‘Revamping’, a second life for solar plants that are more than 20 years old

Update Post: November 28, 2023 10:59 am

A large number of photovoltaic installations built in the first decade of the 2000s in Spain are reaching the end of their useful life. As a response to this problem, ‘revamping’ is an option that is being increasingly implemented in the sector. It consists of replacing components that, as a result of the passage of time, no longer have the initial performance or have lost the manufacturer’s warranty with new parts, while maintaining the original installed power.

In this way, already built plants are given a second life so that they can continue operating for more years. Plant operators can benefit from increased value by correcting limitations arising from the plant’s own old design or other technical limitations inherited from the era in which it was installed. PV plant operators can take advantage, for example, of new communication technologies or integrate new products, such as external memory, to prepare plants for future innovations and technical advances.

From an economic point of view, revamping is an attractive option for owners of photovoltaic plants since it usually requires a smaller investment than the construction of a new installation. Modernizing existing components and systems can generate a significant increase in energy production and, therefore, in earned income. In addition, this process can contribute to the reduction of operating and maintenance costs, which translates into greater profitability in the long term.

BayWa re carries out its first project in Spain

BayWa re, a company specialized in renewable energy, has recently developed its first ‘revamping’ project in Spain. Specifically, in the ‘Sonnedix El Peral II’ solar park, in the Casa Los Arcos area (Albacete). The facility, built in 2008, has an installed power of 2.18 MWp and has been renovated in four months. The park is owned by Sonnedix, an international ‘green’ energy producer with more than 9 GW of total capacity across ten countries. The work has been carried out on 50% of the installation, replacing both modules and inverters. In this sense, half of the thin film modules have been replaced with other state-of-the-art monocrystalline modules.

According to the company, thanks to the change, double efficiency has been achieved while maintaining the same installed power, while degradation has been reduced and the warranty has been increased. On the other hand, investors who found themselves in a poorer situation have been analyzed. As a result, half of the 20 modules have been replaced with ‘string’ type modules, which has resulted in an increase in the efficiency of the inverters in percentage points (from 95% to 99%).

BayWa has other projects such as Finsterwalde, in Germany, or St. Martin Lalande, in France, where 60,000 modules were replaced in less than six months, while the plant was partially operational. One of the biggest challenges faced by ‘revamping’ is keeping the plant connected to the grid while different tasks are carried out.

Race for the manufacture of photovoltaic modules.

China is the world’s largest producer of solar panels. Seven of the top ten manufacturers are of Chinese origin and in the European Union alone they control 80% of the market, according to the European Commission. In June, Brussels approved a tariff surcharge of 11.8% on imports of solar panels from the Asian country in retaliation for considering that they sell these products below the cost price (a practice known as ‘dumping’). The Solarpower Europe employers’ association has announced to the Commission that in China they have dropped prices by up to 25%, putting the European industry on the ropes.

In total, the production of Chinese photovoltaic modules amounts to approximately 64% worldwide, the rest of Asia – including Taiwan – reaches 16%, Europe 11%, Japan 5% and the United States, according to data from others. . study by the consulting firm GTM Research. In Spain, in the last two years, almost 90% of manufacturers have closed or are in bankruptcy, according to the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), which attributes this situation to the legislative “lock” of 2010 – when aron was limited for the first time the hours with the right to bonus – and the rest of the “restrictive” decrees that have followed since then.

However, Spain aspires to lead a project of community interest (IPCEI) for the manufacturing of solar panels in Europe. Iberdrola and Exiom have already announced that they will locate the first large photovoltaic construction plant that the country will have in Langreo. UNEF estimates that 20 billion euros of public and private investment can be deployed in solar energy alone until 2030.

The association defends that the Recovery Plan should be the tool with which to increase the economic and social impact of photovoltaic technology in the country, generating employment and contributing to the reactivation of the economy. It thus ensures that up to 65% of the equipment can be manufactured in Spain and that the country has the competitive advantage of having land and solar resources.

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September 23, 2023 3:55 am