Solar Farm Commissioning: What You Should Know

Substation Commissioning Checklist

Utility-scale solar farms are one of the fastest growing sources of energy in the US. According to a 2017 report issued by Green Tech Media’s research division, the utility sector of the solar energy market is expected to see an increase in the grid capacity by more than 8GW, this year alone, nearly double the 2015 installation figure.

Commissioning of one-megawatt or greater solar farms is a complex process that requires thorough systems load testing and careful observation of mission-critical components. But it is a process that is becoming increasingly common as the demand for renewable sources of energy for both commercial and household use continue to rise.

Commissioning for solar farms constitutes multiple phases and includes elements of project planning, procurement, deployment, and integration. Comprehensive load bank testing takes place during the integration phase where each system and subsystem, both primary and backup, undergo simulated conditioning under system specific electrical load. This process enables contractors to uncover any overall design flaws or deficiencies in the circuit architecture.

Are you about to undertake a solar farm build? Or just curious how it all works?

Here are some things you should know about solar farm commissioning:

  • Plant Design. The commissioning process for solar farms ensures that a power plant is both electrically and structurally sound. Optimizing design around the layout, orientation, cable management, and sun angles during commissioning can help reduce energy loss over the life of the solar farm and increase the annual energy yield.
  • Permits, Licensing, Environmental Considerations. Permitting and licensing can vary from project to project. Depending on the scale, documentation such as land use consents, building permits, and operator licenses need to be obtained from either state, local, or national authorities. Solar farms may also have significant environmental, as well as social impact. Existing guidelines, such as the World Bank Group General Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Guidelines and the IFC Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability, provide a basis for impact assessment.
  • For the commissioning of solar farms, principal contractors must be under engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with the project company. This process allows the contractor to carry out all engineering and design, procure all equipment and raw materials, and initiate construction and commissioning activities for the solar farm. The contract should center around time (completion date), cost of construction and operation, and quality of the build, as well as site management.
  • Construction of a solar farm should be conducted to maximum standards so that commissioning is achieved on time and on budget. Many issues can come to the surface during the construction phase, but the majority of those can be mitigated by way of proper planning, design, monitoring, and testing.
  • Testing and Operation. Making sure your solar farm is ready to complete the commissioning process is a critical step to ensuring timely delivery of the power plant to the existing power grid. That means establishing appropriate load testing protocols to cover any potential weaknesses that may be present in the solar farm’s infrastructure. Undertaking these protocols, servicing any issues that arise, and commissioning the solar farm also marks an important first step in ensuring the solar asset is optimized for maximum, and safe output.

ComRent load bank experts are ready to help guide you through the commissioning process to get your solar farm connected to the grid. Get in touch with us today to explore ComRent’s solar farm commissioning solutions.

Interested in learning more about the solar farm commissioning process? Download our ebook, Load Testing for Solar Farms, that examines in detail the six common phases of solar farm commissioning.

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