Solar developers, manufacturers, EPCs/system builders, and investors alike rely on detailed independent engineering (IE) studies when proposing a solar project to a bank and for implementing the project. These so-called bankability studies are often produced from different points of view, depending on the role of the company in a solar development.
Typically, banks and investors like to see bankability studies performed by IE companies in the same country as the project. However, the increasingly international aspect of the solar industry has shifted the sourcing of the IE studies to a handful of global centers for such research.
India is one of these global centers, providing the same high global quality as players in the United States and Europe, but at a fraction of the cost – up to 40% less. Concerns about the quality of bankability reports from non-U.S. and non-European sources is readily dispelled once the first bankability study has been delivered.
“SgurrEnergy did one of our studies for a project in India, and they put me to work digging up documentation. It was as rigorous as any study we have have had performed elsewhere. It was the real deal,” says Kristan Kirsh, the senior marketing director for NEXTracker, the leading global supplier of solar trackers by current sales.
Similarly, the CEO of Adani Power Ltd, based in Ahmedabad, India, says, “We selected SgurrEnergy India after evaluating a number of consultants as we quickly understood that they had both, the capabilities to execute project of this scale and the local experience and resources. We look forward to working with them on other projects.”
CleanTechnica recently was able to interview Arif Aga, the founder and director of SgurrEnergy India Private Ltd, based in Pune, India, about this global evolution in bankability studies.
CT: Does the Aberdeen, Scotland-based Wood Group play an active role in SgurrEnergy’s non-India business, since it owns 50% of the equity? What is the history of the combination?
Aga: SgurrEnergy Ltd was originally established in 2002 in Glasgow, with an aim to excel in renewable energy consulting. In 2007, SgurrEnergy India was incorporated as an independent company jointly owned by SgurrEnergy Ltd., Glasgow and me, to provide technical advisory and engineering services for solar projects globally. However in 2012, Wood group acquired SgurrEnergy Ltd in Glasgow and since then the company is jointly owned by Wood group and me; the company however operates independently as it has in the past.
CT: Do less expensive reports and studies help new technology developers at an earlier stage of their market growth?
Aga: SgurrEnergy has played a significant role in meeting India’s energy needs to accomplish the vision of building 100 GW of solar power by 2020. With availability of labor and qualified workforce in this huge domestic market, we have always extended solar engineering services in a cost-effective manner with complete assurance for maximum ROI for developer’s solar projects.
In addition to this, due to our quality work and economical rates, we have been successful in bagging quite a lot of projects outside India that includes some major detailed engineering projects for a renowned US solar developer over the last two years.
CT: What percent of your total business now is outside of your home country? How much will be international in five years?
Aga: More than 40% of our business is being generated from international projects. Currently, we are actively working on projects in Egypt, the Middle East, Vietnam, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, South Africa, the United States and other countries. In the next five years, SgurrEnergy India expects to generate 80% of its revenues from the international market.
CT: Once a company has had a study performed, are follow-on studies for similar projects less expensive and faster to do?
Aga: This essentially depends upon what studies we work on. SgurrEnergy conducts various studies like feasibility, technical due diligence, site assessments & investigations, including geotech, topography, hydrology, grid feasibility, among other topics.
In the case of technical feasibility studies if it is just a location change then the follow-on studies will definitely be inexpensive and faster to do. Also if the developer or EPC contractor has a preferred set of project components, then the engineering on subsequent projects would possibly be inexpensive and quick.
However in case of site investigation reviews and design and engineering, it is definitely expensive.
CT: How has the globalization of the solar market changed the practice of independent engineering reports and studies?
Aga: Independent engineering and studies will remain the same wherever a project is built. But with a large number of projects being implemented almost everywhere in the world, and as solar becomes an even more cost/tariff sensitive business, design and engineering practices have been continuously optimizing for quality, efficiency and cost. SgurrEnergy with its 12 year global track record has been substantially instrumental in bringing down project cost with optimum quality, durability and efficiency.
For example, in 2010 the module mounting structure/racking system weight used to be 80 metric tons per megawatt peak; with SgurrEnergy’s value engineering we have been able to reduce this use to 27 tons/MWp for the same location.
CT: How do you bring in country-specific knowledge when performing a study in a new country — through a strategic local partnership?
Aga: The basic design and engineering remains the same for any solar project across the world, however the grid code and local permits & approvals can involve different requirements. For these matters, we work with preferred local partners who understand the regional requirements.
CT: Thank you.