Roberto Olmos Esquivel
International Affairs Manager

Increasing Efficiency through Hybrid Systems

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 15:30

Versatile companies have the advantage of being able to cater to several markets, though having the right technological resources to supply different sectors is essential. A creative research and development division plays an important role in establishing new ways of providing solutions across sectors, such as using hybrid energy generation systems. Ferrostaal is a company that has created a large support network of partners that can build any type of plant: refineries, power plants or recycling plants. While foreign companies often see Mexico as a difficult place to start a business, Ferrostaal is working on changing this perception, emphasizing that opportunities abound in areas that lack the procedures for incorporating new technology

Roberto Olmos Esquivel, Ferrostaal’s International Affairs Manager, claims that the company’s multi-faceted approach has allowed it to become a specialist in waste-to-energy, solar power and wind power all at once. In terms of the contributions Ferrostaal makes to each project following the feasibility stage, the firm can create turnkey projects, including EPC services, or simply provide components, depending on the needs of each client. Ferrostaal has four sub-companies, each of which provides a more focused service: Flagsol, Sun Power Group, Solitem and E-Solar. These subsidiaries cover CSP, parabolic trough power plants, thermal energy storage and water desalination respectively

Through a number of different studies, the company has also backed up findings that point to Mexico’s great potential for solar energy generation. “The development of the solar industry in Mexico is just starting,” says Olmos Esquivel. “We are expecting growth in the sector and Ferrostaal will offer its expertise and experience to support the development of this new industry.” Through its Flagsol division the company is combining photovoltaic cells with diesel engines to build hybrid systems and energy storage systems. Several Flagsol plants that are already in operation use wind power and hybrid systems. However, the combined use of diesel and natural gas with clean technologies still produces CO2 emissions, albeit in smaller quantities. Regarding hybrid systems, the main task is to accurately determine which technology to use in a specific region and how to take advantage of the local resources, and Ferrostaal has proved successful in developing systems that enable a constant rate of generated energy across different operating environments. “We are trying to break the paradigm by lowering power generation costs even further than when using a traditional fuel source,” says Olmos Esquivel. Perhaps surprisingly, it turns out that a combination of diesel and photovoltaic systems generates more affordable energy than using a single energy source.

Every project has different suppliers of both equipment and other services. For Ferrostaal, offering the best solution involves incorporating its commercial partners’ technological innovations into a project’s development. In this capacity, the firm acts as a coordinating agent between different companies. Ferrostaal works together with its basic engineering team to determine a project’s feasibility. The project’s goals have to be determined during the planning stages, and this includes selecting which partners will be involved. Once the project is approved, Ferrostaal selects its best in-house specialists and outsourced suppliers to achieve all-round integration and begin the construction phase. Clients appreciate this collaborative network, says Olmos, adding that they like the cost-benefit ratio and feel safer knowing who is behind their projects. Working with powerful partners helps the firm fulfill its commitment to finding the most effective solutions. The collective approach has proven to be effective in the different environments in which Ferrostaal has used it across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Ferrostaal wants to become more active in the Mexican energy market, increasing its participation by 20% in the coming year. “Government agencies are opening up to renewable energies and they are becoming more transparent regarding energy generation systems. This helps us to be more selective about which projects we want to participate in and gives us greater possibilities to grow,” says Olmos Esquivel. 200MW projects require a lot of capital, making them unfeasible for some governments and companies to pursue. This means that, while having a significant number of contenders in the 5-10MW sector, Ferrostaal has little significant competition in this area. The company has even stated its desire to work on projects exceeding 200MW. Olmos Esquivel says Ferrostaal is more than capable of fulfilling its promises. In fact, the firm shows its clients the operational costs of companies it has worked with to prove it. “Every industry wants to achieve the lowest operational costs possible, in order to be more competitive. If a company is able to lower its operational costs, it will have a better selling price and higher returns. We help our customers to reach this goal, and it will help us to position ourselves better in the Mexican market.”