pv magazine Australia: STI Norland has expanded into Australia with the opening of a permanent office in Melbourne which will look to develop the company’s presence in Australia and the Asia-Pacific, what are the plans for 2021 Down Under?
STI Norland Australia CEO, Alan Atchison: Our plans for 2021 are to fully establish ourselves in the Australian market and to make sure that key solar developers and EPC contractors in Australia are seriously considering STI Norland trackers for their next project. We want developers and EPC contractors to know that STI Norland supplies superior quality trackers, that our engineering support is first-class from initial design through to commissioning, and that our after-sales service is second to none. We plan to provide serious competition to the tracker suppliers that have been active in Australia over the past 3-4 years.
How do you see the demand between trackers and fixed-tilt structures playing out in Australia over the next few years?
It is difficult to give you an exact forecast for tracker and fixed-tilt structure demand in Australia for the year ahead, but we know that activity in the sector is rapidly picking up right now and that more than 6 GW of new solar PV projects have been announced by developers in the last 2 months, so there is no shortage of new projects which will need STI Norland trackers. Also, we are hearing about an increasing number of behind-the-meter Australian projects in development, and we think many of these projects will be delivered using fixed-tilt structures.
And bifacial plus tracking applications?
We think the demand for bifacial tracking applications will increase significantly in the coming year, and STI Norland is really well-placed to assist developers get the most of their bifacial modules. STI Norland has supplied trackers for more than 1 GW of bifacial projects in the past 2 years, and our STI-H250™ dual-row single-axis tracker provides the best LCOE on the market for bifacial projects. We are already providing detailed proposals for a number of Australian projects employing bifacial tracking applications.
As STI Norland President Blanco alluded to at the Melbourne office’s opening, Australia is currently a difficult EPC landscape, how will STI Norland approach these challenges, such as the pandemic, grid congestion etc.?
STI Norland understands the pressures under which developers and EPC contractors are operating in the Australian solar PV market. Our approach to meeting the challenges of the pandemic and Australia-specific issues like grid congestion will centre on providing our clients with the best possible after-sales service through all project phases, from design and construction to commissioning and operation & maintenance. STI Norland has a world-class logistics capacity which is borne of 25 years’ experience of delivering solar trackers and structures around the world. And we have an engineering department which is not only at the cutting edge of product development but is also fully focused on customer support through the entire life-cycle of major projects.
Markets are emerging rapidly in South-East Asia, what would you say are the key markets for STI Norland in the region?
There are numerous emerging markets for solar projects throughout South East Asia. Of course, Vietnam is powering ahead with solar projects and this will continue as a consequence of the country’s energy demand growing by close to 10 per cent per year for the coming decade. But fast-growing energy demand is likely to occur in most other major South East Asian countries in the years ahead, including in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Major developers are already working hard to bring forward new solar projects in all of these countries, and STI Norland will work alongside them to deliver more renewable energy to these emerging markets. For the moment, our principal focus is the Australian market, but we look forward to expanding into South East Asia in the near future.
STI Norland has said that it will look to local manufacturing as much as possible. The NSW Government as recently said that it wants to source all the steel required for its Renewable Energy Zones locally, and BlueScope Steel has responded by putting $20 million toward a Renewable Manufacturing Zone, are these positive signs that STI Norland will be able to utilise local manufacturing and materials?
Yes, the NSW Government’s recent announcement that it wants to back local supply chains and the use of local steel for its renewable energy zones in regional areas of the state is an important signal. In the year ahead, STI Norland will advance discussions with BlueScope Steel and key Australian steel fabricators to be in a position to utilise local manufacturing and materials as soon as possible, as we have been successfully doing with other subsidiaries for years.
Shifting gears, are there any plans for agrivoltaic projects in the region?
The development of agrivoltaic projects clearly has great merit in terms of facilitating productive combinations of ongoing agricultural land use alongside solar energy generation. STI Norland has studied the implications of what is required of our trackers in terms of design for them to be useful for agrivoltaic projects. We aim to have more to say about this as we progress in Australian and regional markets.
What kind of projects and partnerships is STI Norland looking for in Australia?
STI Norland is a company that prides itself on developing long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with its clients and stakeholders. Our success is founded upon repeat business with leading developers and EPC contractors, including major players such as Acciona, Iberdrola, Engie and Elecnor. We are looking to bring our particular combination of quality trackers, competitive pricing and attention to detail and effective delivery to all of our Australian clients.
STI Norland is ready to provide quality products and service to any utility or C&I solar project – from the largest solar farm to smaller behind-the-meter projects.
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