solar projects. New
political stalemates will almost certainly delay any a total of 3.2 gigawatts (GW) will be installed in projects in these energy zones will benefit from
progress in renewable energy programs. 2012, representing an increase of approximately faster (streamlined) permitting procedures. It is esti-
70% from 2011. mated that the energy zones could support 23.7GW
One example of this uncertainty is the end of the of generating capacity.
federal PV solar investment tax credit (ITC) set to The top utility scale PV projects rated by installed
expire in December 2016. There is a permanent MW currently under construction are located in These initiatives provide a positive message for
10% ITC for solar that will remain available after California and Arizona, due to Californias aggres- future growth in the utility scale PV market. Along
the 30% rate expires, however, unless there is a sive RPS and ideal climate conditions in the western with this growth will be continued improvement in
renewal of the ITC, there will be added pressure to US. Other western states, such as Oregon, Nevada equipment technology and operational practices
lower balance of system costs. In the absence of and New Mexico are also experiencing increased that ensure plant reliability and enhanced perfor-
comprehensive federal legislation and regulation, utility scale development activity. The second quar- mance. Sharing of best management practices
the States have continued to evolve their solar ter of 2012 experienced the largest growth period as the industry evolves will further support these
programs and incentives to fill the void, primarily in US history for solar utility installations, with 742 objectives.
through the enactment of legally binding Renew- MWs of solar PV installed. The growth is primarily
able Portfolio Standard (RPS) legislation or the attributed to two Arizona projects, Agua Caliente
establishment of non-binding renewable portfolio project (290 MW) and Mesquite project (170 MW).
goals. Specifically, twenty-nine states and the Once complete, the Agua Caliente project will be
District of Columbia have enacted RPS legislation the largest solar PV power plant in the world.
that specifies the percentage of renewable energy
the states utilities must contribute by a certain It is predicted that the utility scale solar market
future date. In seventeen of these states, there are will continue to experience annual growth from
specific minimum solar contributions (or carve-outs) 2012-2016 in the 25% to 30% range (SEIA Solar
required under the RPS. Another eight states and Market Insight Report Q2 2012, http://www.seia.
two territories have renewable portfolio generation org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-
goals. (See Figure 1) 2012-q2). This growth will be dependent on in-
creasing regulatory certainty through standardized
Recent attempts to establish new RPS standards in or streamlined permitting processes and providing
several states (e.g., Kentucky, South Carolina and access to affordable capital.
Oklahoma) have been unsuccessful. However, other
bills in 2012 have passed to strengthen or adjust Two US senators have introduced legislation that Figure 2: Aerial view of the Montalto di Castro
RPS requirements in Maryland and New Jersey, would allow renewable energy projects to benefit solar PV farm

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Article Name 3

1.2 CASE STUDY: THE MONTALTO DI


CASTRO PV PLANT
The Montalto di Castro PV plant is located in central
Italy and occupies over 345 acres at two locations.
The two locations have a combined capacity of 51
MW (45 + 6) and together represent one of the
largest PV farms in Europe. This PV plant delivers
enough clean energy to the grid to meet the needs
of over 30,000 households annually. (See Figure 2)

The 45 MW PV plant is structured in 210 building


blocks, each block consisting of a self T0 tracking
system, 148,488 modules, or 12,374 stings with 12
modules per string. The power is converted to AC Figure 3: Ground level view of solar array
by 68 inverters, each coupled with a 630 kVA trans-
former that raises the voltage to 20,000 V. The 5 2.0 OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE 2.2 LAND AVAILABILITY
inverter cabins contain inverters, transformers and ISSUES Land use and availability may be an issue both in
auxiliary systems are distributed in two main areas 2.1 INTRODUCTION terms of the actual plant site and along the main
of the power station. Each inverter cabin is linked Compared to many other power generating transmission line interconnection route. These
by medium voltages distribution lines grouped in six technologies, PV plants have minimal maintenance issues need to be addressed early enough in the
main distribution rings. The three rings of each area and service requirements. However, a continuous process to avoid any problems during the opera-
connect to the interconnection switchyard placed O&M program is essential to optimize energy yield tional phase.
approximately in the middle of the power plant. The and maximize the lifetime and viability of the entire
interconnection switchyard then connects to the plant and its individual components. Typically, the transmission line must cross plots of
Terna (National Transmission System land held by different owners, which can present
Operator) Substation by means of redundant Many aspects of O&M practices are interrelated a challenge to purchasing or leasing the land. This
20,000 V interconnection lines, where two 25 MVA and significantly affect the performance of all the can ultimately result in some access or availability
transformers raise the voltage to 150,000 V and components in the generation chain and project restrictions to properties along the preferred route.
allow the power to flow on the grid. lifecycle. Our experience in PV plant assessment
and supervision allows us to define risks and Solar parks are not typically proposed in land-
The 6 MW PV plant is structured in 34 building liabilities, in terms of downtime, production perfor- scapes designated for natural beauty, or protected
blocks, each block consisting of a self T0 tracking mance, operational costs and time to complete the areas of archaeological or ecological importance.
system, 20,088 modules, or 1,674 strings with required activities, that can then be turned in op- Nevertheless, a careful assessment of these types
12 modules per string.. The power is driven by 9 portunities to meet or even exceed the expectations of potential fatal flaws should be performed early in
inverters, each coupled to a 630 kVA transformer of the developers and owners in terms of return on the project feasibility stage.
that raises the voltage to 20,000 V. The 5 inverter the investment.
cabins contain inverters, transformers and auxil- In the US, environmental laws and regulations vary
iary systems that are linked by medium voltages In particular, suitable planning, supervision and significantly from state to state and even county to
distribution lines which form distribution rings that quality assurance activities are critical at all stages county, increasing the need for a fatal flaw assess-
connect to the interconnection switchyard placed of the PV plant in order to minimize the risk of dam- ment when siting a project. Depending on the state
approximately in the middle of the power plant. The ages and outages, optimize the use of warranties, or county, strict environmental requirements could
interconnection switchyard then connects to the avoid dilution of resources and ultimately optimize result in lengthy permitting and approval processes.
National Transmission System Substation, operated the overall performance of the PV plant. Proper regulatory review is critical to insure appro-
by Terna, by means of redundant 20,000V intercon- priate environmental studies are conducted.
nection lines, where two 25 MVA transformers For convenience of presentation, the O&M issues
raise the voltage to 150,000 V and allow the power have been broadly classified in the following In the US, lands that are used for solar development
to flow on to the grid. categories: are often owned by the federal or state government
QQ Land availability or are Native American tribal lands. Different mech-
The Montalto di Castro PV plant is equipped with QQ Engineering features anisms for leasing public lands are used by each
single axis tracking systems that track the sun on an QQ Grid connection State and the federal government. Many of these
east-west direction maximizing the exposure of the QQ Contractors selection entities are well-acquainted with granting grazing
panels during the day. The tracking system is also QQ Extreme weather events or mineral rights but can be less familiar with the
capable of a special behavior of backtracking so QQ Data acquisition installation of utility-scale solar projects. Developers
that when the mutual shadings between the rows QQ Security should consider the various forms of land-control
of panels begin, the tracking system does not follow QQ Housekeeping rights available from the state or federal govern-
the sun, but adjusts to prevent any panel shading. QQ Environment, Health & Safety ment. The Bureau of Land Management has adopted
(See Figure 3) QQ Stakeholder management. regulations specifying procedures for obtaining land
rights, referred to as Right of Way (ROW) grants.

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owner of the plant then requested authorization
from the Municipality to proceed with the split of
the municipality road and register it as a new land
parcel which would include a perpetual easement
right in favor of the plant, all without costs on the
Municipality side.

Thus, it is important to check in depth the cadastral


documents, the ownership titles, the land acquisi-
tion and easement agreements and the length of
the actual availability of the land, and possibly
request accurate topographic measurements of the
plant and connection line from the EPC contractor.
Moreover it may help to push the EPC contractor to
perform frequent topographic measures during the
Figure 4: Panel tracking system construction stage.

Leasing or obtaining a right-of-way on Native agricultural lands. In the last few years, concerns Early management of the above issues may result
American tribal land is an option, particularly in the over conversion of agricultural land for utility use in a more efficiently managed project from both a
Southwest. Developers should be aware that leases have begun to gain political steam putting pressure time and cost perspective for the permitting, con-
and rights-of-way on Native American tribal land on local officials approving projects. struction, start-up and operation processes.
require approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Developers should consult with the specific tribe re- Any grant of a property right must contain certain 2.3 ENGINEERING FEATURES
garding potential archaeological or other resources legal elements no matter where the property is Many important technical aspects concerning the
on the tribal land because each tribe is in the located in the US. Many states require the grant plant should be addressed in the planning and
best position to evaluate which sites have cultural of a solar easement to describe the dimensions of design phases. Issues such as the selection between
importance and to determine issues associated with the easement, the estimated amount of sunlight fixed mount or tracking systems, and centralized
leasing lands for solar projects. directed to the system, any permitted shading by (maximum production) or distributed (maximum
vegetation and other plantings, the corresponding availability) conversion systems, and the possibility
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency reduction in access to sunlight, and any proposed to have flexible control over the power production,
has established the RE-Powering Americas Land compensation to the grantor of the easement. The in relation to the electricity market demand, should
Initiative, which promotes the reuse of potentially solar easement must also contain state-specific be carefully evaluated in terms of potential implica-
contaminated lands for renewable energy project requirements. A states focus may be affected by tions well before the plant enters into operation.
development. This initiative aims to revitalize terrain, character of the area or weather. Some
degraded land by promoting renewable energy as states may be height- or design-sensitive (Califor- A common choice at the design stage is the type
a productive end use, when aligned with the com- nia, Colorado) or locale-sensitive (Hawaii), or may of tracking system. Mono-axial tracking systems
munity vision for the site aiming to turn liabilities focus on visibility and placement (North Carolina), have a better yield compared to fixed systems (up
into assets for surrounding communities. Of the 60 orientation (Wisconsin), zoning (Rhode Island), or to 25%), but may cause an increase in maintenance
sites developed thus far, 49 sites are PV solar facili- setback issues (Oregon). costs due to the presence of moving parts and
ties. In less than four years, RE-Powering tracked management of a larger number of spare parts. In
a compound annual growth rate of 40%. While As a practical example of above issues, in our our experience, the incidence of additional O&M
the proportion of renewable energy projects on case history the facility was designed to occupy a costs over a two year timeframe is quite small, but
contaminated lands is relatively small, RE-Powering former cattle-track owned by the Municipality, not could increase with time. (See Figure 5)
is seeing a marked trend, showing that this land recognized until the plant was actually built. The
development strategy is gaining momentum.

Agricultural land may be suitable for solar farms,


especially if it is not used for arable applications,
since grazing remains possible within array fields
and indeed is particularly synergistic as it prevents
vegetation growth which may in due course shadow
the solar arrays. Solar farms have been proven to
even have the potential to increase the biodiversity
value of a site if the land was previously intensively
managed. However, it should be noted that political
and legal pressure to preserve agricultural lands,
particularly in California, are creating controversies
when attempting to permit utility scale projects on Figure 5: Terna switchyard

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Figure 6: Damages from heavy rainfall Figure 7: Repair of connection lines

Considering the effect on O&M activities as well ties involved in the location and repair of the failed a number of factors, such as:
as costs, a choice can be made between a system equipment. Different areas of the plant and utility
with a higher number of smaller electrical compo- involve coordination of the utility operators, O&M QQ Familiarity with the site and equipment;
nents, particularly inverters and transformers, or a contractors, substation workers, local authorities QQ Proximity of the contractors premises;
system with larger but fewer components. With the and health and safety agencies, which need to be QQ Number and qualification of staff;

latter configuration the production is maximized, properly trained and prepared to manage the situa- QQ Level of experience and references;

but in the case of failure of a component, replace- tion in a coordinated and knowledgeable manner to QQ Financial status;

ment may be more difficult due to poor availability minimize downtime and maximize plant availability QQ Health and Safety record;

or long waiting time. Because of the potential and production. QQ Proper permits and licenses.

yield loss that could result, it is our opinion that the


choice of the size of the electrical equipment units In our experience, preventive maintenance training A critical issue is to make sure that all the opera-
should be based on their actual commercial avail- and sharing of plans and procedures with the other tions and activities that a certain contractor is
ability and guaranteed supply time. stakeholders play a huge role in addressing and responsible for are identified early enough and that
resolving unscheduled outages and emergencies in the suitable conditions or permits are in place.
Furthermore, during the operation of the plant the shortest possible time.
it is necessary to have good capability to control We recently had an issue with the contractor in
and regulate the energy output on the basis of the Another aspect that is relevant to the relation- charge of panel cleaning who had not obtained
actual electricity market demand. With the typical ship with the transmission system operators is the the required licence to extract groundwater from a
current plant configuration, this regulation is only management of energy delivery required by new public well. This resulted in a delay of the cleaning
possible by reducing the plant output. As a pos- dispatching regulations and procedures. activities and consequently in a certain loss of
sible solution, the use of a suitable energy storage production.
system would allow a better flexibility in order to Recently the Italian authorities required operators
match the actual demand in either case of reduction to predict the energy fed to the grid day by day, to 2.6 Extreme weather events
or increase. adopt a system to modulate the production in case Extreme natural events, particularly those related
of emergency and to change the calibration of the to climate change, such as hailstorm, typhoons
2.4 GRID CONNECTION inverters to support the national electricity grid and floods, may cause serious damage in solar
The issues related to the grid connection can during transient voltage or frequency variations plants. Severe structural and economic losses may
often be crucial, both in terms of continuity and or to compensate excessive reactive power. These be incurred if specific components are damaged
convenience of the energy delivery. A reliable and adjustments are necessary due to the fast growth of such as structural elements, electrical parts and
proactive relationship with the transmission system the production of energy from non-programmable components, control and inverter rooms, and con-
operator can definitely help, especially when unex- renewable energy sources. A positive relationship nection lines.
pected events or emergencies occur. with the transmission system operators can help to
implement solutions and investments in the right Flooding can affect different functions of the plant,
Interruption prevention measures, as well as clear direction to minimize the resources necessary to both on the electrical generation side and on the
contingency plans and restart procedures, are key meet these requirements. balance of plant (BOP) side, including connection
to minimizing plant downtime. Failures caused lines continuity, accessibility of different parts of
by either faults on the transmission line to the 2.5 Contractors selection the plant, erosion of roads and other infrastruc-
interconnection switchyard or major interruptions The O&M activities are complex and usually involve tures, fence functionality and interference with
downstream in the utility area should be identified a series of different skills and experience that may electrical, data monitoring and security systems.
and communicated quickly. (See Figure 5) require the contribution of various contractors and In one particular case, the effect of excessive water
When emergencies occur, there may be many enti- sub-contractors. These should be selected based on run-off due to an extreme rainstorm created insta-

THIS ARTICLE WAS PRESENTED AT SOLAR POWER-GEN 2013 AND HAS BEEN REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION FROM Solar POWER-GEN. THE LAYOUT HAS BEEN CHANGED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REPRINT.
Figure 8: Elevated inverter room Figure 9: Drainage system, perimeter fence and security cameras

bility on a slope which washed out the ground that tion (SCADA) systems might not always be reliable possible damages are related to these aspects. The
covered both the main and backup underground due to possible temporary losses of connection. A access of unauthorized people to the plant has to
lines which ran alongside each other, for a length regular check of the data, based on the physical be prevented both for security and safety reasons.
of around 200 meters and subsequently caused the reading of the meters to compare the records is
interruption of production for a few days until the strongly advised to confirm the final data. In order to minimize the occurrence of such events a
ground cover was stabilized and the lines repaired. suitable balance between a remote control system
Another aspect related to data acquisition is the and on site security personnel should be achieved,
Due to the same weather event, the main control implication on the contractual goals set for the depending on the size of the plant, the morphology
room was also partially flooded. O&M contractor in terms of guaranteed Perfor- and extension of the site and the general environ-
mance Ratio, i.e. the overall plant production mental context. (See Figure 10)
In general, these types of events can be prevented efficiency. The minimum guaranteed parameters
by running a comprehensive risk assessment of are usually based on relatively safe assumptions by The anti-intrusion software typically used is able to
the possible impacts on the continuity of the plant the contractor and therefore an accurate techni- detect moving objects, but not to recognize false
resulting from climate change, and particularly cal assessment is needed to avoid an overall low alarms due to movements not necessarily generated
extreme weather events. (See Figures 6 and 7) performance objective. by unauthorized access to the site. In our case,
when the security operator receives an alarm, he
Redundant systems for evacuation and connection The assessment of the objectives of the contractor has to verify the real source of the alarm and then
lines, as well as for monitoring and security sys- is essentially based on the measurements of the assign the proper category/level of attention, based
tems, have to be carefully planned and designed in meteo station. iIt is critical that these are repre- on a predefined classification (i.e. people, animals,
order to constitute a viable alternative to the main sentative of the actual situation and therefore the vegetation, weather), and record the event
systems and guarantee the overall continuity of the instruments need constant calibration and certifica- accordingly. To address this issue, we are planning
plant, under any circumstances. tion. It is also critical that the dust cover conditions to upgrade the software to learn from the past
of the irradiance sensors are consistent with those events and to be able to systematically discern
Critical rooms, particularly those containing control on the panels, in order to be comparable, i.e. clean- between a real and a false alarm, at least for
systems and critical electrical equipment, should be ing should preferably be done at the same time. It repetitive movements.
designed to be raised above the floor of the site and could also be advisable to keep additional sensors
above the possible maximum elevation of water. to be cleaned more frequently in order to act as
(See Figure 8) benchmarks for the optimum values of irradiance.
The cleaning schedule can then be optimized
Run-off and drainage systems should be designed based on the difference between the measured
for extreme events to guarantee the functionality of irradiance in the two sets of sensors. As a final
civil infrastructures, such as roads and fencing, and confirmation of the data, the continuous correlation
grid connection systems. (See Figure 9) between different sources of the same data (e.g.
different meteo stations on site) can also supply an
2.7 Data acquisition early warning of problems in the data acquisition
Data acquisition is a crucial issue to be considered systems.
to track and maintain optimal system and plant
performance. Accurate and reliable monitoring 2.8 Security
data are also necessary to comply with regulatory Security systems are essential for a suitable opera-
reporting requirements. tion of a solar farm in order to avoid damages and
possibly plant downtime from theft and vandalism.
Based on our experience, production data collected In fact, a recent study on German PV plants shows
through the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisi- that up to 16% of the monetary impact of all the Figure 10: False alarms detection software

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Thus, in our experience a specific combination of
operators, video cameras and dedicated software
has to be implemented to insure a sustainable level
of security of the plant, and specifically manage
alarms, discerning between real and false ones.

2.9 Housekeeping
Typical housekeeping activities on a large PV plant
include a variety of concerns, such as manage-
ment of water run-off and drainage, cleaning of
panels, control of vegetation, maintenance of civil
structures and roads.

In our case, we have successfully adopted a very Figure 11: Sheep grazing in the panels area
sustainable way to control the development of
vegetation, especially in the areas where the In warmer climates, the temperature in the inverter
modules are located, by letting a substantial flock cabins, as well as in spare parts storage rooms, can
of sheep live and graze within the plant boundaries. raise significantly thus reducing the efficiency of the
Besides the positive effect on cultural and social equipment, therefore it is advisable to design suit-
continuity (the shepherds did not have to move able air cooling system, especially for the former.
away from their historical land), we can avoid any
damage of the panels associated with the use of In order to be effective, the cooling system typically
mechanical equipment typically employed to trim needs to be of significant capacity, thus requiring
the vegetation. a high energy input. It is then critical to insure its
efficiency through an appropriate maintenance
Another common issue with PV plants is the pres- program, suitably integrated in the O&M activities.
ence of rodents and their negative effect on cables
integrity. In this case, we found out that most of the A possible optimization of the system design could
rats on site were actually introduced at construction entail a proper management of hot and cool air
stage through the containers used to deliver the flows within the cabin, by considering the actual
different pieces of equipment. heat transfer and flow direction between the equip-
ment and the environment, in order to maximize
Suitable preventive measures include therefore a the air cooling equipment yield. In the photo below,
more careful control of this specific issue at the for instance, the hot air exhaust that comes from an
equipment delivery stage and the use of reinforced inverter is conveyed out of the cabin without mix-
cables to ideally withstand the bites. ing with the fresh air that comes from the cooling
system. (See Figure 12) Figure 12: Air temperature management in the
At the operational stage, additional measures may inverter cabin
consist in intensifying the frequency of pest control As a good practice during the operational stage,
routines to mitigate access by animals and filling the temperature in the cabins should be monitored connected to the general control software, which in
the cable connection pits with sand in order to constantly and recorded through the SCADA system turn leads to a proper plan for routine maintenance.
prevent theft of cables. (See Figure 11) so it can represent an early warning in case of
problems. We actually experienced a few oil spills from trans-
In some instances the preventive measures may formers, but a suitable containment system had
actually clash with specific permit requirements. 2.10 Environment, Health and been designed in the space under the cabins which
Safety allowed us to manage the issue properly through
At the Montalto di Castro Plant, the operating There are potential environmental and health and the planned disposal of the resulting waste.
permit required the plant owner to create holes safety issues associated with the full project life With reference to specific health and safety
in the fence in order to allow land continuity for cycle that need to be addressed at all stages of de- hazards, the inverters noise may be quite high,
the passage of local fauna, typically medium-sized velopment. In particular, we have identified oil spills especially in specific periods of the day and of the
animals. Once again, having a solid relationship from the transformers and noise in the inverter year. The exposure of the O&M operators when per-
with the local authorities proved to be very helpful cabins as two of the most significant impacts to be forming activities inside the inverter room should be
and a solution was finally reached. In fact, we were managed during the operation of the plant. carefully controlled, through a proper assessment of
able to demonstrate, through a well-documented the actual equipment emissions. In our case, after
photographic survey, that there were already All transformers at some stages may be subject to having identified the issue, we requested specific
enough pathways through the fence, naturally cre- leaking, which can be prevented through proper personal protection equipment to be included in the
ated by small soil settlements or drainage ditches, monitoring of their oil temperature, pressure and contractors health and safety plan.
and therefore no additional work was necessary. level, possibly with the aid of an automated system

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8 Article Name

2.11 Stakeholder management We were also able to witness that if local contrac- In the operation phase, it would still be possible
Considering the local context, it is always advisable tors and citizens are engaged in the operations, to address most of the critical issues presented in
to proactively engage and involve the local com- the community will be happy to help if needed. For the paper. Periodic audits of the plant can help
munity and key stakeholders in order to keep them example, as mentioned earlier, the previous owners identify weak points in the systems or margins for
informed on the plant development and operation of some plots of land were shepherds. We agreed their improvement, consequently finding effective
at all stages, build positive, trusting relationship with them to let their sheep graze inside the plant. solutions.
with the community and relevant authorities, This gives many advantages to the operation of the
provide adequate avenues for community feedback plant, since by controlling the height of the vegeta- Such audits can be run at a qualitative level by
and ensure social issues are identified at an early tion in such a sustainable way, the risk of fires or conducting reviews of the design and operational
stage, managed and, where feasible, resolved. panel shading is greatly reduced. Moreover the documentation, including historical performance
shepherds and other local people typically provide data and records of anomalies, visual inspections of
Proactive and consolidated stakeholders communi- useful feedback about the local situation and its the plant systems, assessments of the operational
cation lines can definitely improve the management evolution. activities and plans in place, random testing of
of a number of issues during the plant operation. representative electrical components and direct
In terms of dealing with local authorities and regu- 3.0 CONCLUSIONS measurements of key plant performance indicators.
lators, general administrative procedures, as well as Our experience in the assessment and supervi- Critical issues can then be reviewed at a deeper,
contingencies and emergencies, can be managed in sion of the operation of large scale solar farms is more quantitative level with further targeted test-
a much more straightforward way if the quality and presented through the case study of the 51 MW PV ing and development of specific analytical models.
reputation of the plant operator allow establishing plant in Montalto di Castro in Italy.
a relationship based on trust. Based on our international work on PV plants, we
This case shows that an integrated approach to can conclude that many of the concepts and prac-
The same holds true for communities or neighbours planning, execution and monitoring of the activities tices that have been presented in this paper, suit-
around the plant, where favourable and personal can lead to an optimal performance of the plant. ably adapted for general context and site specific
relationships can lead to sharing of information that The integration should be accomplished throughout conditions, are applicable to diverse and different
would not be available otherwise and to peaceful the project lifecycle phases (siting, development, contexts, including similar large scale developments
resolution of minor conflicts. design and operation) and across the different in the US.
tasks within each phase, in order to identify all the
In the case of the former cattle-track described ear- possible synergies, thus minimizing the risks and In fact, based on the history of PV plants in Europe,
lier, the situation became even more complicated leveraging the opportunities. a large overall capacity of PV plants could be
since the authorities had previously authorized developed in a relatively short time period, over 2
another plant to place its connection line under All the O&M activities can be recognized as related to 3 years, but will have to be operated effectively
the cattle-track. The other plants EPC contractor to upstream lifecycle phases and should be properly for a much longer time, in the order of 20 years,
was under a tight schedule to connect the system considered at the relevant stage. during which period the existence and application
in order to maximize revenues. Thanks largely to of sound plans and practices will be able to effect
solid relationships held with the local authorities we For instance, a proper response to extreme weather the real success of the project. Thus, a thorough
were able to avoid the positioning of the line under events implies the consideration of the associated planning, execution and monitoring approach to
our plant by the other plants EPC contractor, who issues at the siting and planning stage, through O&M activities will optimize plant performance
could only obtain authorization to modify its route. the assessments of the risk and the consequent and maximize production yield, with reference to
design mitigation measures, and the presence of the potential capacity given by the engineering and
Another example of the use of a proactive and an adequate response plan in terms of emergencies design features of the project.
positive relationship with the authorities was given and repair procedures.
earlier on, when presenting the issue of having to
insure the land continuity through the plant for the
local fauna.

About Golder
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over 50 years of experience, Golder Associates is construction services in our specialist areas of
driven by our purpose to engineer earths earth, environment and energy.
development while preserving earths integrity.
We deliver solutions that help our clients achieve
their sustainable development goals by providing a For more information, visit golder.com.

THIS ARTICLE WAS PRESENTED AT SOLAR POWER-GEN 2013 AND HAS BEEN REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION FROM Solar POWER-GEN. THE LAYOUT HAS BEEN CHANGED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REPRINT.