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SolarQuarter Middle East magazine had an exclusive interview with Frank Gallardo, Head of Renewables Segment, L&T, and learned about the company’s contributions to the RE sector of the region. He also spoke about the smart technologies being adopted in the region, opportunities in the utility-scale market, and how the solar sector will progress over the next few years.
Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself.
Frank has been delivering dynamic and inspirational Management to medium and large international Power Generation companies over the past two decades. His passion for transforming organizational cultures and the people within those organizations have met with many successes in the Energy Generation sector. Having spent time in Europe, the Middle East and Central America give Francisco the advantage of being highly culturally aware. This awareness, combined with considerable empathy and a strong focus on outcomes and achievements, allows Francisco to empower people and teams to perform at a higher level, creating sustainable and high-performing cultures.
A word about your recent successful contributions to this industry? What has been your biggest challenge so far?
The renewable energy sector has experienced a quantum leap over the past decade in multiple aspects. Technology improvement and cost reduction could potentially be the major milestones that have allowed us to achieve world record tariffs; at the end of the day as customers demand cheap electricity the renewable sector is in continuous competition with other sources of energy generation, the environmental benefits are a plus but ultimately what the market aims for is low cost. There have been many challenges along the way in particular for the multi-gigawatt scale projects but one of the main ones which is not always taken into account has been how to optimize the technology and the projects management in line with the Middle East particular terrain and weather conditions; our high temperatures in combination with sand migration in the atmosphere can sometimes drive us into very particular designs that differ largely on the approach taken in other parts of the world.
What are some smart technologies being adopted in the clean energy and energy efficiency space in the Middle East region?
Besides the adoption of new solar panel technologies including N-type and of ultra-high efficiency, we can highly the importance of robotic cleaning to reduce the soiling losses and the spread of string inverters in utility-scale projects to increase the availability. Recently some mockups are analyzing methods to increase the albedo radiation through reflectors or even adding a layer of reflective material on top of the soil. The remarkable contribution has been achieved with the introduction of agglutinant moisture of the top layer of the sand dunes which allows for reduction of sand migration and deposition within the projects.
What are the current challenges and opportunities especially in the utility solar sector in the Middle East? How can the challenges be faced?
Some of the major challenges are the volatility of commodities prices from copper to aluminum and without forgetting the polysilicon materials; the world has been concentrating the production of those components in a limited number of players for two decades; such concentration allowed us to reduce cost but at the same time we have increased the dependency on certain countries and supply chain lines. The general sentiment now is that a wider diversification in the supply chain is required to secure the availability of components and that the Middle East has all the tools required to be a major contributor in this transitional period.
How do you see your company contributing to the clean energy sector in the Middle East in the next couple of years?
L&T has a large track record in renewables and a tremendously big appetite for success; I forecast we will grow exponentially in the next few years becoming the biggest solar EPC contractor in the world by 2030.
How does the future look with respect to the solar industry in the region?
As the volatility in the commodities reduces and the central banks apply tightening policies, the components will enter a deflationary phase that will allow solar tariffs to go down further. There is no debate at this stage in terms of competitiveness but in the next phase of the cycle, solar technology will create a remarkable gap in cost versus conventional energy generation methods. The margin will certainly be used to introduce energy storage systems as standard in solar which will eliminate the concept of intermittency of supply. Energy transition into a green scenario to tackle climate change will be a predominant priority for the world leaders and the Industry in the Middle East will be a major contributor in the journey.