Once these cost items are identifed and quantifed, it is important in any
agreement, to allocate risks associated with events that could potentially
change project costs to the party best able to manage those risks. Unless the
contracts entered into specifcally address these items, costs of any increase
will either lead to a dispute or, inevitably fall upon the developer (both situations will lead to increased and often unexpected cost increases). Thus, it is
important for a developer to have a seasoned lawyer who is familiar with the
project risks and how they should be allocated. And, once costs have been
identifed and contracts have been executed, it is critical for the developer/
asset owner to have an experienced project manager overseeing construction,
to ensure the project stays on course and on budget by ensuring that all suppliers live up to and comply with their contractual obligations.
When considering cost reductions for a large-scale solar
project, it is vital to consider the lifetime of the system,
beyond the construction phase.
The long term reliability and performance of the product
should be frst and foremost. “Peak power” does not provide as much value to a project as the lifetime output of the
solar modules. There are many accelerated environmental
tests that can mimic long-term module performance. It is
critical to obtain solar modules that have earned the highest test ratings.
Another good opportunity for system cost reduction is the movement
towards 1,500V system voltage. Utility-scale developers and EPCs can beneft
from the reduced hardware needs in 1,500V system deployment. Higher DC
voltage also enables more effcient inverters, which increases system output
within the same footprint.
First, when planning a PV plant in a certain location,
fgure out which costs are fxed (e.g. permitting, utili-
ty-related expense, engineering certifcation, electrical
inspection) and which are variable (predominantly job
materials, equipment and labor), and do the best to reduce
the variable costs without lowering the level of project
quality and safety.
After completing a brief engineering scheme, focus on
the costs (based on “price per watt”), the characteris-
tics (effciency, reliability, warranty, etc.) and the ship-
ping terms of major system components (PV modules, inverters, monitoring