Broad DG Boom Follows Years of CalmWed, 02/21/2018 - 12:37
Distributed generation is enjoying broad gains in Mexico after years of relative quiet, but it still only represents less than 1 percent of the country’s total installed capacity. “Broadly speaking, distributed generation is finally booming in Mexico after four years of relative calm. This stillness in the sector can be explained by a political component adamant in reducing electricity tariffs, both in the industrial and commercial sectors,” says Luis Cano, Director General of Grupo Trinova. “This decision rendered investment in renewable energy alternatives unattractive from a financial standpoint for these sectors, as the ROI oscillated between eight to 10 years.”
Last year, in contrast, CFE started to gradually increase those tariffs, both to stabilize its financial situation and to push the industrial and commercial sectors to invest in renewable energy as a power source. “These increases represented more than 70 percent of aggregate gains, compared to the initial tariffs,” Cano says. As such, solarpowered solutions for self-supply and distributed generation became more attractive. Grupo Trinova became involved in small-scale projects for domestic high-consumption tariffs. “Gradually, our interactions with the market developed into a capacity to offer products and solutions for the industrial and commercial sectors,” he adds.
Between 2013 and 2017, CRE reported small and mediumscale interconnection contracts increased from 4,613 to 40,109, respectively. Installed capacity in that period went from 29,131kW to 304,167kW. “In addition to representing a tenfold increase, the fact that the systems are lower voltage with a capacity of 500kW instills renewed significance. Still, much remains to be done,” Cano says.
From 2008 until 2011, Grupo Trinova’s activity was centered on market research aimed at developing a product and service solution for the Mexican market. By that time, PV solar-energy costs had dropped significantly, setting the stage for commercial opportunities. “We are personally committed to the quality of the products we supply and install. Our long-term vision guards us from developing a business of complaints, focusing instead on a track record of satisfied customers through 25-year warranties,” Cano says. Grupo Trinova introduced ET Solar’s panels to the Mexican market. “We were the first company to offer ET Solar's panels in Mexico. This partnership allowed us to stay at the forefront of the latest technological developments in solar energy. Our company also maintains a good working relationship with Solartec,” he adds.
Trinova is also demanding when it comes to choosing inverters, Cano says. “Quality and reliability were our main criteria when we chose to work with top-tier companies such as Fronius, Kaco and SMA, to name a few.” Trinova’s beginnings in residential solar power paved the way to consolidating its brand for the industrial and commercial sectors by installing and maintaining quality-certified solar modules. “In the last four years we have installed 4MW of capacity. In 2017 alone, between installed capacity and pending installations, we added 2.2MW to our portfolio. You get a great sense of fulfillment when you grow from prospecting 600kW per year, on average, to prospecting more than 50MW with a high probability of closing.”
Quality and regulations in relation to solar panel installations and products are vital to boost distributed generation, Cano believes. “There is an impressive number of clients that reach out to us, reporting problems and frustrations with previous installations carried out by other companies or suppliers. We have witnessed everything from low-quality products to faulty installations,” he says. “Our industry’s regulators need to develop a gold standard that ensures products, processes and installation of solar-power modules meet the most demanding international standards.”
Grupo Trinova is present in Chihuahua, Ciudad Juarez, Hermosillo, Culiacan and Mexicali and it is eying more locations. “Our expansion strategy rests on associating with strong and reliable local partners to insert our products and services in strategic solar locations,” Cano says. “For 2017, we want to close Durango and Torreon, realizing our present ambitions in the country's northwestern region. Guadalajara and the Bajio region are also of interest but we must further strategize our insertion method there."