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As the global demand of electricity is increasing day by day, the necessity of establishing power plants is also increasing. Besides establishing conventional energy sources like oil, gas and coal-based power plants, non-conventional energy sources like solar based power plants are also establishing gradually. Ground mounted solar power plants require feasibility, environmental assessment, grid connection, siting etc. which is typical for a large industrial project. Implementing a solar power plant project requires comparatively more time than a rooftop residential solar installation.

Countries having subsidy program like tax rebates, feed in tariffs etc. implement solar farms. Due to availability of solar panel, solar inverters and installation expertise, building a solar power plant is quite convenient at present. On the other hand, the permits and regulations for building a solar power plant or a solar farm vary from country to country and region to region based on federal and state laws. Before building a large-scale solar power plant, lots of permitting steps need to be passed. These requirements are comparatively less for building a smaller solar power plants in the range of 5 MW. Basic steps required to build a Solar Power Plant are given below:

  • Selecting the site: Selecting a suitable site for building the solar power plant is crucial. The site should be free from shadow and trees. The Area must have easy access to the roads and the power grid. 
  • Initial Financial Analysis: Initial financial feasibility with information like the solar insolation, land costs, interconnection possibility with the power grid operator.
  • Land Acquisition: In this step, land acquisition starts through the transfer of ownership and leasing from government.
  • Engineering Design/Selection of the Technology: An Engineering Layout is prepared along with the Selection of the Technology and Vendors of Solar Equipment
  • Permitting: In this step, various permitting procedures should be followed. This is specific to an area and can be quite cumbersome. Permitting involves very heavy costs forming almost 15-20% of the cost of a Solar Power Plant Project.
  • Power Purchase Agreement: A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) required to be signed with the Power Utility who will buy the Electricity.
  • EPC Selection: A Solar EPC Contractor or a System Integrator is selected. In case an EPC Contractor is selected then Solar Panels, Mounting and Inverters needs to be purchased if the Contract is not a Turnkey One.
  • Financing: Financing of the Solar Power Plant Project should be done. Solar Power Plants require a high initial investment with very low operation and maintenance costs. Typically, 60-80% of the Project is Debt Financed.
  • Testing and Connection to Grid: After building the Solar Power Plants, testing of the plant must be done before connecting to the Power Grid.
  • Ongoing Operation & Maintenance: A Solar Power Plant has a life span of 25-30 years and requires less maintenance and monitoring. Solar Inverters should be replaced after 10-15 years. In case a Solar Module fails, it needs to be replaced as well as it degrades the performance of other Solar Panels.

Building a solar power plant requires project management and technical skills distinctive of an industrial project with some unique features. The above steps are a simplistic procedure for building a solar power plant. The process in fact requires in depth and concrete execution skills. A solar power plant can be built in 3 months to 2 years depending on the permitting and the expertise required.