Quality Control, Testing Key to Solar SuccessBy Cas Biekmann | Wed, 10/07/2020 - 11:10
Q: How has Enertis developed over the years and how important is Mexico in its global activities?
A: Enertis is a global firm focused on consulting and engineering services. While we mainly deal with solar and storage, we also have an area focused on wind power. Enertis was born in 2006, as a testing laboratory for photovoltaic panels. Later, we incorporated services such as engineering, consultancy and quality control next to our existing laboratory. Our global headquarters is in Madrid. On this side of the world, we have three offices in the US. We also have offices in Mexico, Colombia and Chile. We launched operations in Mexico in 2012 and it remains an important country for us, representing more than 20GW of the 100GW portfolio of services we provide.
Q: What changes in demand are evident since government measures led to fewer solar projects under development?
A: The government’s policy certainly does not benefit the renewable energy sector. In this case, our strategy is to continue offering our services. From 2013 to 2016, when the renewable energy market opened up due to the Energy Reform, our flow of work was somewhat low. We are experiencing a similar situation. We still have a great deal of work but more is now related to projects that are already in operation. We provide testing, engineering, quality control and consultancy regarding the performance of the operation. In cases where power plants are not performing optimally, we study the issues negatively affecting the functioning of the project. We participate in the acquisition of assets, advising Independent Power Producers (IPPs). For the projects that are under construction, we continue to offer general consultancy and engineering services.
The main change is that some projects being developed are of a smaller scale. We are participating in distributed generation (DG) portfolios or in projects where the capacity is lower than what we have seen in past years. One of the main benefits of our Mexico City office is that it now also offers services to Colombia, the Central American region and the Caribbean. We made the decision to fuse these two regions because of the Mexican government’s policy direction. This allows us to take advantage of the capabilities of our combined offices.
Q: What are the characteristics of the firm’s services regarding quality control?
A: Quality control (QC) is an important step in every project. It is how the sponsor can assure the project will be able to achieve its 25-plus-year lifespan. If you do not ensure that the material and equipment installed on the project are of sound quality, you cannot be sure that the project will survive all those years. Our QC is focused on the main equipment of a project, modules, inverters, structures, transformers, etc. When we talk to our clients, we recommend they carry out QC in these areas. Firstly, we recommend visiting the factory where the equipment are made, which is often abroad, so we can oversee the entire manufacturing process. We also review the bill of materials and quantities used in this process.
Testing is another crucial process. With this service, we can ensure that the equipment reaches the required performance level for the project. We perform the testing at three main points in time: in the manufacturing plant, after the equipment arrives at the construction site and after the equipment has been installed. We are more focused on the testing of photovoltaic modules, although we can also test mounting structures and electrical equipment. We have a mobile laboratory in Mexico as well, so we can perform tests on-site. Normally, companies would have to send their panels far away to receive these tests, so our service saves time, money and effort.
Q: What is the firm’s experience in guiding companies during the interconnection process?
A: We have advised many clients on getting interconnection permits. Annex 3 and 4 are needed for the indicative study and the system impact study, respectively. We offer advice on these studies and accompany the client throughout the entire process. In addition, we can offer advice during the construction process. Our services include supervision and commissioning processes where we can send people specialized in issues such as physical interconnection as well as mechanical and electrical processes. We offer these services from the earliest construction stages through to commissioning and the activation of the project.
Q: What are the company’s top priorities for the near term?
A: Our goal is to continue growing in all our markets, including Mexico. The short-term outlook is not great here, due to regulatory uncertainty, but we have a specialized team with both experience and expertise in the renewable energy sector. One of our main objectives is, therefore, to simply continue our work while we wait for a change in policy to promote renewable energy once again. We are confident that there is a great deal of renewable potential to be developed in Mexico and that the sector will rebound significantly within a few years. The government’s policies focused on oil and coal are not the future. In the meantime, we will focus on providing service to power plants already in operation or under construction while we look for expansion in other parts of Latin America.
Enertis is a Spanish company, present in Mexico since 2012. It developed its consulting, engineering and quality assurance services to cater to the needs of project developers, IPPs, equity funds and financial institutions with a broad variety of services.