David Flores Martín
Director General Mexico, Central America & Caribbean

From Largest Solar Park to Smart Measuring Systems

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 14:26

Ormazabal has participated in the construction of close to 23GW of installed wind and solar capacity around the world, making this its prime area of expertise. When companies with the right experience, capability and contacts enter a new market, they can often swiftly adapt to become involved in landmark projects. Hailing from Spain, the country of renewable energy leaders like Gamesa, Acciona and Iberdrola, allowed Ormazabal to follow them into Mexico as a trusted supplier. Having decided to expand into promising international markets, the company renewed its interest in Mexico and its management confirmed that the renewable energy sector will remain the company’s priority here. Specializing in electricity distribution systems, such as substations and mediumvoltage switchgears, Ormazabal spent its first years in Mexico supplying private wind farms until an epiphany in year 2010.

While wind continued to be a mainstay of Ormazabal’s Mexico strategy, the company entered the solar sector and soon became a supplier for Aura Solar I, Mexico’s largest solar energy project to date. Ahead of this new focus, Ormazabal had not provided equipment to CFE or PEMEX, with its Director General, David Flores Martín, saying that Ormazabal’s line of products did not suit their needs. However, aiming to bring its own technology to the market, Ormazabal approached CFE once again, hoping for the same success it had in selling its products to Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC, a now defunct Mexican electrical utility company). “LyFC was more technologically advanced than CFE, and had invested in cutting-edge technology in certain areas. CFE was more outdated, so when it took over from LyFC, the central part of Mexico saw a real slowdown. That affected Ormazabal as our products were installed in LyFC, but we were suddenly out as CFE’s team brought in the equipment it was used to,” says Flores. Since then, Ormazabal has kept targeting CFE, especially in the areas of automation and distribution, and is helping CFE with pilot projects regarding normativity.

The acquisition of Grupo Ikusi, a Spanish conglomerate specialized in electronic system integration, was the next step. Ikusi had a presence in Guadalajara and Monterrey, which boosted Ormazabal’s market presence and added 300 employees to its Mexican workforce. In the wind industry, Flores estimates that 50% of the distribution equipment installed in Mexican wind turbines comes from Ormazabal. “The solar side of its business opened up when Martifer, the company responsible for the development of Aura Solar I, contacted us to request our participation in the project,” according to Flores. “La Paz was not an easy site from a logistical point of view, but despite the challenges the installation of Ormazabal’s equipment has been completed. Negotiations concerning the maintenance of the equipment will begin once Aura Solar I is fully operational. Our equipment does not need frequent maintenance but we advise some revisions every now and then,” says Flores. The conditions in which some of Ormazabal’s clients work demand low maintenance requirements for its equipment. For example, Flores explains that Ormazabal is a global leader in supplying medium voltage switchgear for offshore wind parks, which require reliable technology due to their difficulty of access and environmental conditions. As a backup, Aura Solar I keeps all the equipment and components that could potentially need replacement in stock and has protocols established for any contingency.

Outside of supplying wind and solar generation projects, smart grid technology is atop Ormazabal’s list of priorities in Mexico. Flores’ own background as Smart Grids Project Leader for Ormazabal saw him participate in the sector’s pioneering development in Europe. When Flores arrived in Mexico, CFE was looking to implement smart technology in its grid to obtain more efficient energy consumption and distribution. “However, too many departments within CFE were involved and nothing came of it,” says Flores. “There is a need to narrow the matter down,” he says. “Intelligent energy can cover many things. Regular electrical meters measure total consumption, leaving out important information such as energy consumption patterns at specific times. One aspect of smart grid technology that can help is telemetry, an intelligent measurement tool connected to a control system that analyzes the information and makes decisions based on that. This technology has been deployed in two areas of the country, Mexico City’s neighborhood of Polanco and Acapulco. These two locations were chosen as high consumption areas, with many users connected to the same gauges. Since the installation of these smart meters, better estimated measurements have been made, distribution problems have been reduced and energy bills have been lowered,” states Flores. Wider installation would facilitate more efficient oversight by CFE. To ensure that CFE takes advantage of this opportunity, Flores believes its standards must be renewed to better adapt to and integrate new technologies.