Solar to Reach Higher LimitsWed, 02/22/2017 - 15:21
PV solar modules are cheaper than ever, which helped drive solar energy prices in 2016 to record lows. Balance of Plant (BoP) components could be the next major area of opportunity for solar companies to reduce production costs thanks to the introduction of 1,500V designs, a major breakthrough because higher voltages enable more power to pass through the same BoP components, lowering CAPEX.
Ingeteam, a leading company in power and control electronics, sees 1,500V architecture as the next frontier for Mexico’s solar power to become one of the most competitive available energy sources. “Regarding utility scale, the next step will be to work on plant capacity,” says Kevin Gutiérrez, General Manager of Ingeteam. “Currently, most solar plants are designed for a 1,000V DC limit, meaning that the cables, panels, inverters and all the plant’s components are designed for that threshold. We therefore think the next big step in this sector will be to migrate from 1,000 to a 1,500V DC limit as it will make the installations more cost-competitive. At the moment, all the suppliers are making changes to adapt their technology to this new limit.”
The company delivered its first product to serve the new limit in Mexico in late 2016 but the speed of adoption for these new products will depend entirely on the needs of the market and customer strategies. “However, this technological shift is underway and we estimate that 2017 will be the breakout point,” he says. Gutiérrez sees great potential in bringing added value to the solar energy industry because the sector is experiencing a great period in Mexico. “We certainly believe there will be a boom in the Mexican solar sector. On a global scale, we can already see an increase in the number of solar projects, especially in Central and South America. Mexico offers greater potential than many of these countries because of the huge energy demand and strong solar resources.” Ingeteam, he says, has observed the steady growth of the solar market over the past few years and in 2015 it sold around 50MW of solar power projects, while expecting a higher number for 2016. Besides its PV solar division, Ingeteam has another two business areas in Mexico, O&M services and smart grid systems. The growing amount of renewable energy capacity that is expected to be built in the next couple of years is also expected to bring further opportunities, particularly for O&M services.
“We are expecting to see a boom in demand for renewable products and services in the country. We even think it might start in 2017 as there are a lot of potential projects in sight and the first two long-term auctions have already taken place. We are certain there will be a significant number of business opportunities for companies like us, not only in terms of product sales but also in O&M services,” says Gutiérrez.
High-quality products, he adds, should be accompanied by high-quality aftersales services to guarantee success. “We need to provide our clients with proper training to correctly operate our equipment. To this end, we have a complete business unit that is dedicated to providing O&M services for the products that we sell in photovoltaics, wind and several other sectors. Aftersales services are important because it is the means by which we support and help our clients. Any manufacturer will provide assurances that its product will never fail but we need to be able to help our clients in case it does.”
To maintain its leadership position in the market, Gutiérrez considers R&D one of the ingredients for success. “One of Ingeteam’s most important advantages is that we have always emphasized the importance of R&D in our strategy and we have invested heavily in this area. We dedicate 7 percent of our revenues to our R&D department and as a result we have managed to become a more competitive company that offers better quality equipment to clients.”