Opportunities Abound for Solar Panel ProducerBy Cas Biekmann | Wed, 12/16/2020 - 14:01
Q: How did Solarever become the biggest solar panel manufacturer in Mexico?
A: There are a couple of reasons that motivated Solarever to enter the Mexican market. First of all, Mexico’s proximity to the US, especially now that Joe Biden has been elected president. He will support the solar industry a lot more than his predecessor. As a result, Solarever expects to increase its exports to the US. The US imposes heavy antidumping duties on China, meaning that solar panel manufacturers are looking to produce elsewhere to avoid these restrictions. Some manufacturers are considering countries like Vietnam and Thailand but I believe Mexico is a great option. Therefore, we decided to invest in two manufacturing plants in the country next to our existing one. Secondly, the increasing trend for content made in Mexico provides great opportunities. Government-supported projects, in particularly, require Mexican-made panels. Thirdly, the country has a very good base for manufacturing activities, with good engineers and low labor costs.
Q: Where do you identify potential demand for Solarever’s panels?
A: Projects stemming from the energy auctions have almost stopped. Some are under construction while others have halted due to the regulatory issues they are facing. Utility-scale solar farms are facing big challenges a well. To be honest, I do not have a lot of confidence in this area. Now, if we look at distributed generation (DG), the story changes. DG is still too small to be considered a threat to CFE or to other big utility companies. Until now, the DG market has not been affected by policy changes. However, if you want to install a large amount of renewable energy in a short amount of time, DG is not the easiest way to go. One potential area where solar can improve is through government-supported projects that bring electricity to underprivileged communities. A microgrid with solar panels and battery storage would be ideal to provide such an electricity service. Considering that Mexican-manufactured panels would be preferred, this area shows potential. I believe solar energy might be facing big challenges in Mexico for the next three to five years.
We believe Biden’s presidency represents a big opportunity for us. This is the main reason why we decided to continue to invest in Mexico. We hope that the Mexican government will push for more national content, in the hopes of increasing our business opportunities. During the long-term auction projects, developers relied on big international brands for their solar panels but Solarever is considered the largest DG manufacturer in Mexico. In this area, we likely sell more than the big Chinese players.
Q: How does Solarever’s new plant in Tecoman add to the company’s competitiveness?
A: The location of this plant is important because it is near the port of Manzanillo. Most of our materials come from China or Vietnam, so the port provides us with the ideal location to transport these materials to our factory in 30 minutes. Using the port, we can export our finished product to the US, Canada and the rest of Latin America. Secondly, the local government has provided us with good support when it comes to permitting and location scouting. Thirdly, Manzanillo serves as a good starting point to deliver the product at a low cost to the rest of Mexico. As costs for solar panels decline, in general, it is important to keep delivery costs down too.
Solarever could build more manufacturing plants in Mexico but this depends on certain factors. Nevertheless, we would need to see how the US and Mexican markets develop. If demand in the US grows and the Mexican government starts promoting Mexican solar panels, then this will be a logical business-driven decision. If this ideal scenario does not occur, the option is still on the table.
Q: How is Solarever boosting its R&D efforts?
A: Solarever aims to invest further in both technology and its employees. We want to combine the Mexican technology emerging from the country’s universities and laboratories with US and Chinese technology and create our own technology. We think that solar technology is the future, so we want to invest more toward its progress. Therefore, Solarever works together with universities such as UNAM and the University of Colima to train engineers and create more technologies that can cater to the market. Now that we are working in two major markets, we have enough support for our own R&D. Through innovation, Solarever can expand its customer base and increase its market share.
In 2020, Solarever invested 7.3 percent of its sales into R&D. We have R&D departments in Mexico and in China working together to innovate on new technologies.
Q: What type of innovation is Solarever looking to promote?
A: We think of innovation in two parts. The first depends fully on customer needs. Poly- or monocrystalline solutions are big trends in the solar sector but all the innovation in this regard is happening in China. Instead, we are focusing on adapting products to the client’s needs through small innovations.
Secondly, we come up with completely new innovations. In these cases, we are not even sure if the product will be a success. The idea is simply to break previous boundaries. Our efforts are focused on peroviskite, which is like a solar paint, featuring spray-on solar cells. You can cover various materials, such as a cellphone, and generate solar energy this way. Working together with universities in Mexico and China is a great opportunity for the company and we hope that in five or 10 years the technology will take off. Someone needs to be the frontrunner and risk it all. If it pays off, technology like this has the potential to change the entire industry.
Q: What are the company´s strategic efforts to support structures and technology?
A: For us, the customer is key. Therefore, we ask ourselves what can be done to make the customer happy. First of all, offering good quality products is essential. A competitive price and excellent service are equally important. We know that buying solar panels, mounting structures and inverters in various places is not only very expensive but complicated, and delivery costs and time frames ramp up as well. Therefore, we decided to become a one-stop-shop for our customers, ensuring that they can easily get everything they need in one place. At Solarever, you can find everything from essentials such as panels and inverters down to cabling and monitoring tools. We are also working to set up more warehouses across the country to ensure rapid delivery of our products anywhere.
Q: What were Solarever’s goals for 2020 and what will it strive to achieve in 2021?
A: For 2020, we are happy to announce we have achieved our goals: opening two new manufacturing plants in Mexico. It has been a difficult year for the solar sector but, fortunately, we have done well. Solarever continues to grow and increase its ranking in the market. Our relationship with universities has deepened and we have applied far more patents than before. The goal for Solarever in 2021 is to deploy its digital marketing strategy to increase our success in the US market. With Biden as president, I think our business opportunities there will increase. We hope US sales will grow by 60 percent of the total share for the company. We hope government projects requiring national content will take off in Mexico as well.
Solarever is involved in the development, manufacturing and distribution of solar panels, ranging from residential projects to solar farms. The company has several manufacturing plants in Mexico, including Latin America’s largest, located in Tecoman, Colima.