Vladimir Ruiz
Business Unit Director for Mexico and Central America
Fronius
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View from the Top

Twenty-Four Hours of Sun

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 18:02

Q: Fronius says it provides 24 hours of sun. How does your offer support this concept?

A: This concept exemplifies how to create profitable businesses through the solar industry. Fronius is an Austrian company with over 70 years of experience dedicated to power electronics, but the company today has three business units: battery charging systems, welding and solar. Our solar division is our youngest, with 26 years in the market, and emerged from a need in our welding business. We wanted to ensure our welding machines used not only less energy but cleaner energy. Given we were already in the battery business, it was a natural step to enter the solar segment. 

 

The sun is not available on a 24-hour basis, but the energy can be stored using different technologies. Our batteries use lithium-ion technology, but we are also developing hydrogen products. This is the most abundant element in the universe and its conversion process is cyclical through fuel cells. Rather than substitute hydrocarbons with renewables, we would like to see a diversified energy mix, which is why distributed generation is also relevant in this discussion. During transmission and distribution, close to 60 percent of the generated energy is lost. This means it is better to generate energy at the consumption point. Our goal is to participate in smart grid systems where isolated systems are interconnected on the same network and a sole operator has control over it. Our equipment decreases or increases the potency factor as needed. In Mexico, the regulatory framework does not permit the modification of this variable. Nevertheless, this is viable in projects over 500kW and in fact, the grid code demands this requirement. Our technology complies with this need.

 

Q: Which segments are best-suited for your products?

A: We see the residential and commercial segments as really attractive. A project that surpasses 20MW is not our target market, as these kinds of projects involve the construction of a substation. Our market niche is focused on rooftop projects up to 5MW. We believe that CAPEX and OPEX is key to achieving success in a project of this magnitude. Even if the inverter is small, we can provide certain benefits on the maintenance side.

 

Q: How do you pitch your solutions to prospective clients?

A: Inverter technology is becoming very competitive as more companies enter the segment. Fronius approaches potential clients by establishing relationships with installers. We do not execute direct sales because we are a support center. On projects, we support clients to ensure they receive a competitive price. We mostly develop our service for projects close to 500kW. Sometimes, the installation of smaller inverters can reduce costs by avoiding the use of additional combining boxes. Our personnel are well-versed in the legal framework and have certifications to guarantee the project complies with the established requirements.

 

Q: What challenges and opportunities do you see in Mexico for solar PV?

A: The opportunities that solar PV have in Mexico are real because the main engine is demand. Unfortunately, the country does not have the capacity to supply the energy that industry requires to increase its production capacity. Solar energy is an intermittent energy but it can be used to support the country’s energy system. End-users have started to generate their own energy through distributed generation, which is faster than constructing a power plant.

Our equipment is also designed to work in integration systems, where conventional and renewables energies are mixed. Companies that need to meet increased demand could use diesel generators and solar systems to decrease fossil fuel consumption. Fronius has many successful cases with mini hydro, gas generators and even wind technology.

In Mexico, we have one-to-one net metering but the storage is provided by CFE. As a result, if a facility needs continuous energy supply for its operations, we are talking about an off-grid system. In that case, we would provide an energy solution that can be combined with solar. Fronius’ equipment comes with transparent communication protocols that can integrated into different systems. I believe there is an interesting market for this technology in Mexico to address peak demand and provide energy. Rather than delivering a turnkey project, we deliver a solution matrix to suit every client’s particular need. We have to understand what this need is all about and how the back-up system can be designed.

Fronius focuses on solar electronics by developing and manufacturing photovoltaic inverters for interconnected and off-grid applications. At a global level, the company has positioned itself as one of the leading providers given its continuous innovation and technological offer.