- Arif Aga, Founder and Managing Director, SgurrEnergy India.
Kindly tell us about your company and your journey in India.
SgurrEnergy India is a leading solar engineering consultant in South Asia with over 300 customers and 6 GW of projects that are either commissioned or under implementation. We started our India operations in 2007 with a team of three people and with a focus on providing consulting services in solar PV sector; and have since then grown to a team of over 67 engineers and solar experts. In 2008 we worked only on feasibility studies, but are now into engineering, quality assurance and construction monitoring services.
How do you ensure innovation, cost control and bankability in a competitive market?
SgurrEnergy India has been quite instrumental in getting down the BOS costs for solar projects in India. We were able to achieve this by working in an integrated manner under single roof. We have been quite effective in providing cost to benefit analysis for various technologies for each project we have worked on. We focused on innovating new methods of project design with zero tolerance towards deviations from technical standards.
These innovative methods are designed to reduce cost for the project, few examples are:
- We were the first ones to use aluminium cables way back in 2010-11.
- We were the first ones to reduce the mounting structure weight from 100 tonnes per MW to 32 tonnes per MW, through an extensive value engineering exercise.
- We were the first ones to use multiple winding transformers in the Indian market.
Regarding bankability, we strive towards zero compromises in project quality and always focus on designing the project in line with relevant ISO/IEC standards and best engineering practices. Our internal business analysis indicates a 98 per cent repeat customer rate, demonstrating our technical capabilities and excellence in providing consulting services as the most trusted solar engineering consultancy in India.
What are the specifics of services provided for Adani's project in Ramanathapuram?
SgurrEnergy India was selected from among eight different local and international consultants to provide detailed engineering services for this project. The major reason for selection was our capability of providing local expertise in terms of delivering design and engineering for large size project with multiple technologies. During initial discussions with the client, we had pre-conceptualised the 648 MW plant with effective cost to benefit analysis for all the commercially proven technologies. This presentation was much appreciated by the client and acted as a key catalyst for our selection. Our ability to work as a single team for all aspects - solar advisory, electrical engineering, civil and structural engineering, infrastructure engineering and projects management - made us the preferred choice.
Kindly talk about the processes involved in this project.
Overall, our timeline from project concept to commissioning was 12 months. So we had to be extra diligent in our project configuration, so that construction timelines are minimised. Consequently the project was designed in modular blocks to reduce the construction and commissioning times. The commissioning guidelines were provided to ensure smooth integration and section-by-section commissioning of the project. Adani's procurement team did a commendable job in managing the material supply extremely well ensuring smooth project construction.
Expand on the technologies used for the project and benefits they offer?
The project had multiple modules, inverters and mounting structure technologies.
- An eight row module table was utilised for the first time in India, greatly impacting project costs and construction timelines.
- The project was conceptualised for minimum duplication of work and for quick execution.
- Modular design was made so that the execution time is less
- We used multiple technologies and various vendors. Considering the size of the project and timelines, using single project component and vendor was not possible due to supply chain issues. Hence, we designed the plant using different brands which was a challenging task.
- SCADA was completely integrated for maximum required information; we believe this is the first time zone monitoring was used in India for a project of this scale. SCADA also comprised of active power curtailment, which was never spoken about nor implemented in the Indian solar industry back then.
- Inverter rooms were comprised of no plinths. The prefabricated structure was just placed on the pre-casted columns. All the interconnecting cables were routed on pre-fabricated cable trays. Cabling being in the open air was optimised and sized for minimum deration.
- This was the first time in India that a 5 MVA was deployed. Five winding transformers were employed for the project, which enabled the lowest possible costs for electrical balance of plant systems.
- Considering the project size and concept, the module mounting structure was designed with 32 tonnes of steel per MWp installed. The minimum structural section employed was not less than 2 mm thick.
How did you minimise land requirements for the Adani project?
An eight row module table was utilised for the first time in India, greatly reducing the land requirement.
Considering the size of the project, the land requirement was around 2,500 acres and with land acquisition being so challenging, particularly with large solar projects in India, it was an enormous responsibility to keep engineering in sync with frequently changing land boundaries. We were able to achieve this tight deadline with industry best practices and no compromises on technical requirements. The tilt pitch analysis was done diligently to ensure that the minimum amount of land requirement is achieved at the same time while minimising the impact of shadows.
How do you see India’s solar sector advancing, especially is the financial trajectory viable?
Solar tariffs have been falling consistently globally and India is not an exception; however, preference of price over project implementation quality is a key concern for projects to achieve a 25 year life span. PV module prices have been consistently falling for the last seven-eight quarters which may be due various technical advancements and other non-technical reasons. We have not seen a similar fall in plant BOS. The proportion between module and BOS price is still 50:50 or 40:60. Yes, there are technology enhancements in BOS but not at the rate of falling module prices. There are project configurations based BOS optimizations like multiple winding transformers, and new structural materials that reduce the BOS cost.
Going forward with limited scope in further BOS optimisation, we feel it is only the module price that is expected to govern the project tariff. Land and infrastructure-ready solar parks will generally influence lower tariffs going forward and REWA solar park is the best example of this.
What is your forecast for the sector over the next 2-5 years?
As you are aware that the solar target has been quadrupled since two years ago. With an achievement of 10 GW of installations this year and given the kind of project sizes and solar parks coming up in India, I would expect this to increase by 20 per cent each year. Thus, I feel a target of 100 GW is fairly achievable with the current trends of development projections. As far as SgurrEnergy India’s internal targets are concerned, we are currently at 6 GW and would forecast that 30 per cent of projects developed in India in the next two-five years will have our designs and engineering services.
- JOCELYN FERNANDES