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The Al Wakrah Photovoltaic System Pilot Project Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022


The concept of renewable energy is becoming increasingly popular in many countries around the world. In the Middle East, Qatar is one of the countries, which are leading the change towards green energy. One area where renewable energy has gained massive growth is in the solar power (Sivaram, 2018). In this pilot project, photovoltaic system was installed in 20 houses to make them self-reliant in terms of energy production in what was known as Al Wakrah Photovoltaic System Pilot Project. The in the sample houses to test for the effectiveness of this system in the domestic sector. The project started on January 1, 2019 and ended on November 28 the same year with the testing of the system. A team of engineers, architects, and electrical technicians were involved in the installation of PV panels, the integrated batteries, inverter, and wiring. The cost of the project was established to be 836,000 Qatari Riyals, although the initial budget was slightly higher. The completed project was in agreement with the original plan because every activity was completed based on the design that had been approved. The few deviation in the implementation of the plan did not significantly shift from the initial plan.

The Project Aim

The aim of this project was to install a photovoltaic system in a sample of 20 residential houses as a pilot project before enrolling the program. The government of Qatar has been keen on promoting production and use of solar energy as an alternative to fossil fuel. Some countries in the region such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have already taken a lead in the production and consumption of solar energy. The government has expressed its interest in having a diversified source of green energy to meet both domestic and industrial sector needs. This pilot project was meant to test the viability of this initiative.

Project Scope

The scope of this project was limited to 20 houses in Al Wakrah, one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The project team had a specific assignment of installing a functional photovoltaic system in these houses to test if they could run normally without relying on the energy supplied by the national grid. The team was responsible for the purchase, transportation, storage, installation, and testing the system. The project sponsor was responsible for the supervision of the project to ensure that it is implemented according to the original plan.

Importance of Achieving the Aim

It was critical to ensure that the aim set in the project was realized. The economy of Qatar has been growing rapidly and its population has also been expanding, partly because of the increasing cases of immigration into some of the largest urban centers in the country. The demand for energy both in the domestic and industrial sectors has been growing rapidly over the past few decades. As such, there has been a need to ensure that the government introduces alternative energy sources to support what is already existing. Achieving success in this project would help the government to roll out massive generation of photovoltaic energy across the country to reduce reliant on energy produced and supplied through the national grid.

How the Project Was Undertaken

When undertaking a project, it is important to develop a clear plan that defines how different activities will be conducted. Saad and Asmuin (2014) explain that such a plan makes it possible to assign duties to specific individuals and to monitor the progress made within a specific period. In this project, the goal was to install photovoltaic system in 20 houses that had been selected for the pilot project. In this section of the report, the focus is to define how the project was undertaken.

Work Breakdown Structure

I and members of my team developed a plan that defined how different activities were conducted in the project. Using a work breakdown structure shown in figure 1 below, a clear plan of activities was developed. As shown below, the first step in the project was the development of a plan on how the system was to be developed. The design developed by the team was based on the design of the houses. Once the plan was developed, it was taken to the project sponsor, which was the Ministry of Administrative Development Labor and Social Affairs through its Department of Housing. It assessted the plan to determine if it met the desired goals before issiuing the approval.

As the construction team continued with their activities of completed these houses, the team involved in the PV system installation focused on landscaping. Some of the solar panels were mounted on the ground at strategic locations for street and security lights (Tjiu et al., 2015). Once the construction was nearing completion, the team was invited to start the installation of the system. New generation photovoltaic panels were fitted on the roofs of these houses. Inverters, charge regulators, and batteries were then installed based on the initial plan. The team then completed the wiring of the system and installed lights and sockets. The last stage was the testing of the system to determine its capacity to produce enough energy to run these houses.

Work breakdown structure.
Figure 1. Work breakdown structure.

Time Management

Time was a major factor that was considered when conducting this project. According to Ahmad (2018), when a project sponsor hands over the work to a contractor, it is always essential for the team to ensure that activities are completed within the desired period. In this project, the government has stated that the pilot project should take one year to be completed. The period was considered enough to conduct all the activities and to assess the viability of the project. It was in line with the government’s plan to roll out the project as part of its plan for the 2022 FIFA World Cup that will be hosted in the country. The Gantt chart shown in table 1 below identifies a timeline of different activities that were conducted in this project.

The first activity in this project was the development of the relevant design. After receiving instructions from the Department of Housing, the team focused on developing a design that would meet the expectations of the government in the best way possible. The design was completed in about 3 weeks. Rao (2018) explains that when developing a design for a project, it is important to take into consideration some of the industry’s best practices at the international level. It took a short period to complete the plan because the team borrowed from some of the similar projects that had been completed successfully in countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom. It was handed over to the ministry officials who took about two weeks to approve it.

When an approval of the plan was received, the team then embarked on the installation phase. The team started by landscaping to ensure that the stand-alone solar panels would be mounted in locations where they would not only be safe but also elevated at angles that allow them to receive regular sunlight. The next phase was the installation of the PV panels on the rooftops of the selected houses. The process took about 18 days to be completed. The next important phase was the installation if the inverters, charge regulator, batteries, and wiring in the system. The process took about two and a half months for these activities to be completed. The last phase was system setting, as shown in the chart below. This process was conducted in two phases and by two entities within the last one month of the project. The first phase was internal testing where the project team members were involved in assessing their own creation to determine if it was performing as per their expectations. The second phase was the assessment by the government officials to determine if the project was completed based on the initial design and that it was functioning well as per the promise that was made to the government.

Activity/Time Jan 1-18 Jan 22- Feb 8 Feb 10-Mar 28 Apr 1- Jul 28 Aug 2- Oct 15 Nov 1-Nov 28
Design Development X
Design Approval X
Landscaping X
PV Panels Installation X
Inverter/Charger Installation & Wiring X
System Testing X

Performance Indices

In this project, the team developed key performance indicators (KPI) to help assess if the actual goal that was desired by the government was realized. According to Davidson (2019), KPI in mega projects helps in the assessment of the progress made and whether some measures are needed to improve the overall outcome. The first indicator of the performance in this project was the functionality of the system. It was essential to ensure that the photovoltaic system was generating sufficient energy to sustain operations of these homes. That included heating, lighting, and running of the electronics and other mechanical machines at home.

The second indicator of performance was timely completion of the project. The Housing Department had stated that the project had to be completed within one year. The team made an effort to ensure that all the activities were completed within the period that was set by the government. Time was a major issue because of the plan that the government had to ensure that the project could be expanded throughout the country. Another major performance indicator was the ease of use of the system (Sayigh, 2018). The majority of the home owners expected to use the system have limited engineering knowledge. As such, they need a system that is simple to use and does not pose any threat to people. The team also made sure that the system was easy to maintain whenever it would be necessary. These key performance indicators helped in convincing the government that this project could be rolled out on a large scale in different parts of the country.

Project Governance

When undertaking a given project, one of the critical factors that have to be considered is its government. There should be a clear leadership structure that defines how information flows and activities are coordinated from the initial stages of the project to the last stage before handing over. At the top is the project manager that is responsible for coordinating all activities in the project. He was also the link between the project sponsor and internal stakeholders. The project sponsor, which was the government of Qatar and the regulator, which was various government agencies, were part of the governance structure because they were responsible for the approval of the plan and assessment of the completed project.

Under the project manager were heads of various units in this project. There was the head of the design unit, which was responsible for the development of the initial plan. This unit was active throughout the implementation process to ensure that the system was developed as per the expectation of the sponsor. The head of the system installation unit was responsible for coordination of activities in the project (Zwikael & Smyrk, 2019). The department was responsible for installing the PV panels, all the components of the system discussed above, wiring, installing sockets and bulbs, among other components of the system. The third department was the inspection unit that was responsible for quality assessment and ensuring that everything was done as per the approved design. Each unit had its employees responsible for different tasks. The governance structure shown in figure 2 below shows the relationship of these leaders.

Governance Structure.
Figure 2. Governance Structure.

Quality Management

The process of installing the PV system requires a proper understanding of the load that every item will use. The failure to understand the amount of power needed in each of the housing units may create imbalance. When the need is underestimated, the outcome will be that owners of these homes will be forced to find alternative sources to meet their energy needs. The Housing Department explained that these units should have sufficient energy that makes it unnecessary to rely on the national grid. Overestimation of the energy consumption per unit may result in a situation where excess energy is produced, most of which are not used. The result will be spending more than is necessary to produce excess energy, part of which is lost as unused energy.

The inspection unit primarily constituted a quality assurance team. They inspected the quality of the components used from the initial stage of sourcing to the last stage when the system is already installed. As Kerzner (2017b) explains, technology in the solar energy sector is changing and new more effective panels are emerging. The quality assurance team had to ensure that all the components purchased met specific quality criteria. The team also inspected the installation process to ensure that guidelines were followed and that each unit was supplied with sufficient energy. Working closely with the design unit, the team guided workers who were involved in the installation process.

Cost Management

When the government or non-governmental entity makes a decision to undertake a given project, one of the major factors that are always considered is the cost. According to Ward (2018), a trend has always been witnessed where most of the government projects exceed the initial budgetary allocation. The outcome of such incidences is the delay in the completion of the project, especially when the sponsor is unable to provide additional funds within the stated period. Sometimes the project may stall because of such mistakes often committed by the manager. This pilot project was of great importance to the team because it defined the ability of the company getting the major tender of rolling out the PV system installation across the country. The team carefully developed a budget based on the market value of the items needed and labor cost, including other relevant charges.

As shown in the budgetary plan in table 2 below, the team had a budget of 18,500 Qatari Riyals for government fees but only QR 17,500 was spent because of the waiver that was received. Purchasing of the PV system infrastructure had been allocated QR 310,000 but because of inflation, the cost increased slightly to QR 330,000. The labor cost had been estimated to be QR 450,000 for the entire period, but the team spent QR 410,000 because of the timely nature in which all the activities were completed. Legal fees were QR 15,000 just as it had been proposed in the budget. QR 25,000 had been set aside for miscellaneous expenses but only QR 18,500 was spent under this section. The outcome was that the entire project’s actual cost was QR 836,000, which was QR 27,500 less than the proposed budget of QR 863,500. It means that the project was completed within the initial budget that had been set.

Table 2: The Budget for the Project.

Item Budgeted Cost Actual Cost Deficit
Government fees 18,500 17,500 1,000
PV system infrastructure 310,000 330,000 -20,000
Labor 450,000 410,000 40,000
Administrative expenses 45,000 45,000 0
Legal fees 15,000 15,000 0
Miscellaneous expenses 25,000 18,500 6,500
Total 863,500 836,000 27,500

Funding in this project came from the Qatari government through the Department of Housing. In the invitation that it made for qualified firms in the renewable energy sector, it explained that the pilot project was not supposed to cost more than one million riyals. As such, the team made a quotation of 863,500 riyals, which was one of the lowest bids. When the company was chosen to undertake the project, there was pressure to ensure that the proposed budget was not exceeded. It was essential to find effective mechanisms of sourcing for the needed items in this project. Kerzner (2017a) explains that one of the best ways of cutting costs in such projects is to source for important materials from manufacturers or large scale suppliers selling at discount. The team was able to identify some of the largest suppliers of the PV system infrastructure within the region. It was desirable to source for these materials directly from manufacturers, but given the fact that this was a pilot project, it was not cost effective to do so. These measures helped in regulating the cost of the project and it was satisfying to the project sponsor that the actual expenses were lower than what was proposed. It was a major achievement that the team made in this project.

Risk Management

Risk assessment and management is one of the most important factors that one has to consider when undertaking a given project. Effective management of risks helps in ensuring that activities are completed at the right time using the planned resources. In this project, the team anticipated and encountered various challenges which are worth discussing in this section. Inflation was one of the biggest risk factors in this initiative. Its impact may vary from low and moderate to high depending on the level of inflation. Its likelihood of occurrence is also low to moderate. It is important to note that inflation did not significantly affect the project. Only a few items had experienced a slight increase in their prices.

Accident was a major issue among those working in this project. The team was effectively trained on how to undertake their tasks without exposing themselves to any danger. Occupational safety measures were also put in place at every phase of the project. As such, the risk of getting involved in an accident was significantly lowered. However, it is important to note that such an occurrence would have a major impact on those involved and the organization in general. Late completion of the project activities was classified as one of the risk factors. Such lateness may inflate the overall cost of the project in terms of longer period within which employees have to be paid. The team was also concerned about purchasing wrong items that are not compatible. Such incidences may significantly increase the overall cost of the project (Spalek, 2019). This risk factor did not occur and is not expected to occur when the project is expanded to other cities across the country.

Limited skills of the workers to deliver on their tasks is often a major concern when undertaking technology-based project. The organization made sure that a team of highly-skilled workers was selected and then taken through proper training. It lowered the risk factor from occurring during the implementation phase. Pilferage was a highly possible occurrence. Measures were put in place to ensure that costly panels, inverters, charge regulators, and batteries are protected. Theft of other cheap fittings would have low impact on the overall cost of the project. The management was also concerned about poor communication that could derail the implementation of the project. This issue was also addressed effectively. Table 3 below identifies these risk factors.

Table 3: Risk Assessment.

Risk Factor Likelihood of Occurrence Impact
Inflation Moderate Moderate
Accident Low High
Late completion Low High
Purchase of wrong items Low High
Limited skills Moderate Moderate
Pilferage High Low
Poor communication Low High

Stakeholder Engagement

This project attracted the attention of various stakeholders because of its primary objective of promoting generation and use of green energy. The government, through the Department of Housing, was the project sponsor and owner. It provided the needed funds and conducted regular assessment of the project throughout the implementation process. The Ministry of Energy and Industry was another major stakeholder involved in the project. It has been playing a major role in the promotion of renewable energy in the country. The Ministry of Municipality and Environment has been partnering with other sectors of the government to find ways of reducing various forms of pollution. Potential owners of these homes were also important stakeholders who were involved in the process of implementation (Wysocki, 2019). It was part of the stakeholders engaged in this project.

Engaging these stakeholders was critical in ensuring that specific goals were realized in this project. I acted as the link between the organization implementing the program and all the other external stakeholders (Kerzner, 2018). Using face-to-face communication, letters, e-mails, and phone calls, the team made sure that these stakeholders were regularly updated and their questions and concerns addressed within the shortest period possible. The project sponsor was granted full access to the site of the project at any time so that they could inspect the progress. Facebook was another platform where the team shared the progress of the project with external stakeholders.

Monitoring and Evaluation

This pilot project was of great significance because it would define whether the government would make the multi-million dollar investment in the project. As such, it was important to monitor every progress made in the project at every phase of the implementation. The company involved in the implementation had its own unit responsible for the evaluation. Using the approved plan, the team assessed each milestone to ensure that it was completed in time, using the assigned resources, and based on the stated quality levels. They gave regular reports of the outcome of their assessment and made recommendations for improvement every time they noticed weaknesses. As Barrett (2018) explains, having an effective team responsible for the performance measurement is critical in a project because it creates a sense of responsibility. Those who are involved in the implementation process are aware that their activities and progress in the project are being monitored.

The Department of Housing, being the project owner, was also granted monitoring and evaluation rights. Working with the Ministry of Energy and Industry, the Department of Housing devised a plan to ensure that the progress made in the project was closely monitored. It established its team of engineers and experts in the solar energy production and use. The team acted as an independent performance evaluation unit. They were answerable directly to the project owner, although they also passed their reviews and recommendations to me so that some corrective measures could be taken when necessary. This multi-agency approach to the assessment of the project’s progress helped in eliminating potential challenges in the project. I communicated regularly with the owner to provide updates on measures taken to introduce necessary changes when they become relevant based on the regular monitoring and evaluation.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The Al Wakrah Photovoltaic System Pilot Project was an initiative by the Department of Housing in Qatar to help assess the viability of solar energy usage in the domestic sector. The department has been working closely with the Ministry of Energy and Industry to find ways of powering homes without relying on the national grid. Solar energy has always been considered the most effective alternative to the hydroelectric and fossil fuel energy that is supplied by the government. The country and the entire region receives regular sunlight throughout the year, making this form of energy one with a great potential. The government set a budget of one million Qatari Riyals and a period of one year for the project to be completed. After winning the tender, the management of this organization put in place measures to ensure that this pilot project was a success. As shown in the report, the project was successful as the time set by the government and the budget were not stretched. However, it is important to note that some changes would be needed when scaling up the project. The following recommendations would help in enhancing the overall success of the project:

  • Sourcing of expensive components of the PV system infrastructure should be made directly from the manufactures to help lower the cost;
  • When the number of workers are increased, all of them should be taken through some form of training to boost their skills;
  • Communication among both internal and external stakeholders should be enhanced when undertaking future projects.

Reference List

Ahmad, M. (2018) Operation and control of renewable energy systems. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Barrett, D. C. (2018) Understanding project management: a practical guide. Toronto: Canadian Scholars.

Davidson, J. (2019) Everyday project management. Williston: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Kerzner, H. (2017a) Project management metrics, kpis, and dashboards: a guide to measuring and monitoring project performance. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Kerzner, H. (2017b) Project management: case studies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Kerzner, H. (2018) Project management best practices: achieving global excellence. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Rao, K. (2018) Wind energy for power generation: meeting the challenge of practical implementation. London: Springer International.

Saad, M. and Asmuin, N. (2014) ‘Comparison of horizontal axis wind turbines and vertical axis wind turbines’ Journal of Engineering, 4(8), pp. 27-30.

Sayigh, A. (2018) Transition towards 100% renewable energy: selected papers from the world renewable energy congress WREC 2017. Cham: Springer.

Sivaram, V. (2018) Taming the sun: Innovations to harness solar energy and power the planet. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Spalek, S. (ed.) (2019) Data analytics in project management. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group.

Tjiu, W. et al. (2015) ‘Darrieus vertical axis wind turbine for power generation I: assessment of darrieus VAWT configurations’, Renewable Energy, 75(2), pp. 50-67.

Ward, G. (2018) Effective project management: guidance and checklists for engineering and construction. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Wysocki, R. (2019) effective project management: traditional, agile, extreme. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Zwikael, O. & Smyrk, J. (2019) Project management: a benefit realisation approach. Cham: Springer Nature.

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