José Jaime Rodríguez Torres
President and Partner
Saya Energy
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Insight

Pragmatic Approach to Exporting Solar Panels

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 14:53

Saya Energy can be seen as a microcosm for the changes taking place in Mexico’s energy mix. Since its early days as a diesel generator firm, Saya Energy has evolved into a manufacturing of solar panels for the Mexican market. The company has also found opportunities to export its products to the US. By combining efforts with its providers, many of whom are Chinese companies that are unable to tap the American market due to anti-dumping regulations, Saya Energy manufactures its products in Mexico based on components from other countries and prepares them for the US market. “We receive the raw materials from Chinese companies that cannot export to the US and we transform it into a product that can be exported. The challenge is in combining efforts and creating the partnership with firms that are willing to explore this opportunity,” says José Jaime Rodríguez Torres, President and Partner of Saya Energy.

Saya Energy started considering solar panel manufacturing three years ago when it was a solar integration company that imported panels, inverters, and batteries from other countries for end users. Saya Energy’s technology is imported from Asia where the company says it can find the best components at the best price. When the firm finds what it is looking for, its strategy is to seek ways to reduce costs even more since the company is competing with the prices of wholly Asian made solar panels. According to Rodríguez Torres, the quality of the company’s products is the same as those which can be obtained anywhere in the world. Perhaps the biggest issue is acquiring raw materials from Mexico. “This country has just started manufacturing solar panels and there are very few companies that can provide raw materials with the specific characteristics we need to produce solar panels. In Mexico, these products can be two or three times more expensive than our imports. We would like to buy these products locally but there is no availability, either in terms of quality or volume,” explains Rodríguez Torres.

Being one of the first companies to manufacture solar panels in Mexico has its advantages but clients can prove skeptical about Saya Energy’s expertise. In order to clear any of these doubts, the company is ISO 9001 certified, as well as complying with Mexican NOMs. “Regrettably, Mexico has no laboratories that can certify solar panels yet, but there are international companies that support us and recognize the quality of our products,” Rodríguez explains. He adds that the company’s forays into the solar market have been positive so far.

Not much competition exists for Saya Energy at home and Rodríguez Torres notes gladly that Mexicans are very patriotic when it comes to locally manufactured products. But local companies are not the only ones to have detected the opportunities for solar technology in the country. Rodríguez Torres is not worried about the quantity of international companies that are flooding the Mexican solar market as he believes it is big enough to accommodate them all. He quotes the example of the automotive market, where companies still have big opportunities, regardless of whether they are old Mexican hands or new arrivals. “If the product is good enough, we can have a place in the market and our main goal is to be a player in our country,” he says. “We know the challenges that dealing with CFE represents and the implication of dealing with other government agencies. Once we are able to solve these local problems, then we will think about entering other markets.”

The Mexican solar market might actually be ready for a full supply chain, in Rodríguez Torres’ opinion. “The government could help the solar industry because a lot of companies are interested in acquiring this technology but initial investments are proving to be a financial burden. Resources are available, but the paperwork takes too long, causing customers to lose interest and seek other alternatives. In spite of structural complications the solar industry has grown steadily in the industrial, residential and in the rural sector.” However, Rodríguez Torres points out there is still a lot to do since the installed capacity in Mexico is considerably lower than in other countries with similar socio-economic situations.

As more companies and households seek for alternatives to reduce their electricity spending, the Mexican solar energy market will continue to grow. Companies and households that spend a fair amount of their economic resources on electricity bills are increasingly looking at solar energy as a good alternative due to relatively short payback periods. Rodríguez Torres is aware of the opportunities Saya Energy could grab in the residential and industrial sectors. “Solar energy is a concept that does not only help the company be better but is also a way to mitigate our actions and avoid future consequences. Mexico is prepared for the solar industry market to boom, but we are still missing the initiative of companies that need to bet on solar technology,” he concludes.