India’s ambitious solar plans

 ABB powers and automates world’s largest solar power project

In early November 2016, the pollution level in New Delhi reached its worst levels in 17 years. A thick smog engulfed the city. Schools were closed, construction work stopped. People worried about their health. This was not an isolated incident. Across India, industrial and urban hubs are starting to reach air pollution records.

Energy requirements are constantly rising in India, as the country chases ambitious plans to be among the world’s top three growth economies by 2020. India has the second largest population in the world with over a billion people. Partly due to conventional energy generation sources, it creates some of the highest CO2 emissions in the world. These factors make it clear - changes need to be made to help reduce the country’s air quality problem.

The government is taking bold steps towards building an alternative which promises greener and cleaner energy generation. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has set clear goals to generate 40 percent of the installed energy capacity from renewable sources by 2030 and 175 GW of renewable generation by 2022, enough to power 60 million homes by the sun.

ABB has been able to support the country’s clean energy vision and push for solar power through a number of solar projects. One such project is Adani’s solar power plant in Kamuthi, located 90 km from Madurai city in southern India.  ABB provided the electrification and automation systems for the Adani solar project. The project is the world’s largest solar plant in a single location, surpassing the California-based Topaz Solar farm which has a capacity of 550-megawatts.

The massive 648-megawatt Adani solar project, with five separate plants, contributes to the country’s renewable energy vision, with the overall aim of diversifying the energy mix to meet growing demand while minimizing environmental impact. 

Adani Solar Power
Adani Solar Power

The facility spreads over 2,500 acres (10 sq km) and will enable a clean power supply for around 150,000 households, based on an average national per capita consumption, and accounts for about 10 percent of India’s solar power. 

ABB’s project scope included the design, supply, installation and commissioning related to the solar plant electrification and automation systems. 

Electrification of the world’s largest solar power plant called for the highest level of safety and professional project management skills, as well as deep experience in the local terrain. The plant electrification included five substations -  two 230 kilovolt (kV) and three 110 kV outdoor substations to connect to the local transmission grid. The substations were commissioned in June, 2016. In addition, ABB delivered 288 1 MW solar inverters that convert the variable direct current (DC) output from the panels into a utility frequency alternating current (AC) to be fed into the grid.

ABB’s project team worked closely with the customer to ensure optimized design with a common layout. Despite several challenges in project execution, such as the torrential rains experienced in the state, the last 220kV substation was completed within a record time of 45 days. 

Reliable, uninterrupted operation of the plant is vital to ensure overall grid stability and is extremely important for the grid operators as well as the communities and industries in the region that depend on it. A highly sophisticated approach to overall plant automation is required with a plant of such massive scale. Used extensively around the globe in network renewable power plant applications,  the ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus automation system provides the perfect platform to address the solar project’s automation control needs.

ABB Ability Symphony Plus control technology is the unified automation platform that integrates the five plants into a single virtual (digital) 648 MW mega project, represented by over 75,000 signals coming from a battery of inverters, strings, substations, switchgear and transformers. This results in reliable, uninterruptible power production at all loads – even in the case of temporary losses due to cloud coverage. With Symphony Plus, a multi-disciplinary team of experts within ABB were able to deliver many different sub-systems in parallel, and finally to integrate them for exhaustive testing before being dispatched to the site. The unified automation system also had to meet future grid regulations, and the automation platform had to deliver sophisticated control algorithms as well as deliver on cyber security, future scalability, and engineering re-use.

Kamuthi 648 MW photovoltaic plant - ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus-based unified automation system
Kamuthi 648 MW photovoltaic plant - ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus-based unified automation system

The solution interfaces the plant, grid operators and service teams, offering the highest level of automation and power control, similar to flying an airplane, where the pilot receives data from weather, wind and air traffic to maintain its velocity and height. By providing a cyber-physical image of the entire facility - enriched by economical, operational and forecast data - the ABB Ability Symphony Plus  solution helps a team member sitting in the control room – or eventually sitting hundreds of miles away - to make the right decision to provide steady power to the grid. The automation system facilitates local and remote monitoring and control of the plant and is another example of ABB digital offerings.

With the introduction of the Adani solar power project, India has become the world’s third-largest solar market, trailing behind China and the US.

Generating clean renewable electricity is crucial for India where nearly 300 million people—about a quarter of its population—live without access to electricity. Today, India is one of the lowest per capita consumers of electricity in the world; even when people are connected to the electricity grid, they face frequent disruptions. Add to that the projected economic growth and the increase in population, and the demand for energy in India is expected to double by 2040. India is endowed with a vast solar energy potential with approximately 300 clear sunny days a year.

The rapid expansion of solar power can help improve the quality of life for millions of Indians, especially for its poorest citizens. It can also create thousands of jobs in the solar industry and underpin progress in all areas of development.

ABB’s digitalization and technical innovations in the field of power and energy will play a central role in improving energy efficiency around the globe and implementing intelligent distribution systems.

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