Claimed Faris Abuyaghi, Sales Director Solar PV Inverters : MEA Region HUAWEI in an interview with EQ International Magazine. In this interview, the interviewee discussed communication technology, IOT, AI, technology requirements for the future, string inverters, battery storage, challenges and opportunities in the MEA and more…
Huawei has been leading the solar market across the globe. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) noted that Huawei is amongst the top brands in Asia in terms of financing in its “Solar Module & Inverter Bankability 2019” report. Proliferating its existence, the company has made a mark for itself in the middle east as well. To discuss the plans of the company and technological roadmap for the company, Team EQ was joined by Faris AbuYaghi, Sales Director Solar PV Inverters, Huawei Technologies (Middle East & Africa Region).
Opening up on Huawei’s plan for advanced hybrid power, Abuyaghi mentioned that the R&D department is working on a hybrid solution that is more adaptable towards using diesel generators, battery, diesel and coupling with other resources of wind or others. He further stated, “Probably the base will also be a battery where you could shift the power without actually having internal interruptions in that sense. I believe the battery storage itself is where the next trend will be,” signaling towards more manufacturing in this area.
AI, Self-learning & Future Plans:
Huawei is leading the industry with its communication, IOT, and artificial intelligence (AI). Talking about the application of these expertise, Faris highlighted how it helps Huawei standout. From the product point of view, the company tries to integrate the product, tweaking it and making it something that the industry follows.
He said, “We focused on the string inverter, we made multiple string inverters where we took out the fuses, now, we are trying to move away from just the product and looking into the solution… We (now) added the battery storage solution and have both utility and residential battery solutions, where we are innovating and connecting to the different markets.”
In the future, the company has a product in the pipeline with a manufacturer using AI capable of collecting data and self-learning. Huawei is also looking into micro-grids, utility power used by telecom industries, and EV chargers.
Need of the Hour:
- To make a solution smarter, it is imperative to have it sensing, claimed Abuyaghi. Further stating, if it senses, it collects information and then responds, this is called self-learning. With respect to PV plants, inverter self-learning involves interacting with the tracker to enhance it.
- Envisioning the future with more solar penetration, he believes there will be lower chances of short-circuit, which will affect the grid. Therefore, there is a need to make it more grid-friendly.
- Talking about the communication, it should be able to update all this information to the products in the field. It can be done either through 5G or through normal networking but the inverter has to be updated.
- While talking about Operations and Management (O&M), there will be drones or a product like an IV scanner. Having an automated IV scan where 100 MW will take about 30 to 60 days for the same work but with new technology of IV scan you could do it within 30 minutes.
- Talking about the company’s developing technologies, he mentioned developing these things where you could detect hotspots. If we take AI into the residential field there is an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) (the spark that happens in the inverter or in the cables). The AI implemented in the inverters will enable it to shut off before causing a fire.
- Further talking about the energy storage system (ESS), having a more integrated storage solution with the PV will be crucial for seamless working. It will create a timetable in your phone for your house, let’s say for use of the washing machine at a certain point of time, that is when the power will be needed and work accordingly. This way you can integrate your system and have a smart house.
Huawei’s History With String Inverter
Being the pioneers of string inverter technology, Huawei placed its bet on the string inverter in 2013, he said, “If you see the market, string inverters dominate 60 per cent of the market now. It seems like it will keep growing. (It is) easy to install (and has) lower LCOE, people want something they could fix, which reduces O&M by 50 degrees. So, it is installed on residential (and) commercial, it is a more adaptable solution.”
While giving his insights on best technology solutions for optimizing the power generation in the region, Faris stated, “String inverter with multiple MPVTs, helps no matter where the direction of the modules take place to increase the generation.” The inverters use AI application along with AFCI, which could shut down any spark enhancing safety. Optimiser launched last year has seen a lot of interest. Optimisation can be done on the string level rather than on module level. If something happens one could estimate regenerate between 10 and 30 per cent additional generation versus what could have been without the optimiser.
On the industry trends, he commented that the future lies in a more connected network, between energy from renewable sources like solar and wind, and powering green hydrogen. He added that looking at the data centers, everything is going to be smarter, and more about electronic or information computing as a huge part of renewable energy. If one is not able to generate the power but even lower the consumption of these powers, they are saving.
Looking into the EV chargers, look at the distance the battery could go for and how fast will this battery charge. One could also look at raw materials of the batteries or what is the future battery calculation, how could you charge it for longer distances and more.
Future of Battery Storage:
While talking about the battery storage solutions, Abuyaghi compared this market to the small market that existed ten years ago. A decade ago, there was no Lithium-ion battery technology. However, it kept evolving and the prices dropped ten times over the years. He believes that it is becoming more feasible, especially for places where the tariff is high.
In the storage sector, the highest investment came on residential products and not utility products. For smaller products like residential solutions, people are willing to pay higher for a complete solution including battery and save in the long run. On the other hand, utility projects are price driven and on a KWh basis. Therefore, the focus was heavily investing on residential products. Despite that, Faris believes with the emergence of the Red Sea Project, more people will be inclined towards building power stations for green cities and in the future C&I will take the center-stage.
Considering the idea of an island system where the house does not need electric connection, Faris mentioned two solutions: Grid-tied inverter using a grid-tied battery; and off-grid inverter using an off-grid battery.
It depends on the solution and geography. He added, “Let’s say you use it in Germany, it is a good type solution because there is always electricity and you are just shifting the power during the day and night or higher tariffs. Whereas, for Lebanon, with electricity cut-off, there is a requirement of energy from solar to charge the battery or diesel and then offloading completely off-grid.”
BOX (Highlight): Upcoming Launches
Speaking on Huawei’s current product basket for on-grid inverters Faris revealed full product room from single-phase inverter, three phase small inverters, utility scale inverters. The company is also planning to enter the optimiser market and own optimisers for 400 and 600 Watts. Talking of batteries, he spoke about plug and play batteries. This will mean that to the five kilowatts battery one can add ten or 15 KW making it a dynamic way of installation.
For inverters there is an architecture where the new inverter is split in half for utility scale projects. This mechanism will enable to increase the yield while reducing the CapEx by saving the BOS cost.
For the upcoming product lines Huawei has launched an off-grid solution. He said, “This off-grid solution comes all the way from a small box which you could take to camping… to C&I powering the whole office using off-grid.”
Huawei is looking into microgrids applications too, a very customisable application. He added, “So, Huawei’s strength is that we perfect one product and mass produce it.”
BOX (Highlight): Noteworthy Projects:
Stating the notable energy storage solutions by Huawei in the middle east, he named the Red Sea project, developed by Aquapower. It is said to utilize about 400 MW of PV and 1300 MW of energy storage and it is the largest project globally. Prior to this, it was Tesla that built 200 MW in Australia and now the situation has shifted to six times bigger than that. He added, “The unique part of this project was that it was a smart city that was off-grid.” It required a special grid supporting islanding to operate in a harsh environment. There was also a need for cooling solutions as well as the grids. To make it happen was very challenging, claimed Faris saying that it is going to be like the Maldives, where there are multiple islands and big reservoirs.
In the PV forte he mentioned that there are hundreds of medium size projects. “My favorite was (the one) with KitKat and Yellow Door. The Khaka Project, Huawei’s first utility project in the region was also noted. Speaking of the hybrid projects, DEWA 400 CSP project was also listed where almost 400 MG of PV was used to support auxiliary power.
He further mentioned the upcoming desalination projects, where solar power will be used to do the auxiliary power for the desalination.
R&D/ DISTINCTIVE ADVANTAGE
Explaining the strengths of Huawei, Abuyaghi mentioned that the company is a big player in ICT (information and communications technology) and evolving technologies. Huawei has 2,00,000 people working for them. The distinctive advantage that the company enjoys is the allocation of 55% of this workforce in Research and Development (R&D), it has 12 different centers of the inverter business or the digital power business. Abuyaghi stated, “If you look at the last ten years, we have spent about $100Bn in R&D, not only for digital power but as a company. So, that gives us an advantage in the purchasing of our following new technologies and having the capability of innovating.”
Pointing out the challenges of PV becoming the main energy source, he said it is the logistics, component prices and the market itself. He added, “Being the innovative party in the market is also challenging because you are also going into new territories where no one has been… So you are always in the beginning trying to fight the regulations… Seeing how to make things better or more adapted to that kind of situation. If you look at the modules, they have shifted from 1000 to 1500. There was a lot of push-back and now we are trying to take the whole system to a whole different level.”
In the middle east there are less regulations on certain technologies for the data centers. It enables the supply of containerised data centers, where you can build them faster, operate at a lower price and save an OpEx. Whereas, if this is emulated in Europe, equipment building will take thrice as much time and more money to operate, although providing regulatory immunity. This might hinder the growth of digital power companies.
Commenting on the fluctuating prices of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, Abuyaghi believed that it will affect the industry to a certain extent. However, many suppliers have long-term or yearly contracts with the manufacturers and they can absorb some part of the costing through that source. When this contract ends, depending on it, it will obviously increase the prices.
Besides he also mentioned, “When you transport the batteries, the cost in Dubai, for example, was 2000 dollars, now it is 16000 dollars per container. So the cost of transportation will affect as well as the whole affordability of using battery storage.”
MARKET OUTLOOK IN THE ME FOR 2022
Breaking the market in three areas we get residential, C&I and distributed market, and utility. For utility there are three giants Saudi Arabia (biggest tenders coming), UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), and then Oman. Rest of the countries are doing smaller tenders in the area.
Countries like Jordan, Palestine, and Oman are doing well in residential projects. To attract people, countries hungry for energy with high tariffs are required.
Market is said to grow depending on two things, regulations and higher prices of electricity. If regulations allow people to install, they will do it. The increase in prices of electricity or the need to avoid subsidizing electricity should be a priority for growth.
With 44 countries deciding to go carbon neutral, the company decided to separate digital power from Huawei and make it its own separate entity like solar and battery. Now, there are data centers, cars, side powers, and components. This provides a unique advantage of bringing the power electronics experience into digitisation and lowering carbon emission overall. He concluded, “If you make anything smarter, it will actually benefit everyone to the maximum point.”