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Solar for Educational Institutes

By Siddharth Gangal and Aarushi Dave

What do educational institutes and solar power have in common?

Plenty of things! For starters, they both have a great future ahead and full of blooming potential. On the contrary, the power supplied by the utility grid is going to constantly boom in price. Additionally, the solar industry is on the mission to reform our energy sector to make it cleaner and greener, just like a lot of students would want to do on becoming professionals!

With rapid innovation happening in this field, currently solar installation has become simpler and more feasible than ever before. While this is the right time to invest in solar, there is no place better to make this investment in than a school or college campus!

With this article, we aim to tell why educational institutes, irrespective of where they’re located have a lot of characteristics which make better suited as both communities and infrastructure to host solar facilities.

1. Cut costs:
The biggest advantage of installing solar on an educational campus: savings! Classrooms, auditoriums, laboratories, floodlights; the list is endless. In other words, there is no shortage for the demand of power in a campus!

As time passes, power from the utility grid is going to get costlier. Grid power costs fluctuate with time, mostly incrementing. The best way to counter this is by adopting solar to cater to your campus’ ever-growing demand for power. Once installed, you can either generate your own electricity thereby eliminating dependence on the grid in totality. Or you can trade power via net metering. 

Either way, solar energy is one of the cheapest sources of power available presently and large commercial bids have the lowest prices. In fact, the larger the area of your institute installation, the expenditure per watt of a solar panel drops. This will make your institute indifferent to fossil fuel prices in the future! And more importantly, installing solar is an action which shows you as an institute have gained control over the emissions you make, the power you guzzle and generate.

Once the initial cost of installation is met, which too isn’t particularly challenging anymore thanks to incentives, power is going to be one big expenditure eliminated from you budget. And of course, these savings can be utilized for growing other facilities on campus!

2. Make use of space:
Very often, there is plenty of empty roof space available in schools or university campus buildings. Additionally, this roof space is mostly unshaded with fewer obstacles surrounding it, unlike that in residential areas. These roofs are also sturdy, flat, uniform in composition, at angles more suitable for rays to optimally hit arrays and vast in layout. These features add to output and efficiency of the power generated by the panels. 

Besides, one of the biggest shortfalls of rooftop residential solar installations is the absence of these kind of roof characteristics. Every different roof has its own features in a residential structure and several obstacles around it causing shading. This gives institutes an upper hand compared to residential areas.
Moreover, the roof area largely is unused. It makes good economic sense to put that area to work for you. Solar gives you the power (literally, no pun!) to save money and decrease expenses for your education institute. Solar panels can also be installed on raised structures so that the roof can still be utilized. There might also be space available in the campus grounds for ground mount installation that can be utilized.

3. Hands on learning:
It’s no surprise that the students of today are well aware about the prospects and necessity of solar power! However, these present-day students, who are the professionals of tomorrow, need the exposure to an actual working solar installation.
The best way to achieve this is by installing solar on campus! Be it the technical knowhow regarding the working of a solar system or the installation policies or the project finances, there is a lot to learn! Switching to solar is a big step. Involving the student body will not only smoothen the process, but also prove to be a hands-on learning exposure. 

4. Brand your institute with solar:
With solar emerging as a positive clean energy trend globally, by the joining this wave right now your institute too joins a community of change makers around the world. By fostering solar power in your campus, you show your dedication to cutting down emission levels and fossil fuel consumption.

Adopting solar provides a great marketing opportunity for the institute. It is an indicator of your sustainability practices as well as consideration for environment friendly policy. Presently, these are key criterion in judging how progressive the institute is. It will give your institute the “green edge” indicating the all-round consideration for campus facilities and unique endeavour on your part.

Additionally, adopting solar creates a positive impact on prospective students and employees.

5.  Attract prospective students and staff:
Educational institutes adopting solar are appreciated for their green factor and goodwill is created in the minds of the students, their parents and new prospects for the educational institutes. They tend to stand out as compared to other colleges/schools for taking up this responsible and creative step.
While on the lookout for an educational institute, most parents and students these days very conscious, thanks to awareness and competitiveness. When they search for the best place for their ward/ themselves, your institute stands apart thanks to a captivating and progressive approach! 

Not just students, the “green effect” could also put your institute in positive light before prospective teaching, research and administrating staff.

6. Availability of permanent infrastructure:
One of the reasons most home owners are yet shy of adopting solar is fear of making a long-term commitment. Although there exist financial tools to make it easier for them to move out after adopting solar, installations are a significant investment with a life of 2025 years.
As discussed earlier in context with roof space, institutes have advantages compared to residential areas when it comes to solar installations. Another advantageous feature is the existence of permanent infrastructure. Most school and university campus areas have existed or while continue to exist for the next couple of decades. The problems of rent, moving out etc do no arise here.

7. Several financing options present:
Worried about the expenditure? Thankfully, there is a plethora of financial options available for financing solar projects in an educational institute!
Universities can opt for purchase with cash or loan options as well. Educational institutes are given priority for subsidy under various government schemes. Subsidy up-to 30% can be availed from the government.
As it stands, educational institutes such as universities and schools have little risk of credit default and hence are considered safe for solar leasing companies to invest. Hence, educational institutes can go for zero upfront payment solar leases which translate.
The Solar Labs listed installers will do the paperwork for you and give you a seamless transition to solar!

8. Foster goodwill among the student body
What better place for the younger generation to take steps to transition to a better world than at their schools/ colleges!
It is not new for the students of today to have heard about how disastrous Global Warming can be. By installing solar, the institute can help it’s students and employees
take steps to cutting down their carbon footprint. As an institute, together you will be doing your bit for bring a difference to our world!
While your students are being nurtured for becoming capable professionals and responsible adults, installing solar on campus will create really positive impact on your students. It’ll make them realise the potential of renewable resources such as solar power at an early age. This realisation will help them a long way through adulthood for both taking great decisions as a green citizen as well as saving financially through clean energy. 

Given below are some examples of schools and colleges which have actually taken initiative to install solar on their campus:

Schools:

1. Canadian International School- Bangalore

2. Sri Aurobindo Centre for Education – Pondicherry

3. Vidya Mandir School- Chennai

Colleges:

1. IIT R/K/B

2. BKPS College of Architecture- Pune

3. Manipal University – Manipal

4. Fergusson College – Pune

While we hope that this article has shed light on advantages of solar for educational institutes, we are also optimistic that you will go ahead and consider it! Now is a better time than ever for investing in solar and getting suitable returns for step, and watch your wards grow with the rising trend!  

The Solar LabsSolar for Educational Institutes

Financial Benefits of going Solar  

By Siddharth Gangal and Aarushi Dave

While the sun maybe shining bright for solar industry in general, if you have opted to go solar, it will shine bright for you too!   

While going in for a major investment like solar, as property owner, you are bound to have your apprehensions! But fear not, solar is a major fast-growing industry and you are right in time to join the clean energy movement. 

 

 

 

India’s installed solar capacity reached 20GW in February 2018, making it 4 times larger compared to 2650 MW in May 2014. With plenty of financial benefits and schemes now available, it is a lot easier to push aside these financial apprehensions easily!   

Installing a photovoltaic system, better known as a PV system, is done with the objectives of saving our environment and saving our income.

For those of you wondering about the what you will gain financially by the installation of a solar system, here are the top 10 financial benefits of going solar:  

1.Cutting your electricity bills  

The most direct benefit is the drop in your electricity bills that you will notice. By switching to solar, you are no longer buying electricity from the grid. Generating even a portion of your electricity consumption from solar energy, you save big and have significantly lower prices in your electricity bills. Using solar will enable you to move to a lower slab, drastically cutting down your cost of electricity.  

In fact, if you consider net metering, you can get credit for the excess energy you generate which you can trade with the grid. Net metering is a financial boon to residential users as your solar installation might not always generate electricity exactly as per your needs. Factors such as time of the day, season or shadows may influence generation. Hence you can exchange the excess generated energy with the grid and use the grid power when your power output is down; you will be billed only for the extra power consumed. This way, you save yourself from grid electricity bills, but can avail power at any time.    

At present in India, the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, along with Delhi, have some very favourable net metering policies! 

2. Save yourself from rising utility costs  

Fluctuating grid utility costs are infamous for taking an upward trend. Making a switch to solar is one of the best ways you can guard yourself against rising costs.  

On shifting to a solar system, the rate per unit comes to somewhere between Rs. 3.33/unit to Rs. 5.00/unit.  

This value remains constant throughout the whole life of the solar panels. This is what makes solar installation an invaluable one-time investment; once installed it is an asset to you throughout it’s lifetime.   

On the other hand, rising electricity costs which go up at the rate of 5 – 10% per year. When you compare these two over a longer period, these small savings become very size-able.  

 

Most solar panels have lifetimes of over 30 years with majority companies offering warranty up to 25 years of the life. Besides, if you opt a solar loan for the initial expenditure, once the repayment is complete, the power for your property is practically free. The maintenance costs maybe an exception; however, they are minimal compared to the predicted rise in grid tariff over the next few years So, this means that you can live easy, without caring too much about the maintenance of your system!   

 

3.Availability of financial benefits   

Despite quicker return on investment, longer use-able life of the installation and warranty, there is one step that still creates hesitation in the minds of prospective users. The initial investment cost.  

However, to help potential users smoothly clear this financial hurdle from realising their dreams to convert to solar, there are plenty of subsidies and favorable policies on solar panels, from both the central and state governments, are presently available. Subsidies include 30% discount on the benchmark cost of solar panels offered by the Ministry of Renewable Energy.  

 

Seeing the rising awareness and demand among our citizens to switch to cleaner energy generation for their property, the RBI (i.e.  Reserve Bank of India) has undertaken an initiative to aid this switch. 

The financing of solar installations and plants has been categorized as ‘Priority Sector’ by Public Sector Banks (PSUs).   

 

This initiative has been undertaken with a particular outreach to residential owners as individuals or housing societies, as well as small and medium commercial enterprises. Plus, is your home under construction and solar installation is taking place during the construction process? PSUs may consider the installation expenses as a part of home loans as house construction costs.    

As a home owner with solar, you also avail tax incentives and deductions.  

With solar set to become a norm, it is a good idea to stay ahead of the curve and reap the benefits of these subsidies!   

4. Great returns on your initial expenses:  

It is natural that as a homeowner, it is a big concern for you whether your initial expenses will get suitable returns.  

The answer is yes! They will in fact, get amazing returns, through the 20-25 year lifespan of your system both in terms of energy and money. 

 

If you compare with traditional methods of investment such as shares and FDs, solar panels offer ROI of around 20% which is much higher. There is zero risk with solar installation since the sun will always shine.   

After the initial payback period of 5-10 years, energy generated is all profit. Here’s a comparison between a solar panel and an FD (for the amount of Rs. 1,50,000):    

5. Add value to your property  

“Thinking of moving out? What about my solar installation over this property?!”  

As a homeowner, this is a valid concern that arises when installing solar over their property. But we have some great news. Photovoltaic system installations add value to your property!  

Solar installation is fast becoming a popular choice, making a lot of conscious and aware home buyers want to invest in property that has solar installation. Solar is an asset that won’t depreciate in value as years pass by, unlike your car. Some factual data to prove our point:  

 

  1. According to a report by the Appraisal Insitute, a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2014 conducted in California found that for a typical 5kW residential installation could add $30,000 to the value of the property.     
  2. A study conducted by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) concluded that homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for more money.   

So even if you may move, the solar PV system will be sold with it and you will get paid more for your house than what you paid for the system. Solar is the gift that keeps on giving! This might not be your immediate objective while installing solar, but in the long run, for an asset as valuable as your property, solar is going to be icing on the cake!    

6. Create local economy 

The process of purchase, installation and maintenance of solar is a wholesome one, involving members of different professions coming together to make your installation smooth. This not only simplifies your switch to a PV system, but also makes it a community effort boosting the local economy.   

Solar creates a multitude of jobs; in business, technicians, engineering, installation and manufacturing. Your installation will do you bit for fostering this community at a neighbourhood and a national level.  

An increase in the Indian economy directly impact each citizen. So broadly speaking, more economic activity results in more jobs, more money and of course, a richer country. A richer India will make the Rupee stronger and you can do more with your money. Other outcomes of job growth would be lesser criminal activity an agitations, research and innovation boost and drive awareness. Hence it will contribute to making our country a safer place, progressive and cleaner place to live.   

Thus, in the bigger picture, joining the worldwide solar moment, personally or an institute, you do your bit to the local and national economy.

7. Branding your institute and setting an example!   

Thinking of solar installation for your institute/organisation? That’s in fact a great move! Here’s why:  

i. Great for your brand name:  

Irrespective of whether you are educational institute or a company or any organisation in general, the “clean energy factor” for your workspace will definitely make you stand out in the crowd!  

ii. Using savings to improve infrastructure  

Air conditioners, computers, labs are increasing demand for electricity. Adopting solar now can give instant savings which can be used for upgrading infrastructure such as new classrooms, upgrading the library and conducting training programs for students/employees.  

iii. Reduced dependence on the grid:  

Since you no longer rely directly on the utility grid for power, your institute/organization is protected from both power cuts and rising power costs. An upper hand for both your pocket and productivity! 

iv. If you are a company:  

a. Industrial tariffs are much higher than residential tariffs. Hence, it makes even more sense to adopt solar energy right away. It is obvious that this will bring you savings in the long run.  

b. As mentioned before, savings can be used for improving infrastructure and other targets; plus, a bit of a boost to the brand name.    

v. If you are educational institute:    

a. Very often, education institutes have a lot of unused roof space. This roof space can be productively used to generate revenue and power for your institute. Cutting expenses on power and providing students power without shortage, especially institutes in rural areas can benefit you in plenty ways! 

b. It fosters the spirit of goodwill and the “green factor” makes a mark on the minds of students, their families as well as prospective students. It is an indicator of your dedication to contributing positively to the world.   

c. Installing solar power in your school or university campus is one of the best ways to brand your campus. It is in fact a great marketing opportunity for the institute.  

d. The solar industry will be employing and creating several more jobs for the present generation of students in the near future. By undertaking such a project, institutes can familiarise their students with solar and teach them about it’s working and finances hands on.  

 

e. Universities can opt for purchase with cash or loan options as well. Educational institutes are given priority for subsidy under various government schemes. Subsidy up-to 30% can be availed from the government. The Solar Labs listed installers will do the paperwork for you and give you a seamless transition to solar.   

In fact, even on becoming the first one in your neighbourhood to install a PV system, you could be setting an example for your entire locality and winning praises! Solar installations give you the real possibility of owning an asset that has you bragging about but also brings you savings.   

8. Great Timing:  

If you asked when the best time to move to solar would be ideally, we would easily say NOW! Simply putting it, the present time is best for making this critical switch for three main reasons:  

i. The rates of solar installation are presently lower than they have ever been.  2017 saw a staggering 40% price drop in solar tariff rates. According to an article in The Guardian, “Analysts called the 40% price drop “world historic” and said it was driven by cheaper finance and growing investor confidence in India’s pledge to dramatically increase its renewable energy capacity”. 

This is an indicator of how good a time it is to join the collective movement for solar. 

ii. Availability of several financial services, schemes and incentives is increasing fast and is better than ever. This is will make the transition, easier than ever, for your pocket.

iii. As mentioned before, thanks to conventional unclean sources of energy such as coal and oil shrinking in quantity, the prices of grid powered energy are going to rise. This trend is not stopping anytime soon.     

The fourth reason would of course be the fact that the present is indeed a great time to do your bit to save the planet! And of course, save some money in the process.   

 

 

All of these reasons are evidence that it’s probably the best time to cash in on these benefits offered by solar installations!  

At The Solar Labs we give you our word that the sun is shining brighter for solar that it has ever before! While it is an ecological step on your part, this renewable and inexhaustible source of energy will never drain resources of the earth, or your bank balance! 

The Solar LabsFinancial Benefits of going Solar  

How Solar Cells Work   

By Siddharth Gangal and Aarushi Dave

If you’ve come across the word “solar cell”, ample number times during your pre-purchase research, and are confused what exactly it does, here’s a brief guide to it!

By definition, a solar cell is an electronic device, made of semiconducting material, that absorbs the rays of the sun, and converts them to useful electricity, thanks to the photovoltaic effect.  Grouped together, they form solar modules, which eventually form solar panels together, that form a part of solar installations. Similar to batteries, they convert solar radiation into DC direct current electricity, unlike the chemical energy to electricity conversion.   

While we come from a generation using mostly conventional sources such as the utility grid or regular batteries, the world is fortunately shifting towards conventional sources of energy such as solar. As apart of this rising change, and most importantly, as a conscious solar buyer, we want to help you understand how solar cells work.    

Let’s break down that definition to understand what solar cells really are:

1.Composition and structure: The cells must absorb the radiation of the sun

  • Solar cells are made of silicon which is a semiconducting material i.e. neither insulator nor conductor.   
  • Silicon can be made positive type (p-type) i.e. fewer electrons, or negative type (n-type) i.e. more electrons, by specially treating them chemically or doping.  
  • When a combination of a layer of p type and n type silicon is placed together, a barrier is formed at the junction of the two. This is where photovoltaic effect takes place. 
  • While many materials satisfy the needs of a photovoltaic conversion, practically, all photovoltaic energy conversions use semiconductor materials as  p-n junction. 

    Image Credit- https://pveducation.org/pvcdrom/solar-cell-structure

 

2. Photovoltaic Effect and Functioning: The photovoltaic effect is what produces electricity from the absorbed solar radiation: 

  • At the p-n junction barrier between the two layers, sunlight falling on it, ‘photons’ are generated.  
  • These photons provide energy to the electrons, knocking from the p-layer across the barrier to the n-layer, and from the n-layer into the attached circuit.  
  • This is how DC electricity is generated and flows through the circuit.  This is called the Photovoltaic effect. 
  • Hence a semiconducting material is required, as it absorbs light and promotes electrons to a higher energy state, and then transfers it to the external circuit. 

3. Efficiency: What percent of received energy do they convert to useful electricity  

  • In other words, the energy output from the solar cell for the energy input from the sun rays.  
  • Practically, majority solar cells convert around 10-20% energy received into electricity. Theoretically, a typical, single-junction silicon solar cell has maximum efficiency of about 30 % called the Shockley-Queisser limit. While cutting edge technology can create such cells in laboratories, operating in perfect conditions give 46% efficiency, this is practically impossible  
  • In real world domestic solar installations, around 15% efficiency maybe achieved by the panels. This is drop is due to real world factors influencing the cells such as photons of different wavelengths producing different amounts of energy, intensity of the incident sunlight and the temperature of the solar cell.  
  • In addition, ensure you minimise the following factors, to improve efficiency:  

i. How the panels are positioned and their tilt  

ii.Prevent Shadowing  

iii.Keep the panels clean  

iv.Provide ventilation to the panels to keep them cool as increasing temperature lowers their efficiency.   

  • Efficiency is often an important parameter to judge the performance of the cells and compare with other cells. Hence you must measure efficiency carefully, without the above-mentioned factors influencing the panels, especially when used for comparison.    
  • Particularly essential parameter when you have limited space for installation

4. Cells, Modules, Arrays: How one forms another:   

  • Cells form Modules. Modules form Arrays. It’s simple.  
  • As mentioned earlier, a solar cell is an electronic device which converts solar radiation into 

    Image Credit- https://pveducation.org/

    electricity. These cells are actually the building blocks of solar modules.  

  • While each cell generates around 0.5 V, any number of   cells can form a solar module.  

Similarly, modules put together form arrays, which are installed in sites.  

 

Number of cells used in modules have the following uses:  

i. 36 cells:  charge a 12 V battery  

ii. 60 cells: the typical residential grid connected system uses solar modules

iii. 72 cells: large commercial and utility scale solar systems                                                              

  • On increasing the number of solar cells per module, the voltage and wattage increases. Smaller custom size modules with lesser cells can also be created.   
  • Panels typically have a standard size of 6” * 6”  

5. 60 cells vs 72 cell modules    

  • 60 cell panels are commonly used for domestic purposes such as residential rooftop solar installations.  
  • 72 cell panels are commonly used for ground-mounted, commercial, or utility sized solar installations.  
  • While 72 cell panels are bigger in size, the have a higher power output rating for the same material, because of more cells. The extra 12 cells make these panels significantly larger (2m x 1m compared to 1.65m x 0.95m for 60 cell) and heavier (about 28kg compared to around 20kg in 60 cell).    

Reasons why 72 cells panels can be unsuitable for residential installations:   

i. Due to larger dimensions and weight, in most cases, they require different mounting than standard panels i.e. 3 rails instead of 2.

ii. Majority 72 cell panels found in the market currently are designed with commercial or utility grade installation features. Hence, they are transported in bulk, lifted onto rooftops by crane instead of  manual lifting and usually need to be installed flat because (hence little or no requirement for wind resistance). 

Image Credit – http://solarprofessional.com/articles/design-installation/q-a-bypass-diodes-improve-system-performance-and-safety#.W0swS4VOLOY

iii. Since they are not structurally designed to be manhandled individually, the possibility of flexing  the panels while carrying and installing them on a rooftop may reduce the long-term viability of the backing sheet (consequently of the entire panel).  

iv. Small, material differences in the positive tolerance levels, efficiency and temperature coefficient and a significantly reduced level of hail resistance have also been observed on comparing the two types.

v. However, 72 cell panels are usually cheaper due to different manufacturing than resident standard for other          panels 

  • 72 panels are not more efficient than 60 panels! They only produce greater output due to more number of cells. From around 270W per panel on 60 cells, up to around 310W or 315W in 72 cells is seen but at the same efficiency.   

6. Three busbar model:  

  • Busbars are, by definition,  is a metallic strip or bar, typically housed inside switchgear, panel boards, and busway enclosures for local high current power distribution.    
  • Image Credit – https://www.photovoltaikbuero.de/en/pv-know-how-blog-en/peeling-of-front-contacts-on-solar-cells/

    In solar panels, busbars are thin flat strips made of copper or aluminium, which allow heat to  dissipate more efficiently because of their high surface area to cross-sectional area ratio.  

  • Insulators can support busbars, or insulation may completely surround them.  
  • They separate the solar cells and are used to carry the direct current generated from the cells to the inverters.  

 

 

 

With this article we hope to have clarified some of your doubts regarding solar cells and hope you have lesser confusions in your pre purchase research!

 

 

The Solar LabsHow Solar Cells Work   

How Solar Energy works: Panels and Components 

By Siddharth Gangal and Aarushi Dave

What is Solar Energy really?  

Simply speaking, it is energy from  the sun. This energy is, in the form of photons and can be used to generate electricity using photovoltaic cells.  

Using a solar system installation, this energy can be harnessed and used to power your home, office or just any place that needs it! With dropping costs and innovative technologies being developed, solar power will soon account for satisfying a large percentage of energy demands of India.  

So what’s a solar energy system made of 

A solar energy system is installed in a premise to generate power using solar irradiance. You might know primarily of photovoltaic panels, popularly known as ‘solar panels’. But that’s not all!  Here’s a complete list of the components of a solar system that you need to be familiar with before installation:   

  • Solar Panels: These are also called photovoltaic panels; they convert solar radiation into usable electricity. The most prominent part of the solar system, they are present  on the roof of the building. 

To further understand how panels function, here are the details:  

1.Material: The major component of the panels is silicon. N-type or P-type silicon is created using a process called ‘doping’. These two types of charged silicon are placed together to form a photovoltaic cell and several such cells are connected in series to form a panel.  

Most panels are two kinds: polycrystalline or monocrystalline.   

2. Power Generation: The silicon cells in panels absorb energy in the form of photons from solar radiation.  Electricity is generated as DC current when these electrons travel through the circuits in the solar cells.  

3. DC to AC difference:  Electrons traveling through the solar cell generate DC or direct current. However, for household and office use AC or alternate current is needed. Hence, inverters are needed to convert this produced DC power to AC power.  

Solar panels are the lifeline of a solar photovoltaic system. They convert sunlight into electrical energy. It is important to make sure you install good quality solar panels. Not all panels are built the same. Make sure that the solar panels you purchase follow the IEC 61215 test. 

 

  • Arrays and Array DC Disconnect:  

Arrays are a group of panels connected to each other in a series configuration. The size of the array may range from 5 to 100 depending on the size of the solar system being installed.  

An Array DC Disconnect is installed. It disconnects the array from the inverter for any maintenance, replacement or upkeep work.   

 

  • Inverters: When solar panels generate energy from the sun’s rays, it is in the form of DC (Direct Current) electricity. However, homes and offices run on AC (Alternate Current) electricity. Inverters are used to change the DC power produced in the panels to AC power, that’s actually useful.  

Inverters are of the following types:  

1.String (or centralized) inverter: The entire array of solar panels is connected by ‘strings’, which is connected to a single inverter. This is the most cost efficient. However, poor performance by even one panel in the entire string affects the overall performance of the entire system. This may even happen due to temporary shading on even one panel. Hence it is imperative to make sure a proper shading analysis is done by the solar installer. Typically, string inverters can be used for any roof.  

2. Micro-inverters:  One of each of these is installed at each solar panel. This enables them to maximise production, because even if a particular panel is in a different direction or experiencing shading, the performance of the whole string is not affected. Cost of micro-inverters however is much higher than that of string inverter. 

3. Power optimizers:Cross between string inverter and micro-inverter systems. Similar to micro-inverters, power optimizers are installed at each panel. However, instead of converting the DC electricity from the solar panels into AC electricity, the optimizers “condition” the DC electricity before sending it to a centralized inverter. Like micro-inverters, they help when problems such as shading or facing different directions occurs in individual panels. While this system is cheaper than micro inverters, it is also costlier than string inverter.  

 

Batteries – yes or no?  

Normally, batteries are not required in solar systems connected to the electricity grid due to net metering policies by the government. However, if you live in an area of frequent power cuts, you will need to have batteries. Let us see how: 

  • Batteries:   Solar power is generated in the day but homes and workplaces consume maximum energy at night. This shortfall is overcome by storing the excess generated power into batteries, which is used on-site when the panels are not producing power, such as night time. Batteries have their disadvantages as they can be expensive, and problematic with maintaining and disposal.  
  • Net metering: An alternative to batteries is net metering. Net metering relies on a special type of meter called a ‘net meter’ which runs backwards when excess solar electricity is fed into the grid and forward (normally) when electricity is drawn from the grid. Electricity is billed on net units consumed, and not the time electricity is consumed at. Hence, you can consider the electricity grid an infinite personal battery where you can put and take solar energy at your convenience! 

India has some of the most favourable net metering policies in the world. Electricity is metered on the total number of units consumed and not the time energy is consumed. Hence, even if you do not consume solar energy generated during the day, it will be transferred into the grid and will offset your evening and night consumption. 

 

 

 

  • Racking mounting systems: Panels can be mounted into arrays in 3 ways:  

Roof Mounting

1. On roof: Most common, an approach which is aesthetic and efficient. While the panels might not much maintenance, mounting it on the roof, especially a high one, might make access for cleaning or repairing systems can be a challenge. It may be needed according zoning ordinances.     

2. On poles in free standing arrays: Compared to roof arrays maintenance is easier due to suitable height. However, these take up extra space.  

 

Ground Mounting

3.Ground mounting: Simpler and easier to access as they’re lower in height. But space might be a concern  for directly  mounting arrays on the ground. Should not be used for arrays with regular accumulation of snow. 

In all of the following mounting systems, the arrays mounts could be of two types:  

1.Fixed: The panels are stationary and are pre-set for a particular height and angle. Fixed mounting system is mandatory if the array is attached to the rooftop. While they may not give the optimum angles for output, they’re cheaper and less complicated to install. 

2. Moving or Tracking:  These arrays literally move with the sun and set their angle according to the movements of the sun i.e. they track the sun. They adjust themselves to move from east to west (single axis mounts), through changing seasons (dual axis mounts). They are more expensive but slightly more efficient. These are not used for rooftop solar and are more suitable for large ground mounted solar plants due to higher maintenance requirements. 

 

  • Performance monitoring systems: They give you information on your installed solar system’s performance. Monitoring systems can help you and your solar installer identify any unexpected problem affecting the performance of your system and fix them. Hence, it is beneficial for obtaining expected energy output and hence, a strong financial return. 

Types of Monitoring Systems:    

1.On-site monitoring: Electricity generation recorded from monitoring device which is actually present in your site of installation. Most inverters have a screen where basic data is available.   

2.Remote monitoring: Electricity generation data recorded and transmitted to a monitoring service that you can access remotely. This is required to get much more insights on what problems might occur. Remote monitoring makes automatic diagnostics possible using latest data analytics techniques. 

  • Charge Controller/Regulator: Prevents batteries from being over charged. 

 

Solar panels have a manufacturer’s warranty of 25 years. Inverters have manufacturer warranties of 5-10 years, depending on the brand of inverter. Other components are typically not covered by warranty and the solar company is in charge of making sure of replacements in case things go wrong.   

 

The Solar LabsHow Solar Energy works: Panels and Components 

Why installers should use The Solar Labs

By Siddharth Gangal and Aarushi Dave

Decided to use software? We’ll take care of your needs!  

As we’ve mentioned in earlier articles, utilising solar software for your projects as an installer, will have benefits in leaps and bounds! It will give accuracy in system design, orientation and placement of panels, and add on to the efficiency of your panels outputs.   

However, the software presently available such as Helioscope and PVSyst, are complex,  expensive, and unsuitable for the Indian market. This could make them a poor choice for techno-commercial applications and generation of sales quotation. Moreover, not using a software altogether, is going to make you as an installer rely on intuition more than intelligence in placing the panels.  

 And an improperly designed system can cause you losses not only in terms of finance and output, but also your customers confidence in solar energy.  

How we can help you out  

At The Solar Labs, our objective is to help you, as an installer, deliver to your clients as much power as promised, giving them the desirable return on their investment. Most importantly, our product strives to help you save time and money.  

Crafted to overcome the above shortfalls, our software delivers to you, data rich quotations with the following stellar features:   

1.You save time and cut losses: We’ll save you crucial time on the design, surveying, preparation of quotations and installations, which can be used on expanding sales instead:   

  • Quicker surveys: An accurate site survey is a must for the installation to give great returns. However, a manually done site survey is often time taking and requires skilled manual labour. Our product enables you to remotely survey the site and create quotations, from satellite imagery and the consumers electricity usage data, all within a few minutes!      

One of the features contained in our product is 3D Modeling of the site, where it will give the user thorough option to edit it on the desktop, with functions like specifying the actual dimensions. During this process, we will be shipping the roof layout drawing in PDF, AutoCAD and other 3D formats. 

Using our software, you save time and money spent on manually intensive tasks, generate customised quotes within minutes!   

  • More iterations: Another objective of our product, is to have real time estimated generations, which helps the installers consider more designs and do more iterations quickly. This cuts down the need of many iterations in which the user can use the same design flow to test multiple ideas without the need of going end to end. Doing a new iteration is easy and requires one to copy designs (which opens in the next tab) and change the parameter there and see the difference from the benchmark (which can either be the best design or the parent design. Our ability to iterate more will make you the better performing system.   
  • Simplicity: Our software is simple, user friendly and cutting the complexities of the design process to increase accuracy. Our cloud-based software can help installers do efficient system design using Indian electricity codes.  
  • Optimizing for IRR/Generation: Deciding where to the place the inverters and which string should go where, is the next decision to take after panel placement and stringing. This at times result in larger than required wire because changing inverter position will have opposite effect on DC wire length, and AC wire length and also losses associated with them. Optimizing for cost leads to loss of generation.  

That is why designers place panels intuitively so as to balance trade-offs but in our case where we place panels, do the stringing and place the inverter i.e. all together. Hence, we optimize for IRR/Generation.  

Our smart algorithm for optimizing wire, conduit length and cost, and DC wiring loss, will also keep aesthetics in mind

2. You win consumers: Our primary aim is to help you convince your consumers to select your installation. We will assist you to design better and produce more blueprints and analysis. Right from placement and orientation of panels, to shading by surroundings, and even roofing and weather conditions, we’ve covered it all: 

  • Rooftops: For rooftops, especially for industrial and commercial clients, the true benefit of going solar is not reflected by producing quotes taking fixed tariff rate. Instead, we offer to do slabbed based analysis. 

Over to design details, for clients with ‘time of day tariff’ system, a more financially sound system (on-grid or hybrid) will come by hourly analysis. For example, recommending dome some East-West facing installation so as to produce more during the times where tariff is more. Considering the settlement period, according to the net metering policy, we can also recommend on how to minimize the units given to grid which are not rebated. 

  • Comparison: Additionally, our platform enables comparison. Each design can be duplicated to another design, where in at any step(editable), he/she can make changes, and perform all the steps following the changes, create a new design and compare it with previous designs.  
  • Adaptive Design: Another concern that often comes to consumers is whether the system can adapt to changes in the surroundings. Model changing requirements such as cutting tree, neighbors setting a higher floor, onsite assessment or during installation time – new civil or electrical, can easily accommodated.  

 

  • Finances:  Payback, ROI and savings figures included for your customers to view their financial returns. Plus, you can add monthly and yearly savings graphs to convince your customers further. After all, data convinces the best!       

 

  • Inverter Selection and placement: In this step, the user will select the type and size of inverters, plus he has an option to maintain a DC-AC ratio. Most of the times it won’t be possible to have same number of strings as required. In these cases, few inverters will be taking less strings. 

Having a bigger DC:AC ratio will have inverter clipping loss, but net generation increases (due to panels generation more in morning and evening time – when there is less irradiance). So, designers have thumb rules for DC:AC, because of irradiance that location receives, like panel inverter selection done based on DC:AC thumb rules like Rajasthan should have and Delhi should have. But in case of rooftops, the effective irradiance the panels receive can be a lot different on roof-by-roof basis. Even a different DC:AC ratio can be followed for a single site for different field segments receiving different irradiance. This will increase the net generation.  

 We assist you in selecting one or multiple inverters which should fit best with the current panels (based on the string sizing). Few panels might not be possible to be covered in stringing and will be shown as excluded panels which should be removed. The installer can manually mention the inverters to be used as well.   

Our software assures you of inverter placement and wiring which is both aesthetically appealing and efficient.  

 

  • For every unique installation: Our software gives the best possible design for a particular roof using machine learning and AI. It’s simplicity and easy use system design tools give us an edge over the other tools  in the market. Moreover, our shade analysis tools help you estimate generation and prepare accurate quotations faster. Automatic shading reports, layouts, BOM, generation and financial estimates that our software prepares will give you an edge over competitors.   

With the following features, we promise to present to you those customer winning figures, that translate your installation to quality results.   

We understand that outstanding designs, and data rich quotations and analytics will best communicate your vision to your clients. And that’s where we make you win.  

 

3.You grow faster: Faster quotes, superior designs and better installed system for your consumers, helps you close more deals.  

  • The ultimate goal of our design tool is produce superior designs, by considering more permutations of design, while cutting time taken per iteration. We’re aiming at simplifying the platform and bringing everything together, to provide the usable seed of a good design.   
  • Since solar buyers receive many different quotations from different companies, we’re devoted to making you stand out, by translating your product’s results into beautifully designed and data rich quotations.   
  • Thanks to our software, your time saved on surveys and design can be used in sales. Plus, we ensure you a superbly crafted end product, helping you to convert with a higher efficiency. With the saved time, best designs and more consumers won, we help you close more deals. In other words, The Solar Labs spells “growth” for your business.    

 

The present time and trends are perfect for a solar installer. And this a domain which is only going to grow!! From preparing the preliminary sales quotation to final engineering design, our software has got everything covered for you.  

 

With us, you can ride this rising wave of solar, striking the best deals and winning the confidence of more clients!! 

 

  

The Solar LabsWhy installers should use The Solar Labs

Why Solar Installers should use software

By Siddharth Gangal and Aarushi Dave

Solar installation needs intelligence, not intuition!  

We live in a country with a rapidly expanding solar industry, which very recently achieved the notable feat of 20GW of installed solar capacity and is also blessed with abundance of sunlight for most parts of the year. To add on to this is our ever-growing need for power. In short, it is a great time and place for a solar installer be.  

However, while this a great opportunity for installers to capitalise, there are still challenges that often surface in the process of installation. Problems related inefficiency with regards to the system design, improper placement and orientation of panels, and shading by objects such as trees around it, plague the installation process. In addition to this, surveying a site before the installation of panels, which when done manually, needs skilled manpower, and of course, utmost accuracy.   

These hurdles, if not overcome, can hamper the installed solar system from generating optimum amounts of electricity, and overall decrease the return on investment for the consumer. This in turn will led to loss of confidence the consumers have in the installers. After all, solar energy is supposed to be not just a medium of relief to the environment, but a relief to the pocket too!   

Thankfully, this is where solar software comes into the picture, making these obstacles problems of the past.   

Solar software brings with it the following benefits for installers:   

  • User Friendly: Reduce the complexities of the design process making it more accurate.  
  • Faster: Enables pre-designing projects remotely and faster 
  • Simplicity: Saves skilled manual labour effort and costs through remote site survey  
  • Quotations: Aids in easily and remotely creating sales quotations  
  • Savings: Helps installers estimate savings and returns of the consumers 

The following features make solar software a winning tool for installers and are assured to give your company satisfied consumers and great output.  The refreshing accuracy in design will assist you to create high quality installations, and detailed engineering designs and sales quotations, making you deliver the promised solar power to your consumers! 

With the aid of software, as an installer, you can smoothly ride the growing trend of rooftop solar, bringing your consumers sophistication, savings and sustainability in their installations!   

Unfortunately, some software available in the market, such as PVSyst and Helioscope are complicated to use, expensive and hence unsuitable for Indian solar installers. Our product is designed to overcome these gaps while bringing down costs and bringing up productivity.  

At The Solar Labs we are on a mission to provide you with the best features possible that solar  software offers and produce data rich quotations swiftly!   

What our software offers to you:   

  • Remote use: We enable you to conduct site surveys remotely through video recording of the site, saving time and skilled manual labour costs                                                               
  • Superior Design:  Best possible system design for a particular roof through our machine learning and AI enabled technology                     
  • Ease:  Our system design tool is simple and user friendly 
  • Shading Analysis: Estimate generation with our accurate shade analysis for an accurate quotation 
  • Financial Benefits: Payback, ROI and savings figures included for your customers to view their financial gains 
  • India Friendly: We will assist you in efficient system designs using Indian electricity codes 

With these features, our aim is to enable you to close more deals as an installer, and generate as much  power as promised, efficiently and accurately.

We would like to join you in the endeavour to install  the best rooftop systems considering the client needs, shading area, weather conditions and the trends of the booming Indian solar industry.   

The Solar LabsWhy Solar Installers should use software

NPV, IRR and Payback Period

 By Siddharth Gangal and Aarushi Dave 

Your solar plant is an asset that makes you money. In fact presently, higher prices are recorded for property with solar installation! While the journey to an installation may be technically complex, there are financial details too that you must get clear.  

As a consumer, viewing multiple quotes before making the purchase is critical financially. However, we understand that all the metrics can be confusing, especially when you have to make a decision.   

The returns are measured by the Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate of Revenue (IRR) and Payback Period. With this article, we aim to help you understand these terms, their implications and attempt to make this journey smoother for you as a consumer.  

Payback Period

As mentioned earlier, consumers might find all the parameters for judgement confusing. But one the simplest one’s is Payback Period.   

Payback Period is the time taken for a project to pay for itself i.e. time taken to recover the cash outflow. It is the amount of time taken for savings made from the installed solar system to equal the amount of money invested into the project.  

However, it must be noted, that “simple payback period” does not consider inflation, depreciation, maintenance costs, project lifetime, and other factors. For this, we use more complex terms like NPV and IRR.

This means the true worth of your solar system over its lifetime is not obtained. Most commercial installers take into account the net cost of the solar system after incentives have been applied and divide it by your projected annual electric bill savings  

To put it simply, if you have invested Rs. 2,00,000 into your initial installation, you earn Rs. 40,000 as savings each year, it will take you 5 years to recover the initial investment.  

Therefore: Net Solar System Cost/Annual Utility Savings from Solar = Simple Payback in Years  

In fact, payback period is one of the easiest parameters to comprehend and very often consumers rely on it for quote comparison. Let us dive right in! 

Steps to calculate Payback Period:  

1.Installation Expenditure = Total cost of Solar installation – value of upfront financial incentives  

The ‘Total cost of solar installation’ is the gross cost of installation of the solar system over your property. The size of your installation and the various components are considered while calculating this cost.    

Upfront financial incentives are tax breaks and rebates.  

2. Average Cost of electricity = total annual cost of electricity / total annual electricity consumption   

3. Yearly savings = average cost of electricity * yearly energy production from solar system  

The more energy you generate, the more you will save from your regular electricity bill.  

4.Payback period = cost to install / yearly savings  

The greater your yearly savings are, the shorter your payback period will be! 

Net Present Value   (NPV)

The next key criteria a consumer must be aware about is the NPV or the Net Present Value of the installation.   

NPV is how much return the solar plant will make, accounting for the time value of money. Factors such as opportunity cost, inflation and risk are all accounted for in NPV to give the overall value of the project in today’s time. 

Hence NPV accounts for the “future value” of the investment made into an installation project. Infact, ROI does not consider inflation, risk, or the lost opportunity of investing in another type of investment, such as stocks and bonds. Thus, consideration of the “time value” of money is the key difference between the two criteria.  

This is similar to the analogy that a commodity worth Rs. 50 as of today will not be worth the exact same amount in the future. It could amount to Rs. 51 or even Rs. 51.5 depending on factors like inflation. Thus, if that project returned the same Rs. 50 to you at the end of a said time period, it would not be profitable. But if it gave back Rs. 52, it would be profitable when compared to the present value of Rs. 51 or  Rs. 51.5.  

A positive value for NPV indicates that the project is set to make money or prove profitable to clients over the time period considered. Vice versa is the case for a negative NPV. Hence this means that a project with a positive NPV is considered to be a “good investment” and is a criteria for deciding whether to consider a particular project.    

An important part of evaluating the NPV is the Discount Rate of a project. This is explained ahead.   

 INTERNAL RATE OF RETURN (IRR) 

The next important parameter a consumer must be aware of is IRR.  

IRR or Internal Rate of Return is the discount rate at which the sum of Net Present Value (NPV) of the current investment and all future cashflow (positive or negative) is zero. It is an indicator of the growth of the project is expected to generate. 

With regards to installing a solar panel system, the IRR is a criterion which indicates the returns that your installation is expected to generate for you as an investor and serve as a benchmark for future projects.  

Hence the discount rate has an impact on the NPV of a project.   

 While all of this might sound too complicated, we will attempt to simplify it a bit.

NPV displays a particular project’s net present value in currency. Meanwhile, the IRR stands for the rate of return on the NPV cash flows received from a solar investment. For example, if the IRR of a project is 12%, it means that your solar energy investment is projected to generate a 12% annual return through the life of the solar system. 

This makes IRR a useful parameter for comparing the returns different investment opportunities and choosing rightly between them. This also means that on obtaining accurate data of each investment, comparison between the IRR of investing in solar to the IRR of otherwise capital investment can shed light on the one with the highest return. Or even help make a choice between different solar projects.  

 How you choose to finance your commercial solar installation is one of the factors which influences the calculation of the IRR.

If you choose to take a loan, data will include details such as:  

  1. The net cost of the system after upfront rebates and tax incentives 
  2. Debt amount 
  3. Interest rate present on debt  
  4. Debt term  
  5. Projected annual cash flow from utility savings  
  6. Pre-tax performance-based incentives plus O&M costs. 

A glance at the IRR on a project is good indicator of the prospects of a project and should be done before considering an installation.  

The key differences between NPV and IRR : 

 

Net Present Value  Internal Rate of Return 
1. Calculated as the present value of cash inflow minus the present value of cash outflow.  1. Discount Rate that makes the Net Present Value (NPV) of all cash flows from a particular project equal to zero. 
2. Expressed in the form of currency return expected from a project.  2. Expressed in the form of percentage returns expected from a project. 
3. Absolute Measure: Currency value gained or lost on a project. 3. Relative Measure: Rate of return of a project over it’s lifespan. 

 

The calculations of both NPV and IRR are given here:  

NPV Calculation: 

Present Value = Cash Inflow or Future Value x (1 + rate)^-(time) 

NPV = sum of all PV – Cash Outflow 

If NPV > 0 accept 

 

IRR Calculation: 

Set NPV to zero 

0 = [Cash Inflow x (1 + IRR)^-(time)] – Cash Outflow 

When IRR > rate accept 

The discount rate is a critical part of calculating the NPV. Higher the discount rate, lower is the NPV. 

 

So, let’s take a hypothetical example: 

Say our solar system: 

* costs Rs. 100 

* returns Rs. 25 per year for 5 years 

* discount rate of 5% 

 

Therefore NPV 

= 25*(1.05)^-1 + 25*(1.05)^-2 + 25*(1.05)^-3 + 25/(1.05)^-4 + 25/(1.05)^-5 – 100 

= Rs. 8.236 

 

And therefore, for IRR for 5 years 

0 = 25*(1/(1+IRR)) + 25*(1/(1+IRR)^2) + 25*(1/(1+IRR)^3) + 25*(1/(1+IRR)^4) + 25*(1/(1+IRR)^5) – 100 

 

IRR = 7.9% 

 So, for our example payback period is 4 years.

So, in both cases we should go ahead with the transaction. 

Both NPV and IRR are criterion that could be used to evaluate how profitable a project is. 

 

To a consumer the decision of going solar can be intimidating enough, but we get it! Going solar is one of the best investments that you can make, for yourself and the planet. Before investing in a project, do compare and evaluate these parameters to make the best returns from potential investments. We hope this guide helped simplify some of the doubts that you had regarding the finances!  

The Solar LabsNPV, IRR and Payback Period

Site Survey Simplified

By Siddharth Gangal & Aarushi Dave

A Site Survey is done after the preliminary conversation over phone call. This is the best chance to show them your quality, knowledge and good service and convert them by doing a professional site survey.

What exactly is a Site Survey? 

A Site Survey is done to collect information about various aspects such as local conditions, physical details of the site (including the roof) and the consumer’s power consumption needs. Some of the information collected is:

  1. Local climatic conditions
  2. Physical details of the site (including the roof)
  3. The consumer’s power consumption needs
  4. Shading on the roof …….and so on

Site surveys are often done manually by skilled manpower, on the basis of which a 3D model of the site is prepared, which is used for the system design. A site survey consists of an inspection of the area of installation of solar panels to see if the proposed site is suitable. As a solar installer, when checking a potential site, you will primarily check for whether the roof will be able to support the extra load of the solar system, and if during peak hours there is no shade obstructing the panels.

 

So Why is it Crucial?

While considering installing solar, the site proposed by the customer could be a site the customer is well acquainted with, but you aren’t. However, as an installer, you need to possess key information regarding the site. The information that you accumulate through a site survey should cover all the aspects of the location that influence the solar installation at that particular location.

The main objectives of a site survey are:

  1. Ensure a site is free from shade due to obstacles such as water tanks, AC units, staircase, etc.
  2. Clear access for maintenance at the site
  3. Appropriate orientation to the sun
  4. Obtain dimensions of the roof structure
  5. Aesthetics of the installation
  6. The energy consumption of the consumers.

For example, a software based shading analysis of the site can save losses incurring due to inefficient generation. Even a little bit of shade can significantly affect the output and efficiency of a solar power system. Electrically, most PV panels are divided into 3 ‘zones’. If you get shading on just one of those zones then the effect isn’t as bad; however, even partially shading three zones together can lead to a reduction in output of up to 60%. Worse still is if the shading affects both zones at once, for example shading the bottom of the panel. In these cases, even just shading the bottom row of cells would reduce the total power output of the panel by 90-95% of the entire string!

Hence it is crucial to assess the site for all necessary criteria before the installation is done.

What are these criteria?

Let’s say that now you, an installer, have a project in hand and are ready to perform a site survey, there are certain parameters that you absolutely need to cover. Here is a list of this essential criteria and why you need them:

  • Basic information about the site/location:
  1. Address/Plant Name: For identification
  2. Latitude and Longitude: For obtaining satellite image of the site
  3. Details person at plant (Name, Designation, E-Mail ID and Mob No): For contact details
  • Information regarding the Electrical Energy Sources:
  1. Sanctioned load from grid (kVA): Since state policy does not permit more than the specified amount, and varies for different states
  2. Connected Load
  3. Installed capacity & voltage of transformers
  4. Actual connected load (KVA)
  5. Power Units consumption per Month / Day
  6. Average Unit Cost – Grid

Copies of recent electricity bills from consumers are also requested

  • Information related to the roof/building in the facility:
  1. Type of roof: Specify if roof is RCC, metal sheet, or any other
  2. Roof age (years)
  3. Roof access available: Whether the roof can be accessed through a ladder or directly.
  1. Roof height: How many floors high is the roof?

Ensure that all of this data is provided for each roof, if there are multiple roofs for a site.

The above data is enough for a RCC roof, which is common across residential and commercial segments.

If the roof considered is a sheet roof, then:         

  1. Roof vendor/Supplier: Specify name of company, contact
  2. Roof material thickness: Measured in mm 
  3. Roof inclination: Measured in angle
  4. Roof orientation: Direction (e.g. North, North-east, East, etc.)     
  5. Sheet profile: Trapezoidal, Straight seam etc 
  6. What is the structure that supports the roof?:
  7. Is the structure strength adequate? Get DWG   
  8. Roof Penetration allowed? : Yes or No Penetration
  9. Roof Load withstand capacity (kg/m2): Ask vendor/supplier if plant maintenance engineer doesn’t know.
  • Logistics of the installation
  1. Material storage space: Where the modules will be stored over the installation cycle which takes days for small systems to weeks
  2. System to take modules etc to the roof (Stair case, service lift etc
  • A clear idea must be obtained on the following too:

A photo can be taken of the following electrical things of the roof for analysis.

  1. Power evacuation point:
  2. Roof inclination
  3. Existing LT Panel
  4. Existing Earthing & LA Arrangement

    Some additional factors that installers must keep in mind:

   Along with the given points, it is critical that you should consider the following points too:

1.If the roof can sustain that much additional weight?

In case your roof is old, needs repair etc, ensure it is checked before the installation of the PV installation. Also make the choice roof mounting and roof integration.

2. If there are shaded areas that fall on the solar array during hours of maximum of sunlight i.e. 9 am to 4 pm? 

Consider the influence of surrounding obstacles such as buildings, neighbouring roofs, chimneys, pipes, trees, hills (natural landmasses etc). Also the length of the shadow during different times of the day and different seasons (winter and summer) is also to be considered. This is arguably the easiest thing to do using software, but one that most installers get wrong. You can convince roof-owners using shadow simulations and show them how the system will actually generate electricity.

3. Is the solar array easily accessible for maintenance purposes? 

Ensure that the array is accessible enough for maintaining and installation. In addition to that make sure that you don’t over utilise the roof area available as that will increase the wind loading of the roof at the edges and not leave space for fire fighters to enter in case of a fire. Note whether the roof is accessible from inside the building, has a ladder attached, or an there is a need for an external ladder.

4. If you’ve chosen the correct orientation and tilt of the panels?

As an installer you must consider the output obtained on average through the year, maximum during the   summers and winters. Ensure that if the site is in the northern hemisphere then the roof chosen is one facing the south, and vice versa. To get average yield throughout the year your solar panels should be tilted to an angle equal to the latitude (in degrees) of your location. In order to get maximum yield in winter your solar panels should be tilted to an angle equal to the latitude of your location minus 15 degrees, and similarly maximum yield in summer your solar panels should be tilted to an angle equal to the latitude of your location plus 15 degrees.

5. If you have chosen to mount the panels correctly?

If you choose to mount the panels, ensure you select fitting the conditions mentioned above (orientation, shading etc). In addition to that, consider factors such as there is room provided beneath them to ensure cooling, if it is ground mounting to check the kind of soil, and all necessary construction regulations are complied with.

The following are the kinds of mounting:

  1. (Sloped-) Roof mounting
  2. Flat roof/ground mounting
  3. Roof-integrated mounting
  4. Wall mounting

6. Where will the other the components of the system will be situated?

Utilize the site survey to decide location of various components like Inverter, Batteries, DC combinator box, AC distribution box etc. Figure out how far the array will be from the other system constituents. Try to minimise the length of the DC cables between the array and the inverter. Make sure the location is such that the customers can protect the system and the components from theft and vandalism.

7. What is a solar tracker and how can it be used?

A solar tracker is a device which follows the position and the movement of the sun across the sky and ensures maximum collection of solar energy by the panels. This can boost the average energy of the panels significantly. Though trackers consume extra power, there is not much additional maintenance cost. Installers are recommended trackers particularly if there is limited space for the array and the consumer wants to extract maximum power from it.

8. What is the relation between the present electrical system in the building and the solar array?

Through the site survey, you must also gain an understanding of whether the solar panels will connect to the grid. In case of grid-direct systems, the orientation and tilt angle of the solar array is usually in line with roof orientation and slope. As mentioned earlier, the consumer’s current electricity usage should also be noted.

What The Solar Labs has to offer

Surveys can be done either in person or virtually for simpler sites. Most companies now prefer to use virtual methods for the initial feasibility analysis since it can provide a great estimate by the use of satellite imaging and save on time.

Here at TSL, we use of proprietary software that generates a 3D render of the potential area of installation. These renders are created through satellite imaging from Google Maps & ISRO Satellites and it enables us to design accurate systems optimised for the particular area. The 3D renders assist us in finding any possible obstacles in the area of installation that could cause shadows and after simulating the sun movement around the area, we are able to find the ideal location for the solar panels.

Thus, through the use of technology, we are able to ease the whole process of surveying and simplify your consumer’s transition to solar power.

Hence, the site survey aims to provide you with key information, and when combined with the consumers requirements, it is what decides the final proposal that will be drafted by you.

The Solar LabsSite Survey Simplified

Solar Panels: Should You Invest Today or Tomorrow?

Is it better to invest in solar panels now or wait and install them in the near future?

In theory, this idea makes a lot of sense: solar panel costs have plummeted. Over the years the declining prices have resulted in great solar growth. Deferring your solar investment will likely result in a cheaper installation and upfront cost. You will also benefit from higher quality panels as the technology continues to improve. Similar scenarios can also be seen in the mobile phone or car market. Prices go down and quality goes up; however, solar works a little differently.

By delaying your decision to invest in installing PV panels, you often end up paying more – substantially more!!

1. Diminishing government subsidy:

The government can only subsidize solar panels for so long, with increasing solar growth, it is only a matter of time before the 30% subsidy by the MNRE runs out. Lack of this subsidy will jack up the benchmark cost.

2. Delaying solar panels will drive up the cost which in turn will lead to longer payback period because of higher upfront investment. The returns will also be lesser because of the same reason.

3. When delaying your purchase of solar, you still have to deal with the ever increasing electricity bills which go up at an alarming rate of 10-15% each year. In some months, those bills can be obscenely expensive. This is especially true in the summer when your AC unit is working at full capacity. The irony is that all of that summer sunshine is free energy that could keep your home cool if you had solar panels installed.

4. Equally important, installing solar panels also helps to make your community (and planet) that much cleaner. The sooner you invest in solar, the sooner you can reduce your carbon footprint.

5. If you don’t invest in solar you’re missing out on financial benefits and instead of letting your money lie idle or in an FD, you’re better of investing in Solar and reaping various benefits. Fixed deposits get you a return of upto 7%, but solar can easily give 15-20%.

The best time to invest in solar was yesterday.

The next best time is today

The Solar LabsSolar Panels: Should You Invest Today or Tomorrow?

How Renewables Can Power Sustainable Growth in the Indian Economy

Our thought piece for renewable energy’s sustainable growth in India by Kabir Gupta

The Solar Labs was founded to evangelize solar energy’s benefits to the world.

India boasted the fastest growing economy and was reclassified as a “lower middle-income” country by the World Bank in 2016. However, the Indian economy continues to be undermined by several issues, notably the question of sustainability. Even if double-digit economic growth is achieved, the status quo’s extensive use of fossil fuels makes India’s current trajectory largely unsustainable in the long term. India does not have the luxury of industrializing at the expense of the environment and our planet the way the West did a century earlier. While unfettered use of fossil fuel energy sources may create an abundance of jobs in the short term, its contribution to global warming will create existential threats to India’s economy and population’s wellbeing in the decades to come. Examples of this can be seen all over the country, but especially in the nation’s cities that are choked by some of the worst amounts of industrial air pollution seen in the world. Most Indian cities suffering from the problem record pollution rates frighteningly higher than the safe limits set by international agencies and even lower domestic limits. In fact, Delhi’s pollution surpassed the safe limit an estimated 14-16 times during peak times of the year in 2016, and according to a new study, the nation’s air pollution overtook China as the world’s deadliest, causing 1.1 million premature deaths each year alone. This number increased by a whopping 50% between 1990 and 2015, a time of rapid economic growth in India and an expansion of its energy needs, the majority of which was met through fossil fuel use. Urbanization and the growth in middle class purchasing power led to a sharp increase in car ownership, further contributing to the pollution problem. No economy can grow at its full potential when millions of potential workers and consumers die and fall sick each year. This phenomenon only stands to exacerbate as more Indians are lifted out of poverty and domestic energy demands grow to support increased connection to the energy grid, and demand for fossil fuel burning cars, air conditioners, etc. Furthermore, the burning of fossil fuels directly causes the warming of our planet, which could devastate India in the future. The majority of Indian river systems, such as the Brahmaputra, Indus, and the Ganges are partially fed by glacial melt water, glaciers of which are currently threatened or retreating due to a warming climate. Potential depletion of these rivers will wreak havoc in India’s dominant agricultural sector, which employs hundreds of millions of India’s citizens; this demonstrates that the current economic and energy framework in India will find it difficult to escape collapse in the long term, and thus is not sustainable.

Renewables ryan searle unsplash downThis assessment may make India’s future seem bleak. However, an economy that can create jobs and prosperity for all Indians in the close and distant future is indeed within reach through the use of alternative renewable energy sources. The Indian government recognizes this fact and is making strides in creating a renewable energy friendly environment. Despite initial skepticism, the Modi government signed onto the historic 193-country Paris Climate Accord and has pledged to increase renewables’ share of India’s total electricity generation to 40% by 2030. The government is turning its back on coal and embracing green sources like solar, with ambitious rooftop solar subsidies for residential and commercial use, aiming to sell only electric cars by 2030, and lowering coal production targets by 60 million tons. According to experts at the Energy Resources Institute, India no longer needs new coal power plants as existing plants are operating below 60% capacity. After that, India can solely rely on renewable energy to meet its future electricity needs. In recognition of this fact, the government has canceled or halted the construction of many new coal plants that are currently in the early planning stages. Thus, with powerful government institutions on its side, renewable energy has a bright future in India

In fact, the free market has joined the state in favoring sustainable renewable energy to supply India’s energy demands instead of fossil fuels. With enough investment, solar seems well poised to do so. Powerful international actors including the World Bank Group are committed to promoting solar as the growth engine of India of the future. Over fiscal year 2017, the WBG is helping Indian solar by providing over one billion dollars in lending. In addition, the WBG is throwing its weight behind the Indian –led 121 country International Solar Alliance that is working to accrue one trillion dollars in worldwide investments by 2030. This investment isn’t coming solely out of a international moral commitment to stem climate change, but rather also from the simple fact that in the coming years solar and other renewables will cost significantly less than fossil fuels. In May of 2017, the lowest bid for selling solar in India dropped from 7 rupees per kilowatt-hour to 2.44 rupees per kilowatt-hour in just five years. This latest development makes solar cheaper than coal, which currently sells at 3 rupees per kilowatt-hour. The effects of this transition can already be seen, with the Indian government canceling 13.7 gigawatts of coal fired plants in May, and indicating that an additional expenditure of 9 billion dollars on coal fired generation capacity may no longer be financially possible due to stiff competition from renewables. This can be seen in many parts of the country already, with one of the largest solar parks in the world being planned in the state of Karnataka, which is expected to electrify one million households without the dangerous and deadly effects of coal and natural gas. Because of renewable energy’s decreasing costs, the industry can grow at a much faster rate than those of other energy sources and not only get closer to universal electrification, but also create more jobs at a faster rate. In the United States, another large country balancing high power demands while transitioning to renewables, a new report showed that the solar and wind industries are each generating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the US economy, a good sign for India’s high unemployment. Everybody knows that lack of access to electricity makes economic growth difficult by hindering entrepreneurship and productivity. India’s largely coal powered energy grid is starved of energy and suffers power shortages of roughly 20 hours a day in some regions, stunting development. Cheap solar power can fill the gaps and move India closer to universal electrification more quickly. Even in rural areas disconnected from the power grid, Solar is powering economic activity in ways coal and natural gas never will through zero-emission rooftop solar panels. Therefore, it is becoming clearer than ever that renewables are poised to occupy a commanding role in India’s electricity generation. However, with more investment, solar and other renewables can easily become the dominant driver of India’s economic growth by affording cheaper, safer and reliable power to Indians in the agricultural, manufacturing, corporate, and service sectors for decades to come. Hence, there is a pressing need to switch for renewables.

The Solar LabsHow Renewables Can Power Sustainable Growth in the Indian Economy