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In an exclusive interview with SolarQuarter Middle East magazine, Stephen Molden – Head of Operations, Sun In Motion spoke about the company’s presence in the region, the key challenges being faced by them as a company, and how they overcome those challenges. He also spoke about the steps being taken to increase performance while improving the lifecycle of the project and gave his outlook on the future of the solar sector in the region.
Please brief our readers about Sun in Motion’s presence in the Middle East and the services you provide.
Sun in Motion offers a full turnkey solution for C&I and utility-scale Solar PV completing permitting, design, procurement, Installation, Commissioning and O&M. We are now also offering BESS and Solar Hybrid systems also as the requirement in the region is expanding for this tech. Our team combined has more than 3GW+ of deployed solar experience in around 16 different countries with each member of staff having at least 5 to 12 years of solar knowledge which I believe puts us in a very strong position in the market. We are agile, and responsive and are continually investing in our staff and R&D to ensure what we install is fit for purpose and supplies our customers with the Asset they require.
How has the renewable sector in the Middle East performed under the Covid crisis?
Obviously like everyone else we have seen delays in the projects but managed to complete all works in our projected pipeline as Solar works are classified as essential works under the government’s initiative. All appropriate precautions were taken and all staff was given appropriate training and COVID-specific PPE to ensure they were safe during work. During the cooldown of COVID, we have actually seen a rise in requests as people wanted to secure savings on their OPEX costs due to the financial issues they had faced during COVID so I believe it has actually accelerated the renewable transition.
As a developer, what are the key challenges you face in the Middle East Solar market, and how have you overcome those?
The key challenges we face are the off-takers expectations and ever-changing prices on the main commodities of a Solar PV project. Many projects that had been signed and agreed upon 6 months prior to mobilization had seen increases as high as 45% on key components which can make the project extremely negative. Value Engineering and supply chain management with an understanding from our off-takers helped us to overcome this and successfully deliver with limited financial implications to both us and the client. Still, we have the problem of consumer expectations wanting to see savings of 50% plus, and in this current economic climate and commodity prices where they are it is simply not possible so these expectations need to change if we are to continue to implement Solar PV in the region.
When it comes to solar asset management, what are the steps taken by the O&M team to increase performance while improving the lifecycle of the project?
Our O&M division takes a very sophisticated approach to the monitoring of our assets and uses multiple forms of software and measurement equipment to ensure the system is operating at its optimum performance as forecasted and guaranteed to the client. They continually research and develop new methods of reactive and planned maintenance and consume past data to recognize trends in failure and success to ensure we future-proof the systems and understand how to effectively maintain the asset for its lifetime. These learnings are then implemented on the next systems so we are continually improving and learning.
What is your outlook for the future of the Solar Industry in the region?
I think the region has a bright future and the requirement for Solar PV and other sustainable technologies is becoming more and more obvious with the ever-changing political and financial landscape, having some of the highest irradiance levels in the world also help the case. Like any emerging market we need to do more to ensure that sustainable and renewable energy can remain a sustainable sector this means all parties being aligned and moving in the same direction. Government directives and legislative changes from the utilities can slow this down sometimes for valid reasons but the communication as to why this is happening and a solution to overcome these changes needs to be shared with the sector to avoid bottlenecks and delays in the movement and implementation of said technologies.