Interview: Naresh Kumar

AVP, Analytics at Amplus Solar

Tech Talent Needs to Catch up to the Industry Growth

August 29, 2023. By News Bureau

The pace at which technology is evolving requires that companies in this sector have dedicated resources to understand and integrate newer into their products and Amplus has been a keen proponent of this, says Naresh Kumar, AVP, Analytics, Amplus Solar in an interview with Anurima Mondal, Associate Editor, Energetica India.

Que: Amplus Solar is known for augmenting its services in tandem with the technology advancements. According to you, what role does technology, especially generative AI and ML play in revolutionizing the solar sector?

Ans: Amplus has always aspired to lead with technological innovations in the RE sector and bring cutting-edge solutions to its clients. Be it the first-ever MW scale tracker-based project at HAL airport in Bengaluru or developing its own solar monitoring and analytics platform (HawkAI) to optimize and increase asset performance, Amplus has always been an early adopter of tech advancements that enhance efficiency of our services.

We already employ ML-based techniques under the HawkAI platform on use cases like energy forecasting and fault prediction, thus generating impressive results and better returns on investment. These techniques have helped Amplus manage 1.5 GW of assets across 700+ sites efficiently and gain the trust of its clients, which reflects in the repeat business we get. On the B2C residential solar front, we have been using Generative AI based chatbots to interact with our ever-increasing customer base and resolve their queries faster.

The pace at which technology is evolving requires that companies in this sector have dedicated resources to understand and integrate newer technologies (both hardware or digital/software related) into their products and Amplus has been a keen proponent of this.

Que: Please highlight the technology developments at Amplus that help it carve a niche for itself in the market?

Ans: At Amplus, the focus has been on keeping data at the centre of all decision-making, whether evaluating and designing new projects or maintaining and operating assets. With this in mind, Amplus has developed its own in-house Central Monitoring and Analysis platform, HawkAI, which lets everyone in the company have a bird’s eye view of all the data generated from on-ground assets, thus encouraging data-driven decisions. Some such examples are:

a. Using actual on-ground irradiation data for evaluating new projects: Utilizing the data of more than 400 radiation sensors spread across the country, Amplus is able to generate a radiation grid for the entire country through triangulation and compare it with long-term irradiation references. This helps in fine-tuning the irradiation assumptions with local factors of aerosols, soiling etc. which are not easily captured through satellite data on which rest of the industry relies.

b. Using proprietary ML-based models for generation forecasting- With real-time data coming in from different sites spread across the country, Amplus has formulated its own ML-based models to effectively forecast the generation for the bigger plants where it is a regulatory requirement. This has helped in reducing the DSM penalties when compared to other readily available solutions primarily because of faster control over data and having dense data grids.

c. Predicting Inverter faults- With more than 5000 solar inverters in the field sending millions of data points everyday, Amplus has been able to build inverter failure prediction models and has been using them effectively to manage the preventive maintenance and inventory strategy for these critical components and hence reducing downtime.

d. Optimizing Cleaning Frequency- By comparing the actual and expected generation while controlling other factors, the data tells us the impact and generation loss of soiling at the granular level. Thus our cleaning cycles are optimized for the best use of resources, helping us reduce maintenance costs as well.

Que: Amplus Solar has signed a deal with AirTouch for robotic cleaning. Please tell us more about the contract and the technology.

Ans: AirTouch is one of the leading products in the world for automated robotic cleaning. At Amplus, we have vast experience of operating solar assets in various climatic conditions and understand the need for fast cleaning to maximize generation. This particular contract is for our upcoming projects in the western part of the country, where dry soil plays havoc with solar generation. We understand that to address this concern, need-based automated robotic cleaning would be most useful as the robots can start their work without any manual intervention post a dust storm etc. AirTouch has tested its products in similar climates in Israel and Middle East countries and is perfect for our requirements. The best part of this engagement is that the robotic cleaning was envisaged from the solar plant design stage itself, which helped us optimise the number of robots and placement and hence the costs compared to a brownfield installation.

Que: As leaders in the segment, what is your take on the need of upskilling the resources in India as per the future tech requirements. How must the country and the company go about it?

Ans: With respect to the renewable industry, tech talent needs to catch up to the industry growth as the industry is in its first dedicated decade of rapid commercialization. The way forward would involve deeper industry-academia engagements through internships, projects and full-time employment programs for fresh graduates to generate interest and awareness at the educational institution level. This would have a multiplying effect on attracting talent to this industry which has depended mainly on traditional energy incumbents. Amplus has been engaging with various leading technical education institutes like IITs, BITs, NITs, DTU etc. and has been able to attract and retain a lot of young talent from these premier institutes. This has also helped build an ecosystem where new graduates can come in every year with the comfort of their alumni already doing well in this industry.

Que: What is the next big tech advancement that will redefine the green energy transition as per you?

Ans: As with all things tech, we will see it getting deeply ingrained in different day-to-day functions of the RE sector and becoming even more ubiquitous. We are already seeing how the solar industry has increasingly adopted tech in forecasting, automated cleaning, satellite data, thermal image processing etc. These use-cases will be able to deliver increasingly more value to investors in the future.

Smart meters and dynamic tariff adoption would lead to the entire energy market becoming more dynamic. Green energy sources would be able to integrate in a deeper way. End customers will be able to benefit from cheap solar generation tariffs on a sunny day and will be able to shift their dynamic loads, like EV charging, to those time slots.

Que: In terms of the country comparison, is India lagging or is it on track with the global tech adoptions?

Ans: With its sheer talent pool in this space, India has been leading the adoption of new-age technologies. The adoption in the pure software area has been much faster than in the hardware and firmware tech, but things are catching up fast. With enough media limelight and early successes in the climate goals at the country level, everyone is now sure that this sector is here to stay and prosper for the coming decades. Hence, it can now attract investment and talent at a scale that was not seen before.

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