Boundless Opportunities in Energy AvailabilityMon, 09/01/2014 - 14:22
With 40 years under its belt developing solar energy solutions for a wide range of sectors, Mexican tech firm Skylab has identified a change in the automotive industry regarding energy availability and consumption. “The industry is taking this matter very seriously and is looking to harness renewable energy in its manufacturing processes,” says Gerardo Garduño, Director General of Skylab. The significant energy needs exhibited by automotive firms granted Skylab the opportunity to enter this niche market particularly in the central regions of the country. “We have developed a project in Aguascalientes that is moving along nicely. It already has 1MW up and running, but the license goes up to 3.8MW, for a total investment of US$60 million,” he explains. Through projects such as this, Skylab’s vision is to collaborate with automotive companies in providing solar energy systems under the self-supply scheme. “We want to develop solar parks to generate energy at a lower price than CFE, allowing automotive companies to generate savings of 10-12% in their plants and other facilities,” Garduño clarifies.
Currently, most automotive companies use electricity generated by CFE from fossil fuels. One major exception is Volkswagen that powers its Puebla and Silao plants from the 120MW La Bufa wind farm in Zacatecas, saving US$3.5 million a year along the way. Should others follow this example, both their CO2 emissions and tax bills will be lowered. “New laws in Mexico mandate that companies can reduce their tax bill by generating energy from renewable resources,” says Garduño. The trend among automotive companies gathering into clusters represents an opportunity for Skylab to offer the development, implementation, and management of solar parks to help clusters to reduce energy costs. “We provide the technology and investment. We develop the project, obtain the permits for self-supply, and we provide energy without the automotive industry investing any money,” describes Garduño. All the company asks in return is a power purchase agreement to be signed for the energy it will generate for the next 20 to 25 years. Beyond its solar intentions, the company has also been investing in new materials that use nanotechnology that it sees as being well-suited to automotive firms. “This material has been used in planes to generate the energy needed during the flight. We see potential for it to be used in cars in Mexico and across Central America.” Given the complexity of this advanced technology, Skylab has taken steps to secure the right partnerships to develop brands and patents. It has developed a project with Nissan supplier JATCO that will be used as a basis to offer services and products to automotive companies in the central region. “We believe this is the tip of the iceberg as we foresee exponential growth in the automotive sector,” Garduño comments.