R+D+i. Technological challenges in Spain [Expansión – Soltec]

It is often said that Spain is not a country for scientists, but this is something that is not really true in our sector, quite the opposite.

And as this one shows; the different national manufacturers that lead the world renewable energy sector from Spain; we, for example, in Power Electronics, dedicate more than 7% of the turnover in R&D&I. This is certainly something exciting and at the same time a great responsibility if we talk specifically about the manufacturers of solar inverters, because we are the ones who must convert energy from solar panels to high voltage distribution lines, which means that if we do not do our job well, the installation and investments within them stop.

I think many of us here have gone halfway around the world since they stopped settling in Spain a little less than a decade ago.

So, although we come today to talk about the challenges ahead, some more complex than others, I think everyone will be welcome, recognizing the illusion that makes us return to work at home.

Basically, I am going to face two types of challenges: the technical-economic and the purely technical.

Let me start with the economics and not the technical, because there is no technological challenge if it is not adjusted to the prices demanded by the market. If I tell you now, that in 10 years our cars will cost 80% less… That a middle class one instead of 25,000€, will cost us only 5,000. And on top of that they’ll drive alone and make us a hot sandwich along the way.

We would have thought the same thing 10 years ago if they told us about the current situation in the solar sector. It is therefore vital, the constant evolution of our technology, being able to manufacture more intelligently, innovate and providing solutions where before there were none.

Of course, the drop in prices can not come either from manufacturing with less quality or from manufacturing in some distant country, because we manufacture everything in Valencia paying our taxes all here. This is something I’m happy to be able to highlight.

This technical-economic challenge is very important for us and for the whole industry, and it should be noted that thanks to this the solar facilities have become more widespread as they are no longer subsidized; there is more sale of investors therefore, which makes us grow and take volume, and therefore we can invest more, and therefore we can reduce costs, … everything goes in a chain.

The second challenge is purely technical. Just before we knew the results of the auctions that reopened the market, back in the spring of 2017 we stopped to analyze these challenges that were to come, in order to make the right decisions for 2018. And I will highlight 3 fundamentally:

First of all, any company considers, how can I attract more customers? For this we thought that we should find more flexible inverter topologies adapted to the needs of our customers. Traditionally in the market there have been large, high-power central inverters, installing few in a given solar plant, and small, low-power string inverters and installing many. We made the first ones, the big ones.

Therefore, we have been making our customers choose for a long time, not only which brand of investors is better, but also which topology was the right one.

The question in the forums has always been which is better? When the challenge is within the question, could we have both?

The answer to this is an investor who comes to cover it all, is still central but is internally divided into mini-investors. So we cover both topologies and with it we cover more clients.

The next technical challenge to keep in mind is the weather. Unfortunately, in Spain there is more and more desert, and our equipment have to be therefore more and more immune to this fact. For this, we have developed several patents that allow us to have a waterproof equipment with an innovative ventilation system that does not require any circulation of liquids inside. Liquids and electronics are often bad for each other.

And as a final technical challenge, that our customers trust us not only because we have a quality product at an appropriate price, but also, during the life of the installation, continue to be as convinced that the decision was the right one as the first day.

We are aware that our machinery must be in the plant for more than 25 years, and that maintenance has a cost to our customers, therefore, this should be minimal.

Those of us who work in this sector realize that everything is going very fast and if you want it to go well you have to listen a lot and be very flexible. And also, something fundamental, you have to look beyond what you have in front of your feet.

In this regard, I would like to conclude with what is to come. Not long from now, there will be a technological change in our industry, led by storage and artificial intelligence. These two factors will change the concept of what we think today is a solar park.

We will abandon the idea that solar energy is unstable in order to be able to use energy when it is most interesting, and we will not understand an installation without batteries. We already have working groups focused exclusively on it and real facilities in the United States and Australia.

This accompanied by massive data management in the cloud, be it big data, artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things (#IoT) is going to be a real change that is going to present us with the great challenge of revolutionizing the entire industry.

And we’ll be there…

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