IIT Mandi researchers identify top-performing solar plants in India


From pv magazine India

Solar energy plants typically underperform due to a range of factors, such as the selection of the wrong location or wrong technology, the environment, pollution, extreme weather, and dirt.

Researchers at IIT Mandi evaluated seven NTPC solar PV plants in India with the goal of determining the best-performing solar PV plant in terms of cost, environment, technicality, and location. The researchers said the methodology used in their study will help decision makers to find suitable sites for solar power plants. 

The researchers chose the following criteria in decreasing order of importance: economic, technical, environmental, and connectivity. They gave the most significance to economic criteria because of the large initial investment cost associated with the PV plants and the high operation and maintenance costs. 

The selection of Dadri, Port Blair, Ramagundam, Talcher Kaniha, Faridabad, Unchahar, and Singrauli solar PV plants was based on two key factors. First, all of these plants are constructed by the same company, NTPC. Second, they collectively represent a broad spectrum of India's climatic conditions, including composite, tropical, hot and dry, and warm and humid zones.

The researchers, Shweta Singh and Satvasheel Pawar, used hybrid fuzzy multi-criteria decision-making methods such as F-SWARA, F-COPRAS, and F-ELECTRE to compare these solar PV plants based on four main criteria and twelve sub-criteria. They referred to the data available from the existing literature, the NTPC website, other internet resources, and through NTPC field visits for the evaluation.

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The study concluded that Unchahar solar PV power plant is the best alternative in terms of performance, location, development, and management, while Faridabad solar PV and Port Blair solar PV plants are the least preferred on these parameters. 

The results indicate that Unchahar solar PV plant stands out due to its exceptional performance. It boasts the lowest levelized cost of energy at $0.00011/kWh and the lowest total cost at $579,263/MW, surpassing the other six plants. It also demonstrates the second-highest overall efficiency at 14.15%, which was a significant factor in the evaluation, as technical criteria are the second most crucial consideration.

In comparison to other solar plants, the amount of CO2 reduction (environmental criteria) in the case of the Unchahar solar PV plant (1,389.5 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum per MW) is the third best. Regarding location, Unchahar solar PV also has very good connectivity values, with the nearest railhead connectivity (5 km) and nearest city/town connectivity (3.8 km).

The operation and maintenance cost for Dadri solar ($4,092.57/MW per year) is less in comparison with Unchahar ($5,600.35/MW per year) and Faridabad solar PV ($7,215.84/MW per year) due to installation of 64 robots for dry cleaning on daily basis.

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