Wide Range of Solar TechnologiesWed, 02/19/2014 - 12:24
In September 2013, Granite Chief Solar inaugurated its 1MW Apaseo El Grande solar park in Guanajuato. The project supplies energy to the business center of four companies including a steel company, an automotive company, and Granite Chief. The investment totaled US$3 million and has an expected return on investment of 9 to 11 years. Building a 1MW solar plant for industrial use might not be common but it is still attractive since companies get cheaper electricity and will avoid over 7,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.
Granite Chief was created six years ago when the solar energy market in Mexico was practically nonexistent, so it dedicated its first three years to market analysis and investigation. The company focused on analyzing the cost of solar energy and the trade-offs associated with the development of solar plants. About three year ago, the prices of solar technology and PV components began going down to a level where solar energy started becoming commercially viable, motivating the company to get started on actual projects.
“Today, our portfolio includes four different technologies: concentrated photovoltaic (CPV), typical monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV, concentrated thermal panels, and traditional thermal panels. However, we do not seek to offer a huge range of products as we focus on offering the best solutions in the market,” says Juan Antonio Balcázar, Director General of Granite Chief. He acknowledges that one of the main challenges the Mexican solar industry faces is the current legislation and the validations, paperwork, and verdicts that are directly related to solar energy. Another intricate issue he recognizes is the availability of financial resources to create solar projects, and that a critical effort has to be made to be able to access financing.
However, Balcázar does not believe the Energy Reform will bring benefits to the renewable energy sector as it is focused on promoting private investment in oil exploration rather than on the development of the renewable energy
sector. “One of the main benefits of the reform should be an increase in oil and natural gas production, reducing the costs of natural gas that can be used to generate electricity. With this, solar energy and other renewables will lose out on competitiveness,” he adds. He predicts that, in the short term, the Energy Reform will not have a substantial impact on tariffs. “Therefore, there will be opportunities for solar energy across the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors,” Balcázar points out.
Although investment in a solar energy project has to be approached from a long-term perspective, many potential clients want fast savings and results, leaving even fewer truly concerned about climate change and global warming. “Many solar developers consider the market to be relatively immature and its potential as being much higher than what has been effectively exploited. We address this challenge by reducing technology costs in design and installation, and are constantly researching the main technological breakthroughs to increase energy generation efficiency,” Balcázar says. From the company’s perspective, Mexico has a great opportunity and it should make the most of its low-cost manufacturing to become an international powerhouse for solar energy.
Apaseo El Grande solar park is a decisive project for Granite Chief as it is one of the few examples of CPV technology currently working in Mexico. “Prospective clients can
visit the plant and see its operational characteristics, its advantages and the benefits offered by this technology,” says Balcázar. “We have showed permanence in the market and we are backing up investments with a long term vision. Granite Chief is ready to become a main player in the solar energy sector. We want to invest in a solar generation plant that commercializes energy through a PPA agreement.”