In addition to our fund sourcing services for the benefit of the Renewable Energy industry, Firm Factory Africa also specialises in initiating new projects for the establishment of solar power plants throughout sub-saharan Africa. Together with our partners we provide technical and development services to create renewable energy projects for the benefit of the environment and aimed to reduce the cost of energy.
The various companies we work with develop utility-scale solar power plants as well as rooftop and off-grid projects. Their traditional business models are based on the designing, engineering, installing and operating of solar power plants. The realized projects include solutions for major utilities as well as private institutions, both in industries and governments but also for hotels, universities, private homes, etc. We offer unique solutions by providing ﬁnancial analysis, system design, utility interfaces, ﬁnance alternatives, system installation and maintenance of solar PV systems.
Technology, services and expertise are integrated across the entire value chain of a solar power plant.
Project phases The implementation of each project can be divided into 3 phases:
1. Pre-construction phase
Detailed Evaluation and Feasibility Study
2. Construction phase
Commissioning and training
3. Operation phase
Operation and maintenance
Quality Policy ISO ratings and SABS standards. We are committed to delivering competitive services and solutions through continual improvement of our systems.
Deliver services and solutions that meet customer requirements.
Continually enhance external and internal customer satisfaction
Improve productivity and reduce rework
Maintenance Policy We understand the importance of maintaining large scale PV solar systems. Our solar PV systems are designed to provide minimum 25 years of continuous operation, based on the predicted return on investment. Due to severe weather, premature component failure, grid fluctuation and rodent intrusion, unexpected maintenance works are difficult to avoid. Because every project has its own unique needs, we optimize an asset management plan for each one of them.
PHASE 1 - EVALUATION AND FEASIBILITY
For the bigger projects, during this phase, engineers carry out a comprehensive site assessment. The purpose of the site assessment is to identify and evaluate a certain number of sites for a PV power plant in any given location. This assessment provides engineers with the necessary data on which to base development scenarios. Normally a potential site will need several years of high-quality on-site data using measurements from weather stations. However, these details are often not available in third-world countries and therefore engineers rely on a number of techniques to provide the most accurate determination of site resource characteristics and their years of experience in building solar power plants. The starting point of the feasibility assessment is on-desk and the assessment takes into consideration the following elements, depending on a project’s type and size:
Solar resource is a key decision element to determine the appropriate sites. In this step the company fixes a border of the highest DNI (Direct Normal Irradiation) areas in the selected region or according to the tender requirement. Once the borders are fixed, its engineers move on to identify the electrical data.
Transmission lines and electrical sub-stations
The availability of adequate transmission lines and electrical sub-stations close to the selected terrain is another key element for selecting the appropriate site.
Different land area is required for different number of MW solar plants. Parabolic trough and power tower plants require land that has a slope less than 2% (50 meters altitude difference). Relatively flat areas of land with sufficient surface, which do not have of course significant residential or commercial development and which do not appear to be in an obvious floodplain can be considered for evaluation and can be potential CSP sites. Other factors are taken into consideration such as land ownership, water resources, economic benefits/costs, environmental considerations and some other sociological/political issues.
PHASE 2 - TECHNICAL ENGINEERING
Our engineers have an in-depth understanding of current solar technologies and are able to assess the proposed technology including modules and inverters.
When reviewing modules, they execute an in depth analysis of:
Compatibility with system design
Expected degradation and reliability
Once a suitable technology has been selected our engineers are able to model different system configurations to ensure that these are electrically compatible and optimized for the maximum yield output.
This form a significant part of the various services provided and each provider is skilled in specifying client’s specific requirements. Their international experience in negotiating with clients enables them to provide robust plant design with industry leading technical schedules.
Environmental and grid connection applications
The environmental teams work closely with the solar team, supporting clients in providing planning application advice and guidance. The engineers provide grid connection support, liaising with distribution network operators, providing single-line diagrams and providing advice on grid connection applications.
PHASE 3 - FINANCIAL ENGINEERING
A vigorous financial model is a critical component of a solar power plant’s feasibility study. The various companies provide assumptions for the technical inputs to develop a simple or more complex financial model, depending on the stage of plant development. From their experience of building solar power plants in different countries, they have a detailed and up-to-date understanding of current EPC and O&M construction costs, as well as Capex and Opex costs. They are well informed on the latest changes to feed-in tariffs, green certificate schemes and other incentives.
PHASE 4 - QUALITY CONTROL
Experts monitor the procurement and delivery of construction materials and actual construction process to ensure that construction is in compliance with high level engineering standards. The engineers provides specialist support to clients through all the phases of construction and conduct construction monitoring services entirely to the requirements of any given project.
PHASE 5 - CONSTRUCTION SUPERVISION
An EPC provider supervises the construction phase of each solar PV project in accordance with construction management best practice. They are committed to constructing PV systems to the required level of quality within the time and cost frame of the project. During construction, the environmental impacts of the project as well as the health and safety issues of the workforce (and other affected people) are also carefully managed.
PHASE 6 - COMMISSIONING AND TRAINING
During commissioning, the engineers prove three main criteria:
That the power plant is structurally and electrically safe.
That the power plant is sufficiently robust (structurally and electrically) to operate for the specified project lifetime.
That the power plant operates as designed and performs as expected.
Commissioning tests are divided into three groups:
Visual acceptance tests; these tests take place before any systems are energized and consist of a detailed visual inspection of all significant aspects of the plant.
Pre-connection acceptance tests; these include an open circuit voltage test and short circuit current test. These tests must take place before grid connection.
Post-connection acceptance tests; once the plant is connected to the grid, a DC current test is carried out. Thereafter, the performance ratio of the plant is measured and compared with the value stated in the contract. An availability test, usually over a period of 5 days, is also carried out.
PHASE 7 - OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
Compared to most other power generating technologies, PV plants have low maintenance and servicing requirements. However, they acknowledge that suitable maintenance of a PV plant is essential to optimize energy yield and maximize the life of the system. Maintenance consists of:
Scheduled or preventative maintenance – planned in advance and aimed to prevent faults from occurring, as well as to keep the plant operating at its optimum level.
Unscheduled maintenance – carried out in response to failures.
Scheduled maintenance typically includes:
Checking module connection integrity.
Checking junction / string combiner boxes.
Thermographic detection of faults. Inverter servicing.
Inspecting mechanical integrity of mounting structures.
Routine balance of plant servicing / inspection.
Common unscheduled maintenance requirements include:
Repairing equipment damaged by intruders or during module cleaning.
Rectifying supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) faults.
Repairing mounting structure faults. Rectifying tracking system faults.
After the project is commissioned, the company guarantees the performance ratio and confirms the availability and, ideally, the performance ratio of the PV plant.
PHASE 8 - MANAGEMENT
The various companies provide a comprehensive range of technical and commercial advisory services and have proven expertise in all areas of management; including, but not limited to, safety and technical support from project assessment, development and contract strategy to procurement and project delivery.
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