In an exclusive interview with SolarQuarter Middle East, Kamil Sayour – Managing Partner, Solera talks about RE services offered by his company along with its recent technological advancements, O&M challenges and future outlook on the solar sector in the region.
1. Please tell our readers in brief about the renewable energy services offered by Solera in the Middle East Market.
Solera has introduced a new concept for rural electrification called the SunSquare. It is a solar powered services hub that provides electrification for productive use and essential services like healthcare, telecom, education, agricultural processing and entertainment. Since inception in late 2018, SunSquares have enabled the introduction into rural villages of cold storage based food retail, prenatal medical checks fully equipped with sonar capabilities and blood analysis tools and has brought telecom coverage in both voice and data to remote areas. SunSquares have also attracted local entrepreneurs to launch businesses based on the newly available electrification changing both their lives and that of their communities.
2. What are the major challenges faced in Operations and Maintenance of solar hybrid (solar + storage) plants especially in the MENA region?
The main challenge for O&M in the MENA region is panel cleaning. A combination of high dust conditions and scarce water form a challenging cleaning problem. This is further complicated by the lack of real precedent or data for best practices in the region. This however will rapidly change as we start accumulating data from the newly installed mega projects on the best cleaning ROI including frequency of cleaning, the use of waterless robots vs water based techniques and optimal angles and orientations for soiling.
3. Please highlight the recent technological advancements that Solera has made in the field of Installation and O&M of Solar Projects
Solera has used a unique plug-and-play design for its SunSquare services hubs. As SunSquares are installed in rural Africa, it is mandatory to optimize both transport and skilled manpower required on site. Therefore, we have developed an easy to assemble, plug and play design that can be installed and commissioned in minimal time and requiring only basic tools te set-up. We have also developed our own in-house software and hardware tools that enable remote monitoring and troubleshooting of the SunSquare from our central offices. We then rely on a multi-tiered network of operations engineers going from first-responder local operators up to centrally dispatched experts.
4. What is your holistic view on the market dynamics of solar business in the Middle East region?
Solar has had great success in the utility scale recently with, for example, the Benban solar complex in Egypt being recognized as one of the major solar successes lately. There is a need now for a regulatory framework to support the expansion of solar into the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector. For this to happen, there’s a need for wheeling, net-metering, tax and customs regulations to unlock the significant potential of this sector. Once this framework is in place, there’s an appetite for clients, EPCs and financiers alike.
5. How do you see the solar sector progressing in the Middle East market in the next 5 years?
Solar energy is here to stay! The Middle East is blessed with ideal solar conditions coupled with vast areas of free to use land that make the generated energy amongst the cheapest in the world. Middle Eastern countries will continue diversifying their energy mix through increasing the solar share on the utility scale. A solar boom in residential and C&I will follow soon after but will take time for the necessary regulation to be put in place and become mature.