January 12, 2023
Innovation at Gonvarri Solar Steel
“Ask yourself if what you are doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow”, “R&D is an investment in knowledge”, “Innovating is risky, but not doing it is lethal”, “Companies should never stop innovating” or “We have been an innovative company since the beginning” are expressions that we are continuously hearing because R&D&i is a key issue for the evolution of the companies. Innovating implies more than inventing. Innovating is applying the previously acquired knowledge to improve and optimize what already exists. It is precisely at this point where some advances can provide great added value and make the difference.
The photovoltaic sector is one of the best examples that make true the previous statements, especially in the current context. The sun is the source of energy and also the source of research, development and innovation. Greeks and Romans were already familiar with solar energy and used it to light fires. Many centuries later, in the Contemporary Age, the discovery of the photovoltaic effect put scientists and researchers all over the world to work on the challenge of converting solar radiation into consumable energy, developing the first photovoltaic cells. Another challenge that they solved was how to store the energy generated during the day to be used at night. As the sector has evolved, it has faced new and multiple challenges to ensure competitiveness in a constantly expanding market, in which the pressure to reduce costs and increase production is continuous.
Current energy market faces the challenges of decarbonization and sustainability. The increase in electricity consumption, the digitization of processes and the self-generation of energy through self-consumption are other added challenges. Renewable energies, and solar photovoltaics as part of them, have widely demonstrated that they contribute to solve these challenges, not only based on sustainability criteria, but also due to their decentralized and scalable structure, with small kW plants for self-consumption or larger ones of MW or even GW, and the possibility of using data and artificial intelligence to increase and improve the efficiency.
Gonvarri Solar Steel continuously works on the challenges of the photovoltaic solar sector, developing R&D projects and innovative improvements throughout the value chain. The innovation areas are mainly four:
- New structural designs. The design of structures is constantly evolving to lighten weight while maintaining resistance, to reduce the number of elements, to simplify manufacturing processes and make them more sustainable, to facilitate on-site assembly processes or to better adapt to any type of terrain, among other innovations.
- Algorithms to maximize energy generation. The innovative monitoring and control system developed by Gonvarri Solar Steel for its solar trackers allows customers to increase the produced energy, thanks to artificial intelligence algorithms to determine the optimal position considering multiple factors (direct radiation, diffuse and albedo, shadows, dirtiness…), improve the safety in case of meteorological events (wind, snow…), thanks to the sensor network and predictions, and carry out remote operations avoiding displacements, thanks to the autonomous real time monitoring and operation system, among other possibilities. The goal is to maximize productivity and optimize the operation and maintenance of photovoltaic plants.
- Own tools to reduce customer response time. All departments develop their own tools to reduce response time and optimize their processes. The developments for the automation of project design calculations, for commissioning, for logistics management or for after-sales service, among others, are some examples.
- Sustainability. Without doubt, innovation also is applied to the sustainability of manufacturing processes, the waste management, the reduction of plastic consumption…
Product and process digitization plays a fundamental role in this continuous innovation of Gonvarri Solar Steel, generating added value to products and customers. In the data era, the acquisition using the appropriate sensors, the transmission over long distances and the autonomous and intelligent analysis are part of the main work of any innovative development. Thanks to innovation and digitization, Gonvarri Solar Steel supplies fixed structure and trackers as products, but it is also a provider of services and technology to respond to the needs of the market and its customers and users.
All Gonvarri Solar Steel departments participate in the development of these actions, supported by the R&D department and by the extensive network of Gonvarri Industries collaborators, made up of university research groups, technology centers, technology startups, innovative companies, clusters and institutional organizations.