María Muñíz
Deputy Chief Commercial Officer

Technical Viability and Stability for the Grid

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 15:43

Drafting regulations for a completely new sector can be a learning curve, as Mexican regulators in the energy sector are finding out. María Muñiz, Deputy Chief Commercial Officer for GPTech, says regulations must be better thought out to find the balance between economic and technical viability for project operators. “To further develop the renewables’ sector in Mexico, regulators must change the guidelines that stipulate technical requirements must be presented from the outset of projects to reflect the reality and avoid a negative impact in the economic viability of the projects,” she says.

Muñiz believes project developers should be allowed to deal with those requirements afterward, once renewable penetration starts growing, otherwise the projects will not be profitable. “It is also vital to clearly lay out the regulations that have the potential to streamline public and private investments intended for the grid’s improvement,” she says.

In 2013, GPTech had its first experience with CFE through the analysis of the grid’s stability in the Baja California peninsula. The technology company conducted a bilateral technical workshop in which it received important input about the needs of the electricity grid in Mexico. “From our side, we communicated our expertise and experience in grid stability and power electronics,” she explains. GPTech is now working in a large-scale PV installation over 100MW to be built in Sonora. The company has connected more than 550MW in Latin America, excluding only the Caribbean. GPTech’s presence in Latin America includes Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru and now Mexico.

Countries initiating their first utility-scale projects using renewable energy or where the grid connection guidelines have not yet been defined are at the core of GPTech’s strategy. “The first utility MWs connected in Chile, Peru and Argentina were implemented using GPTech technology,” says Muñiz.

To maintain its global positioning, the company has been 100 percent focused on technology from the outset. “Twelve percent of our annual income and 40 percent of our personnel are directed toward R&D, especially in the areas of energy management such as grid connection and plant stability. This attests to our technology-specialized origins,” Muñiz says. GPTech’s hybridization of system engineering expertise and experience, together with its proprietary technology provides its customers optimal and global interconnection solutions for renewable energy sources.

When it comes to PV power, GPTech is mostly focused on providing system engineering to ensure plants comply 100 percent with Mexico’s technical guidelines for grid connection. With wind, it has recognized potential for the reactive compensation systems it offers. “The set of products and services we want to offer focuses on energy management systems for grid connection that encompass our range of products, from PV inverters to reactive compensators for wind parks as well as storage systems for primary regulation and energy displacement,” says Muñiz. “Due to our strong technology profile, we can also coordinate our proprietary solutions with technologies from other manufacturers.”

Developers working on projects above 50MW of installed capacity — from PPA developers to utilities competing in the auctions — are GPTech’s natural clients, as most of its projects revolve around 100-150MW. “We are actively approaching local developers and have alliances on the radar because that is a necessary objective for any technology company,” she says. “The sector is highly competitive and dynamic and these alliances help us involve national companies as part of our aftersales warranty service.”

Muñiz emphasizes the importance of this aftersales service since downtime directly impacts profitability of power plants. GPTech’s aftersales service includes an under-24- hour incident correction service. “We work jointly with our local partners during the first six months of plant operations so they can become familiarized with the technology so afterward they can act as our technical aftersales assistance team for the region,” she explains. The team performs the technical on-site support and GPTech also provides the use of its global platform, a statistical system that analyzes incident information and can help find the origin of the error. “This commitment to the local industry also allows our customers to easily achieve their local content requirements,” says Muñiz.