MENA’s largest solar C&I project: An O&M challenge

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Dubbed the DP World Solar Power Programme, Phanes and Oryx are working on the massive 23.2 MW rooftop solar PV project for international port operator, DP World in Dubai.

Phase I of this project involves the installation of 88,000 PV modules, which will supply enough electricity to power 3,000 households.

According to Phanes’ Stefanos Lialios, 95% of this Phase I project has been completed. One of the challenges he says, is the extreme heat construction crews face at the building site, particularly during summer.

Temperatures can reach up to 70 degrees Celsius, making very robust and capable cooling technology in the string inverters a must.

Oryx initially deployed inverters with active fan-based cooling for the DP World project, but operations and maintenance (O&M) became challenging with hundreds of fans needing to be either cleaned or replaced.

This constraint was overcome with Huawei’s inverters, which do not use fans and utilize natural cooling to keep the inverters from heating up.

Of course, even inverters using natural or passive cooling can fail, but in the case of the Chinese manufacturer, Lialios was very impressed. He recounts one incident at the DP World project, where Huawei delivered a replacement just one day after one of its inverters seized operating.

Another big challenge in desert environments, like those faced at the DP World site, is extreme soiling, especially after sandstorms. The DP World site has a soling rate of 0.3 to 0.4% per day, says Lialios, and this very high rate poses a major challenge for both the inverters and the panels.

His goal is to keep soiling below 2% at DP World, since rates above this threshold result in a yield decrease of 8 to 10%.

Since the housing of the string inverters is completely sealed with no openings required for a fan unit or display panel, extreme soiling and sand storms will not impact their performance.

On the module side, Lialios uses both dry and wet cleaning, since just doing dry brush cleaning does not remove all the soiling left on the solar arrays.

Furthermore, cleaning routines involve both scheduled and unscheduled procedures, with the latter being required after sandstorms impact the plant.

All in all, the DP World Solar Power Programme shows the impact the right selection of PV components and O&M routines can have on the bottom line.

If the wrong inverters are selected, or soiling is not addressed in a comprehensive manner, yields can plummet by a double-digit rate, leaving the return on investment far lower than anticipated.

Established in 2012, Phanes Group is an international solar energy developer, investment and asset manager, strategically headquartered in Dubai, UAE.

Oryx, meanwhile, overlooks the entire Engineering, Procurement, and Construction Management (EPCM) process from inception to completion, for all of Phanes Group’s projects.

The group has a growing portfolio of solar investments and developments spanning multiple geographies, with a distinct focus on emerging markets, especially MENA and sub-Saharan Africa.

Lialios mentions a total of 14 countries the company is active in, and in many of these markets both Phanes Group and its EPCM division are paving new ground with their innovative solar PV projects.