International consulting company 3E has officially launched an office in South Africa, aiming to be an independent, renew- able-energy consulting partner for project developers, investors, asset managers and system operators.
The company joins the South African energy sector at a time when the focus on renewable energy is increasing, with mounting pressure on the reduction of carbon footprints and finding alternative energy sources for a mainly coal-powered country.
“While 5 MW photovoltaic (PV) projects are considered large in Europe, there are bids in South Africa for 50 MW and 75 MW PV projects. These will be some of the largest in the world,” says 3E MD Richard Doyle.
He continues: “An assumption is made that the technology is mature, which is partly true. However, manufacturing quality assurance has not yet caught up with the technology, which is why it is critical to have a strong technical adviser to ensure that companies ‘get what they buy’ and can deliver in line with both technical and financial projections.”
The company makes use of a module assessment when evaluating projects. The evaluation of the underlying and peripheral technology of solar PV modules often leads to the efficiency of such projects. “Poorer than expected efficiencies can directly compromise project profitability in the long term and even sink projects. The dramatic reduction in PV costs in recent years has come about by significantly expanded manufacturing capability. In some cases, this has itself come at the cost of manufacturing quality and quality assurance.
“Certifications are made on a small number of panels and those provided by new factories, although notionally the same, may not be valid. The company has carried out some 50 factory visits and does so for clients in addition to on-site inspections following delivery and installation to give clients the assurance that the panels and modules being bought will perform as expected,” Doyle explains.
In its stable of services, 3E also offers an automated monitoring tool, known as the SynaptiQ software suite. This software allows project performance to be monitored and reported on in near real time to developers and funders.
Doyle adds that it also allows for ongoing efficiency and early fault detection. “It is a key part of ensuring an efficient return on investment for any project. Based on the services provided on many projects through SynaptiQ, 3E has gathered operational experience, which is reflected in its consul- tancy services at each stage of a project,” he notes.
“We currently offer SynaptiQ Solar, SynaptiQ Forecasting and SynaptiQ Wind. In the future, 3E plans to expand the suite to cover all related services for renewable-energy management,” Doyle adds.
The company has also developed other products, including a medium-sized wind turbine, Xant, for which fundraising is advanced. “This will be mostly used off-grid and in developing countries. The company has also developed a means of measuring offshore wind speed without a mast. This floating light detection and ranging device is currently being commercialised,” he says.
The firm has a large number of global partnerships with leading research laboratories in its quest to lead in innovation, with financial advisory services with a view to offering a full service to complement its technical advice, and with other organisations and companies including nongovernmental organisations, funds and environmental lobby groups.
“We are starting to build and consolidate similar networks in South Africa,” Doyle points out. One such partnership is with renewable-energy consultancy Emergent Energy.
“The Emergent Energy team has extensive local and international experience in the renewable- energy and broader energy sectors, offering expertise in large renewable-energy projects, off-grid renewable-energy systems, sustainable building design, indus- trial and commercial energy efficiency, and international and local renewable-energy policy. The company and Emergent Energy have a cooperation agreement and cross-sell and service projects together where it makes sense.”
Further, the company provides a number of services, including site screening and strategic guidance for investors and project developers; wind measurement campaigns in any terrain; advanced modelling and data analysis for bankable wind resource assessments and solar yield calculations; technical advisory services and reviews from design to operation; full scope, technical and financial due diligence; and training in, and seminars on, optimal measurement.