Author: Jason Deign, Solarplaza
The Chinese inverter manufacturer Huawei aims to take the African market by storm with an inverter said to increase PV plant internal rates of return by up to 1%. “We started out in the Middle East and Africa this year ago and succeeded with just a few accounts, but I believe we could be the leader in the market within two or three years’ time,” said Paul Pan, Huawei’s smart PV business general manager for Middle East and Africa.
“Because it has started a bit later than Europe or China, this Middle East and Africa market has a good opportunity to adopt the latest technology and have the lowest cost of power generation,” he told Solarplaza.
Huawei’s FusionSolar Smart PV Solution, which has the top share of the Chinese solar market, could deliver more than 2% extra generation through its unique Maximum Power Point Tracking algorithm and reduced downtime, he claimed. The key differences between Huawei and other inverter brands are that Huawei enables simpler plant design, intelligent operations and maintenance, and improved safety and reliability, Pan said.
“To take the example of maintenance, with central inverters you need around 50 different types of spare parts and typically need a system expert to replace them on site,” Pan said. "When things are broken you have to wait for a technical expert on site or ship [the inverter] back to a factory, taking up to two months."
In the event of a fault, Huawei’s approach is to simply swap out the entire inverter, guaranteeing the highest uptime.
“A new machine can be installed by two people within 20 minutes,” said Pan. "In a market like Africa this is extremely important as plants can be remote or with only limited technical expertise on site."
So far, Huawei has shipped more than 25 GW of inverter capacity worldwide, representing around 50,000 units, with an average outage rate of just 0.3%, said Pan. Huawei ranked first in 2015 global shipments according to reports from consulting companies IHS and GTM Research.
To be able to get replacement products on site quickly, Huawei’s solar operations rely on a massive global distribution network put in place by its parent company, which is one of the world’s largest telecommunications networking firms. In Africa, this distribution network covers most of the continent thanks to Huawei’s leading position in the mobile telecommunications base station market.
“One of the very strong advantages we have is our company,” said Pan, who will be speaking at the upcoming Unlocking Solar Capital Africa event in Nairobi, Kenya, this November 1 and 2. “We are leveraging the service platform, so we can have our storage and engineers close to the customer.”
Another advantage of Huawei’s offering is that its inverters are highly compact, measuring the size of a suitcase and weighing about 55 kg, and software-based, with no fans or fuses and reduced cabling.
Huawei's Smart PV Solution enables optimal use of capex, with lower cabling needs and more optimal plant design.
“We can help the owner to maximise power generation while reducing the overall cost of ownership of the plant,” Pan said. "We are confident and determined to have the ability, through our own efforts and that of our partners, to make a greater contribution and create more value for the Middle East and Africa PV market."