David Flores
Managing Director
Ormazábal Central America and the Caribbean
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View from the Top

Promoting the Potential of Intelligent Technology in Mexico

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 09:15

Q: What have been Ormazábal’s most successful projects in Mexico over the past year, and how does a higher degree of intelligent equipment increase its clients’ competitiveness?

A: Ormazábal products and services can be found in any medium-voltage market, which encompasses almost every segment of the electricity industry. Until 2014, Ormazábal focused on renewable energy generation, mainly wind and solar, and in electricity projects from private investment, such those in the automotive, hospitality, and infrastructure sectors. In 2014, through collaboration with CFE, we won the most important substation project in Mexico: Valle de México Phase II. Our main clients here are contractors to whom we supply equipment that is later operated and maintained by CFE. Regarding distribution, we are working on automation and distribution control pilot projects in Santa Fe, Acapulco, and Cancun’s hotel zone. These are strategic projects for the company because they allow us to enter the automation and distribution control segments, which remain unexplored in Mexico.

We are also working on the BBVA Bancomer tower, a complex project in terms of engineering due to the amount of equipment required. Ormazábal provided sophisticated automation and control systems that prevent serious incidents that may affect the bank’s operational activity, such as a reliable electric system that reconfigures itself automatically so that emergency power plants can intervene in case of a contingency situation. A degree of intelligence in the equipment, which translates into fewer losses, has a clear impact on the building’s sustainability. Another achievement consisted of participating in a 250MW wind energy project in Nuevo Leon headed by CEMEX and Acciona, called Ventika I and Ventika II. This will be the first large-scale wind development in this state, and we used the project as an opportunity to introduce our transformers to Mexico for the first time.

Q: In which projects does Ormazábal have the opportunity to implement smart grids in Mexico?

A: There are three areas that are seeing the most development globally. Firstly, telemetry or Advanced Mater Infrastructure (AMI) has been partly pushed due to legal mandates, mainly in Europe. Secondly, automation and distribution control is seen to be important, as is integration of renewables or distributed generation into the system. Fortunately, Ormazábal has plenty of experience in these three areas. In Mexico we are already carrying out integration of distributed generation. For AMI, we have a company in the US called Current that specializes in powerline communications, which entails the transmission of data from the gauges through the power line instead of using radio, GPS, or optical fiber. In automation and distribution control, we want to concentrate on the projects with which we are already involved and contribute to the standardization of products and technologies for the automation of the grid and integration of distributed energy.

Q: In your view, what factors could hamper the implementation of sophisticated transmission and distribution technologies in Mexico?

A: Firstly, a comprehensive standardization for certain technologies, such as AMI, has not yet been implemented. CFE has launched several tenders aimed at reducing losses. The basic idea is to install metering systems in the low- and medium-voltage segments and transmit consumption-related information to CFE, allowing this company to optimize the grid, anticipate its evolution based on consumption patterns, and detect theft. We believe that the amount of investment CFE will contribute to the projects justifies the need to standardize the technologies that will be used in these developments, thus fostering competiveness and the reduction of costs.

Considering the advancements of AMI in Europe and the US, Mexico should learn lessons from international experiences. For instance, in Europe conventional gauges have to be replaced with intelligent gauges by the end of the decade. Since companies were forced to invest in this endeavor, some utilities decided to also invest in creating a communication channel for introducing future technologies that would enable remote automation and control of the grid. They decided to capitalize on their investment and generate profit by planning over the medium and long term. Mexico could adopt this approach to smart technology.