Simon Zhao

Fostering Local Manufacturing and Innovation

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:54

Mexico has the potential to become a manufacturing and technological hub for PV generation but it is still too reliant on natural gas to make that goal a reality, says Simon Zhao, President of Solarever. “In Mexico, the most relevant energy source in its energy matrix is still natural gas,” he says. “This is despite the fact the PV generation cost per MWh represents 35-40 percent of the overall generation cost of natural gas.” Zhao says not only is PV a much cheaper technology, it is also free of CO2 emissions. “The future of energy relies on PV,” he says.
Although the increased penetration of national PV manufacturing may be limited by the removal of import tariffs applied to solar panels, Zhao is confident this new development will not have as great an impact on Mexico’s PV value chain as is expected. “It does not affect us because a sizable inflow of imports was already taking place prior to the tariff’s removal,” he says. To promote the national industry, Solarever has a PV module manufacturing plant in Hidalgo and it is discussing options with universities to develop a national laboratory to provide innovative products adapted to Mexico’s market requirements and specific climate conditions. “We want to be ready to assess new technologies coming into Mexico’s PV market, its possible applications and to gauge its potential impact on the country’s PV value chain,” he says. “For us, it is not about taking a larger share of the cake. Rather, we want to make sure the cake becomes bigger.”
Solarever is in talks with government institutions and academia to establish the foundations of technological innovation the county needs to strengthen the links of its PV value chain and bolster its PV manufacturing niche. “By encouraging a long-term vision, fostering local technological studies, component testing and local innovation of PV components, we can fully unlock Mexico’s potential in terms of solar resources,” Zhao says.
Solarever has been present in Mexico’s PV market since 2012. “Our first approach in Mexico was to get acquainted with the needs of its solar market and match it to what we can offer,” he says. “Our leadership, as a solar solutions provider stems from our capacity to always think for our customer. Providing solar modules, inverters and distributed generation systems alone is not enough. Several of our customers are not PV specialists nor do they include PV experts on their teams.” Solarever provides training, financing and aftersales services to secure the long-term success of Mexico’s PV industry.
Solarever is also moving to expand to help households lower their electricity costs. It created Solarinter in 2017 as an independent brand that is meant to operate as a franchise model. The brand helps households that consume electricity levels for which CFE charges the DAC rate to decrease their consumption by up to 97 percent. For the foreseeable future, Solarever wants to focus on distributed generation projects of 500kW of installed capacity and below. “We can provide our full range of financial, engineering and construction services to this niche and the process is easier and faster compared to larger projects that require more permitting procedures and interconnection studies through CENACE and CRE,” Zhao says. In addition, Solarever is setting things in motion to become Mexico’s first stock market-listed PV company. “It will help develop our business, our sales and allocate greater investment into technological innovation and R&D,” he says.
Zhao is confident that PV is poised to become the most important energy source on a global scale. In Mexico, this growth is happening exponentially. “We would like the next administration to focus its efforts on building up the country’s manufacturing capacity, developing technological innovation initiatives and supporting local manufacturing facilities and research centers for Mexico’s PV industry to be better positioned on a global scale,” he says. “Mexico’s capacity to board the third energy revolution train will rely primarily on its capacity to inject renewable energy into its energy mix.” According to him, solar energy development is directly linked to the country’s energy security and hopes the new administration takes full advantage of this.