Powering Up PV Projects with Higher-Voltage InvertersFri, 02/01/2019 - 09:16
As Mexico’s energy auctions unfold, the focus is on the rapidly decreasing package prices for developers between the first and third auctions. But according to Alessandro Orpelli, Head of Solar Sales at inverter specialist Fimer, these tight margins are also inevitably passed along to the supply chain. “From our side, we see a real fight to obtain projects,” he says. “Margins are tighter but now we have to adapt, be more efficient and find margin where there was none before.”
Fimer is not only providing standard solutions in such a cutthroat environment but also adding value for clients, even if that means sacrificing profits in the short term. “Many of the biggest inverter suppliers install skid solutions, which is a technology that is completely exposed to the elements,” he explains. This means that in environments with dust, heavy wind or rain, it is difficult to perform maintenance since opening the inverter means exposing it. Fimer delivers only containerized solutions. “We provide value to the client because maintenance can be performed even in bad weather, reducing downtimes,” he says. To remain competitive, Fimer ensures the extra cost of the more sophisticated equipment is not passed on to clients.
One way this is feasible is through Fimer’s centralized production in Italy, meaning there are no subcontractors to squeeze margins. The company is also adapting to Mexico’s increasingly price-competitive environment by increasing the power its solution provides. “The Villanueva solar PV plant was delivered with 4MW power conversion units, ACCIONA is talking about 6MW units for its upcoming project and another in the pipeline will use units that provide even more power,” he explains. “We are concentrating more power in the same space while many of the components cost exactly the same, whether they are 4MW or 7MW.”
Orpelli believes Fimer’s strengths are illustrated by the fact the company was chosen by international solar giant Enel for Villanueva, not only to oversee the installation but also for generation. “As Enel is the final client as well as the buyer, we have had to display skill at different project phases, included
technical support in design, competitive pricing, quality services and top-class installation,” he says.
Orpelli highlights that Fimer is the leader in Mexico in terms of market share, and it is growing. “We are about to install 230MW with an undisclosed company, we are in the midst of installation of 190MW for ACCIONA, we have another 30MW in the pipeline and we expect another 100MW soon,” he says. “None of those projects will pertain to our historic customer Enel so this demonstrates that the rest of the market sees the value in our products and services.”
He characterizes this value as Fimer’s ability to use innovation to generate as much power as possible, by increasing voltage to increase current, which in turn leads to increasing power. “We are pushing ahead with investigating some changes that now seem impossible but, in the future, will be possible,” he says. “A few years ago, the industry believed it would be impossible to develop inverters over 1,000V, but now we are the pioneers in 1,500V, certifying the PSSA model with CENACE.” Fimer was responsible for installation of the largest 1,500V plant in Latin America –- a 100MW plant located in Brazil that was completed at the beginning of 2017.
Even now as players are adopting 1,500V inverters, Fimer is starting to look at future possibilities of increasing voltages for greater efficiency and lower costs. Another angle the company is looking into is bifacial panels, which he says can generate up to 30 percent more power due to the light’s reflection on surfaces. Not content to stick to PV solar parks, Fimer is also looking to facilitate EVs in the Mexican market. “We have opened a new division to deliver a few thousand inverters for EV charging stations for a major global player,” says Orpelli.
Fimer’s success can be demonstrated by two factors, Orpelli says: the number of megawatts delivered and the way in which those megawatts are delivered. “We have not only delivered and installed inverters to the biggest projects in the country but we are also among the leaders in modular power conversion technology,” he says.