ABB is committed to making solar energy affordable

Interview with Joshi Raghavendra, Head of Renewable Energy Business, Power Generation – South Asia, ABB Pte. Ltd. Joshi is speaking at the upcoming Clean Power Asia on “Advanced integrated technology and total turnkey solutions for solar energy”. ABB is also a bronze sponsor at the event.

Can you give us an overview and background of the company history?
ABB is a global leader in power and automation solutions operating in more than 100 countries with over 135,000 employees worldwide. We achieved a record order intake of $40 billion last year with a record revenue of $38 billion. We have over 125 years of experience in power generation with over 300 successfully completed projects as an EPC contractor.

As a one-stop partner in solar, our offerings cover the entire scope of supply for turnkey solar power plants – from feasibility studies and site analysis to plant design and engineering, manufacture and procurement, erection and commissioning, and grid connectivity. We have unique expertise in solar-critical applications like large-scale energy storage, long distance HVDC and HVAC power transfer, and integration of renewable energy into micro and remote grids. We help our customers harness, control and store solar energy and efficiently convert it into reliable electricity, ready for transfer into the local power grid.

What is on the calendar for ABB for 2012?
From a regional perspective as the Regional Execution Center base in Singapore, (REC-SG), this year is a strategic milestone year for us. Our cooperation with Novatec Solar as technology partner for CSP power plants since first quarter of 2011, the acquisition of PowerCorp end of last year, which is an Australian renewable power automation company with expertise in integration of renewable energy catering for microgrid and power stability, as well as investing in GreenVolts, end of last year, a US-based leading turnkey provider for concentrating photovoltaic systems, we definitely offer a wider portfolio for the solar market now.

We cover the total turnkey solution from solar boiler, solar field, power block (inclusive of turbine, air condenser, electrical generator, pumps, thermal cycle exchangers and piping), electrical balance of plant (eBoP), plant automation system, to grid connection. Our responsibility also extends across the entire project from design and engineering to manufacture, erection and commissioning.

Of course, we now need to go to the market and sell, by sharing our knowledge, skills, technology and global experiences, which are our biggest assets.

What projects are you particularly excited about?
For a start, solar projects in the region are still not plentiful and from our perspective, we should be excited about all solar power projects, particularly medium and large scale that are available in the market because if there is a project, there is definitely an opportunity for us. And of course amongst the many players in the market, ABB has created a differentiator by our value adds.

For example: We successfully delivered the world’s first high-penetration solar-diesel hybrid power plant in Australia at 1.05GW. Last month, we commissioned the world’s largest linear Fresnel solar power plant at 30MMW in Spain. We have also helped our customer build the first photovoltaic power plant in South Africa. With these global footprints and a long list of references (many more) projects worldwide, we are really keen to bring forward our technology to the region to help our customers make the most out of the power of the sun which is plentiful in this region.

Which country or region in Asia do you think has the most potential for investment in solar energy?
Region wise, Asia (as in South Asia) is still catching up with other pioneer regions in solar, like Germany, Italy, US or Spain. However, new initiatives in solar are introduced now from some countries while others are coming up with feed-in-tariff for renewable energy. Potential is now rising for countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and even Vietnam.

What would you say is the secret of your success?
Being a technology driven company, our core strength for solar solutions come from the fact that almost all critical solar DC/AC products are part of ABB portfolio. Our business strategy where we offer a complete turnkey solution starting from plant design, full equipment supply, controlling, monitoring, substation and integration, clearly differentiate us from others. You can come to us and be rest assured that ABB is your reliable partner.

Can you give us a sneak preview of your presentation at Clean Power Asia – what will be your main message?
ABB is committed to making solar energy affordable and reliable through our complete high-efficiency technologies for different utility-scale applications and environments. During the presentation, I will be sharing with you the different technologies ABB has as well as the latest development in the solar technology. I will also share with you a few case studies on significance of PV module selection for location specific grid-connected projects, where we will focus on the challenges, lessons learnt and successes behind the projects.

What have been the main challenges in your solar projects to date and how were these overcome?
Our main challenge is to create the right awareness on the critical aspects for success of solar projects in the region. This we believe is eminent keeping in view of 25 years of project life cycle and the optimum returns for investors in solar projects. ABB’s solar projects’ successes are mainly driven by the following aspects; Working closely with technology partner from the inception stage of project and Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) approach to ensure high project returns.

What achievements of ABB are you most proud of?
ABB’s recent acquisition and investment in major stake holding of potential solar technology solutions like the Linear Fresnel Reflector technology for Concentrated Solar Power, Concentrated Photovoltaic technology, as well as Microgrid and renewable energy solutions for Island applications are definitely achievements which I am personally proud of. These not only widen our complete portfolio of solar offerings, but at the same time, bring us way ahead of our competitors in terms of forward looking solutions for the renewable business.

What surprises you about this industry?
Solar industry in Asia is driven by price and we in ABB are committed to ensure right balance of price, technology and project returns keeping in view of long life cycle of solar power projects. The speed of implementation is far too slow and the number of players is ever growing. The cost of ownership is coming down which is good news for the industry making these projects more viable and governments would find it easier to add more renewable energy into the grid. Emergence of a strong O&M model will help sustain the project output and performance.

What is your vision for the Asian energy market?
Governments and stakeholders need to have a strong focus on solar generation and fully support the solar initiatives in the region. As a solution provider, it will be our responsibility to create awareness on solar technology based integration and align our global technical know-how and experience to fit into the local market requirements.