Remedying PV Tracking’s Reputation with a Focus on SafetyBy Cas Biekmann | Thu, 09/10/2020 - 11:07
Q: How did Axial come to operate and how did it arrive in the Mexican market?
A: Axial was established in 2008 in Spain. Soon after our founding, the Spanish market came to a halt and the company had to immediately adopt an international profile. Axial expanded first to Romania, then to Italy, followed by England, where it became a key player. However, the English market also became unstable, so the company expanded further internationally to Japan and Mexico to develop a stronger presence in Asia and Latin America.
Our first project in Mexico was a 100MW solar farm, where we implemented our tracker. We continued with two 50MW projects that also featured our trackers. In Mexico, our main product has always been our solar tracker. We also work with fixed structures, although we have not encountered many interesting opportunities in the Mexican market for this. We have also realized projects in Bolivia, Chile and Africa and expanded our presence in Europe. For example, we are the main fixed structure provider in the French market and worked on the biggest solar plant in the Netherlands (110MW). Our goal is to accompany our clients in their process of expansion in different markets. Axial’s global portfolio now is over 3.3GW.
Q: What is your main added value?
A: We always approach our trackers with a focus on safety. Trackers have attained a negative reputation in the past three years because of workplace accidents due to faulty design. This does not mean that our competitors deliver bad designs; the problem is that there is no common technical framework for trackers. In the past three years, our trackers have been designed almost as if they were fixed trackers after we identified the risks. Our blocking system has greatly improved their safety. This system halts traditional movement, where solar panels sway back and forth as a result of wind or oscillation.
For us, the client always comes first. We work with a wide range of applications and configurations, always to the highest standards of safety and solar production potential. We want our projects to be competitive for the long run.
Q: How have the events of 2020 affected Axial’s business?
A: In Mexico, it has been a low year from a commercial standpoint. We evaluated numerous projects that never materialized. Smaller business areas running parallel to our main area of utility scale projects, such as distributed generation (DG), have seen some development. According to our business philosophy, we do not get involved if we cannot get involved in optimal conditions.
However, we can still offer engineering services for these smaller projects. Still, our main focus has been halted in Mexico due to the cancellations of long-term energy auctions and regulatory uncertainty. If the Mexican market could jump on opportunities between 3 to 10MW, such as for local proposals that the government could support, then this would allow for a new competitive opportunity for tracker companies. DG below 05.MW, which is happening now, relies on local manufacturers to be competitive.
Q: Which Axial solutions are most appropriate for smaller solar projects between 3 and 10MW?
A: Our bet is on vertical structures for bifacial panels. If developers are looking to lower costs regarding CAPEX and OPEX, then vertical structures are a great option, as long as the terrain allows for it. However, Axial offers all possible tracker solutions in the solar market. We analyze projects and then offer the best solution for each. After all, there is not really one standard tracker that is the best-suited for an entire area. Just like with bridges, the best structure depends on many different factors, such as terrain and customer needs. The challenge is to find the solution that best meets the characteristics and costs.
Q: Why is Mexico important for the company’s operations in other Latin American countries?
A: Mexico served as the gateway and example for all players in the solar market when we wanted to expand in Latin America. In the past six years, Mexico has gained some renown in the solar sector through its emblematic projects and pioneering related to the installation of solar trackers. For players involved, it meant making a name and gaining a great deal of experience in the Latin American market. Chile now has the reputation that Mexico had three years ago but all the know-how in the Chilean market pretty much originated in Mexico.
Q: What are Axial’s expectations for 2021?
A: We have not set any explicit expectations for the company in Mexico for 2021 due to the current situation. I do not think anyone will forget 2020 anytime soon. However, the company did manage to grow in terms of its expectations in 2020: the company’s effort and adaptation process during the three months of lockdown allowed us to make a strong comeback in the crucial months afterward, especially in the European market. In the Latin American market, we noted a small recession, although we continue to work actively. For instance, we outperformed our expectations in the Chilean market.
Our 2021 outlook is very promising. In Mexico, our clients continue to propose projects that could materialize. Internationally, we have met our goals and did not need to adapt them halfway through the year. Today, Axial is bigger than it was in 2019. For 2021, we have even higher expectations.