Sengi Solar wants to be more than just an alternative to China
Everton Fardin — Foto: Divulgação
With the inauguration of the first 100% Brazilian photovoltaic module factory, Sengi Solar wants to be more than an alternative to China — the source of most of the solar panels supplied to the world — and hopes to open the door for new manufacturers of solar power components to establish in the country, at a time when Brazil is witnessing the power source increase its installed capacity at a fast rate. Sengi — a company belonging to the Tangipar group, in Paraná state — which operates in the distribution of photovoltaic equipment, has invested R$440 million in the construction of two module factories.
The first one, in Cascavel, also in Paraná, will be officially inaugurated this Friday with operations in one shift, and the company expects to open the other two shifts early next year. The second plant, in Ipojuca (Pernambuco), is scheduled to start operations in mid-2023. The two plants combined will be able to produce 1 gigawatt per year, said Everton Fardin, the company’s CEO. He says that between the first conversation and the production of the first photovoltaic module, there was an interval of only nine months.
To meet production, Sengi still depends on importing raw materials, all of which, according to Mr. Fardin, come from first-line suppliers. However, the company has already started conversations to obtain local supply. Sengi has signed negotiations, for example, with a multinational glass manufacturer with Brazilian production to supply the raw material to the company, whose name was not disclosed for strategic reasons — the glass is one of the main raw materials for the manufacturing of the panels, and is currently imported from China.
“The company saw an opportunity and said that if we guaranteed a demand of 1 GW, it would provide the glass needed for production,” said Mr. Fardin. Recently, solar power has surpassed the 20 GW threshold, 14 GW of which are small generation plants, and has become the third most used source of electricity in the country, behind wind power (24 GW) and hydro (109 GW). The growth in the country would have been even greater, but the evolution may be affected by the disorganization of production chains, caused by the resumption of activities in the world and the war in Ukraine.
For the executive, the current scenario allowed the decision on the plant in Brazil. “We understand that China was starting a deindustrialization process, and this is a very strategic product for Brazil and that it is the right time to develop this product in the country,” said Mr. Fardin.
Sengi’s initiative, according to Mr. Fardin, can stimulate other entrepreneurs in the segment to bet on the country as a competitive productive hub.
Unlike wind power generation, which counts on Brazilian suppliers of components such as wind blades and towers, solar generation did not manage to form a local chain.
The executive says that the company saw the level of technology evolution decelerate in comparison to what happened in the past, which facilitated the decision to bet on Brazilian production — the company adopted the most up-to-date technology for manufacturing, whose updating cycles have intervals between six and seven years. Each of the assembly processes takes 25 seconds on average.
“The module technology has reached such a level that the changes are small [between cycles]. We have already sized the plant so that in the next six or seven years it will still be competitive in the market.”
Mr. Fardin also said that the company is in talks with research institutes, universities, and consulting companies to develop research and development (R&D) projects related to the development of national solar technologies. Part of the funds for the implementation of the plants came from the Program in Support of Technological Development of the Semiconductor Industry (Padis), which aims at the formation of a national semiconductor industry. The program establishes as a counterpart the application of 5% of gross revenue in R&D projects.
One of the goals in this case, says Mr. Fardin, is the development of a 100% Brazilian solar cell, which would make the country less dependent on China and more suitable to Brazilian climatic conditions.
The cell is the component that converts sun energy into electric power through the so-called photovoltaic effect, using semiconductor materials, especially crystallized silicon. Several cells form a solar module, and several modules make up a solar panel. “We are thinking about developing a module, especially for the Brazilian market, one that meets all the requirements of our country,” he said.
*By Fábio Couto — Rio de Janeiro
Source: Valor International