The right installation partner for your solar rooftop systems

08:47 | 27/05/2019
In the present solar rooftop project era, engineering, procurement, and construction or system installation partners are essential. Mai Van Trung, business development director of SolarBK, told VIR’s Phuong Thu what criteria investors use to choose the right installation partner and firms’ ambition to green out Vietnam’s growth path.
the right installation partner for your solar rooftop systems
Mai Van Trung, business development director of SolarBK

Solar rooftop projects are on the rise in ­Vietnam, attracting both domestic and foreign companies in order to participate in the value chain. What are the main criteria that investors, especially small- and medium-sized ones, use to select engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) or installation partners?

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) is the most critical part enabling the successful deployment of solar rooftop systems. The contractor typically provides from site survey to operation and maintenance (O&M) service during the lifespan of the project supposed to be 25 years.

Solar rooftop investment is considered significant capital expenditure so the finance option supported by banks involved with EPC contractor will be a plus. Such proposal is called EPC plus financing. The engaged banks accept the solar rooftop system as collateral for the loan instead.

The technical feasibility study submitted should have a 3D solar panel layout with spaces for air circulation, installation as well as O&M, and PVSyst simulation (a PC software package used generally for the study, sizing, simulation, and data analysis of complete PV systems) to estimate the yearly energy generation, shading impact assessment of the existing surroundings, loading evaluation based on the rooftop type and framing structure due to tonnes of solar panels distributed.

Economically, the total cost of ownership of the solar rooftop should include O&M cost, inverters replacement in 15th year and system removal and recycle. Many investors are misled by the low capex might pay higher opex expenses due to the underperformed system particularly the shading imposed on the solar panels and damages from tycoons.

Many inexperienced players join in the solar market competing by low quality products with unknown origins might bring about many consequences for the market in long – term perspective. It is expected to have IEC/UL certifications for solar panel and inverter brands along with known certification of origin.

Also, the solar panels should have third-party guarantee such as MunichRE, SwissRE or PowerGuard because the solar module manufacturers can be unpredictably out of the market. The guarantee prevents the EPC contractors from mixing Grade B solar modules.

The AC and DC surge protectors, which are a cost-effective solution protecting equipment from harmful surges, must be inclusive since the lightening strokes can totally destroy the rooftop solar systems. The investor should carefully inspect the similar projects, key persons and safety method submitted by the EPC contractor. The expertise and credibility of the contractors might be referenced from Electricity of Vietnam – the only power distributor in Vietnam – because it have been experiencing many local EPC contractors through its rooftop solar covering the group’s facilities.

Rooftop solar systems are electrical which are degrading over the time. Furthermore, the degradation will accelerate without proper preventive maintenance and frequent solar panel cleaning. Last but not least, the managed services provide by the contractor should be a factor to include in the evaluation report. The network of branches, representative offices and authorised distributors of the EPC contractors can play as a proof for their fast responses. Those overall costs form the total cost of ownership of the rooftop solar system not the quotation at a glance.

the right installation partner for your solar rooftop systems
SolarBK provides globally competitive rooftop solar systems

What services does the company offer? What happens if the system does not produce as much electricity as promised or if there is a critical breakdown?

We integrate operations vertically, from producing solar panels to remote monitoring software, and are always proactive to react to market changes and customers’ specific requirements.

About the service: we apply international standards from survey and design to operation and maintenance – standards that we learn from foreign experts at the 110 kWp project on the roof of the UNDP building in Hanoi since 2013.

In addition, we also provide insurance for the output of the system from a third-party insurer. This insurance package ensures customers receive the committed annual power output in any situation.

What are SolarBK’s ambitions for the next five years? Does the company consider shaking hands with foreign partners to develop together in Vietnam or expand regionally?

SolarBK expects to install a million solar rooftop systems in the next five years in Vietnam as well as overseas markets, and we strongly believe that we can achieve this number. In order to do this, there is no doubt that the state's support for policies as well as foreign partners need to be supported by management experience and capital flows.

There are a lot of foreign investors looking for an opportunity to invest in SolarBK, we are considering and evaluating several potential partners but with or without foreign investors, we will be consistent in the way we bring solar energy to every corner of the country at competitive prices through vertical integration and research and development.

SolarBK and its members have been active participants at many international events and exhibitions. How effective are these international events in approaching your goals?

Most recently IREX Energy JSC, a member of SolarBK, participated at the Intersolar Solar International Exhibition in Germany. This is also the fifth time enterprises have participated in this event. Following up the goal of reaching out to the global market and “globalise the domestic”, IREX plans to attend many solar power exhibitions in major markets.

Besides Intersolar 2019, SolarBK also attends annual events such as the SNEC PV Power International Exhibition in Shanghai, China (June), Renewable Energy International Exhibition in India (September), SPI International Exhibition (September) in South America, and most recently, Solar Show Vietnam (April 2019). The participations not only foster the export activities but also affirms our significant place in the global solar map. Up to now, it can be said that by exporting solar panels, SolarBK has participated in the global supply chain. Our sales team of solar panels in Nanjing, China constantly closes high-value export orders. SolarBK's attendance at big events not only affirms the Vietnamese brand's value in the worldwide market, but also strengthens customers' trust in “Made in Vietnam” renewable energy solutions.

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