Experience Helping to Avoid Common Solar PitfallsWed, 02/24/2016 - 13:32
Q: How does Fronius’ Austrian headquarters view the opportunities present in the Mexican market?
A: Fronius’ board and its technical divisions are both astonished by the business potential that Mexico presents. While the US and Canada already have mature markets, Mexico is seeing new developments as a result of the recent reforms, which makes it an interesting market. Mexico is great at helping us determine specific needs in a growing market, making it different from other more mature markets.
The main opportunities for us come from the way in which the solar market has developed. Our sales have dramatically increased every year since 2007. Furthermore, since the Energy Reform was passed, new products have been launched due to CFE having set aggressive targets for solar energy production. This means we expect business to pick up even more in 2015, during which time we aim to secure a larger market share. The biggest challenge right now is keeping up with the market’s needs. We currently have the right products and services, such as inverters, but it is difficult to predict how the market’s requirements will evolve in the near future. We are therefore remaining flexible enough to keep up with the same pace as the Mexican solar market. We have grown sevenfold over the past seven years and we have to keep the pace while adapting our product offering.
Q: Currently, what are your most successful products in the Mexican power industry?
A: We have central inverters of every size, some of which are used for voltage measured in megawatts. Our biggest seller is the IG Plus that is available from 1.5W to 10kW. Part of its appeal is that several IG Plus inverters can be linked together. We also have larger central inverters, such as the CL, that are used for bigger projects. 2014 also saw us roll out our new generation of inverters in Mexico, which are more flexible when it comes to installing them.
Information is very important in this market, especially considering that Mexican customers have a difficult time understanding and gauging the benefits of solar energy. In a nutshell, it allows customers to use electricity that they produce instead of purchasing it, but this means
the benefits seem intangible to most people. To spot these advantages, customers need to look at how much energy they are saving and how much CO2 emissions they are preventing, while also tracking their daily and annual energy production, as well as peak production times. We have products to fit all situations, while also adapting new features to products that were already available in Mexico.
Q: How much time and energy do you spend educating your customers about why they should invest in solar?
A: We have been providing training to our sales partners and customers since Fronius started. During this period, we have trained 320 companies in Mexico, which gives you an idea of how much interest exists here for solar technologies. We are trying to educate the country in the way solar energy works and its benefits, with an emphasis on Fronius inverters. A solar system is an investment that will last approximately 20 years, so customers should look for something reliable from a supplier like Fronius that will guarantee long-term support.
Many companies enter the solar market and then promptly disappear. Demand in Europe is going up again, but last year saw Europe go from an established market to a dropping one. It was a difficult time and many companies closed. Thanks to our three divisions, we had the tools to stay afloat, so we are betting on this model to continue expanding. Being in the market for 50 years certainly helps to back a product up. Our technology has been proven all over the world and it is reliable. These are the reasons that customers choose to invest in our equipment, which incidentally cannot be bought off the shelf. Our Mexican headquarters are in Monterrey, and we have offices in San Luis Potosi, Puebla, and Mexico City. Fronius is located in those specific areas so that we are no more than a three- hour drive away from our customers.
Q: What have been the main projects in Mexico that you have been involved in?
A: Guadalajara is the hotspot for solar systems in Mexico. We recently installed a 2MW rooftop system in this city for IMSA as well as a 1.5MW system in Hewlett-Packard’s offices there. We have ongoing projects in Puebla, we are closing an important project in Hermosillo, and have carried out other important solar installations in Baja California and Colima.
Beyond this, I do not make a distinction between the industrial, commercial, and residential segments in Mexico. Utility companies will provide a large market, while residential and commercial customers are really beginning to understand the benefits of solar technology. Personally, I would focus more on utility companies, but I know that residential and commercial will grow. In other markets, we noticed that particular segments were not growing, which affected the stability that a solar market requires. The utility segment will continue to grow, and the information that people are getting on solar technology will definitely trigger expansion in the residential and commercial segments, particularly with SMEs.