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an interview with Gregory Lukens, Director Utility Europe for Solis – pv magazine International


Gregory Lukens is the brand new Director Utility Europe for Solis, a model of Ginlong Applied sciences. On this interview, Lukens discusses his background within the photo voltaic business, Solis’ dedication to string inverters, and the corporate’s large push into the European utility-scale scene.

pv journal: Thanks in your time at present, Gregory. When did you be part of Solis?

Gregory Lukens: Three months in the past.

Are you able to inform me about your expertise earlier than becoming a member of Solis?

Lukens: I am an previous canine and have had a couple of tips up my sleeve over time. For the final 20 years, I’ve been based mostly in Madrid, Spain, and I’ve labored throughout that point in photo voltaic photovoltaics. I do not assume I used to be one of many earliest pioneers in Spain, however we have been one of many first guys shifting round making an attempt to do enterprise again within the day.

Is that within the growth of the venture?

Lukens: At the moment, it was venture growth, particularly within the industrial and industrial (C&I) sector. We’ve got achieved numerous initiatives, together with purchasing malls and installations for IKEA. I based the corporate, known as OpcionDos, with Spanish companions in 2011. In 2011, we have been acquired by AEG Energy Options, a German firm, which marked my entry into the sphere of solar-scale utility.

AEG Energy Options is concerned within the manufacture of central inverters in numerous areas akin to Germany, South Africa, India, and the US. Nevertheless, there are lots of bankability challenges related to their operations. Afterwards, I joined PV {Hardware} (PVH), a well known international tracker firm. They acquired a California-based startup and approached me to assist Europeanize the corporate, which was an ironic twist given my American background. This marks the start of a brand new chapter for PVH.

After spending a number of years at PVH, I used to be recruited by KACO, a German inverter producer later acquired by Siemens. My position primarily concerned their European enterprise, however I used to be additionally concerned of their North American operations because of the presence of their headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.

In 2018, I joined Huawei Spain when the corporate determined to enter the photo voltaic enterprise. Till that point, Spain confronted a moratorium and plenty of challenges, which led to little exercise within the photo voltaic business.

The tax of the day…

Lukens: The solar tax, after which, in 2017, the federal government launched a 4 GW tender they usually introduced the winners, and that is what Huawei mentioned, “Oh, I feel there’s a market now.” And that is the place the enterprise began, so I used to be a part of the unique group of 5 – 6 folks.

And the way did you determine to maneuver to Solis?

Lukens: Whereas working with Huawei, I gained expertise in numerous markets all over the world, together with Spain, Chile, Australia, and Mexico. Solis has given me an thrilling alternative, and I recognize their robust deal with their core enterprise. Not like different corporations, Solis stays devoted to string inverters and doesn’t enterprise into different areas akin to chargers. This focus aligns effectively with my method.

The place do you assume the competitors between string and central inverters presently stands?

Lukens: Personally, I am not a fan of central inverters. They usually convey many challenges and issues. Quite the opposite, I strongly consider in the advantages of string topology, which provides extra reliability, efficiency, and operation and upkeep benefits. Solis shares this imaginative and prescient and goals to help the deployment of string topology within the utility-scale phase, which is widely known as the very best answer by superior and forward-thinking corporations.

In addition to inverters, what different elements are vital in utility-related initiatives?

Lukens: Whereas the inverter is a vital element, there are different items of the utility scale puzzle. This contains communication {hardware}, akin to energy plant controllers, and mid-voltage stations.

What are your priorities and focus areas as Director Utility Europe for Solis?

Lukens: In the mean time, I’m specializing in finishing the certification of our current machines for the remaining European markets. This course of will probably be accomplished within the coming months. As well as, I’m engaged on the items of the puzzle I discussed earlier, which embody communication {hardware} and mid-voltage stations. At this stage, I used to be not actively concerned in gross sales however targeting laying the inspiration and getting the appropriate salespeople. We’re focusing on some fast wins the place clients solely want inverters.

The S6 Superior Energy Hybrid Inverter and the Three Part Hybrid Inverter from Solis

Picture: pv journal

Does Solis have already got utility-scale gross sales and ongoing initiatives in Europe?

Lukens: At the moment, Solis has no utility-scale gross sales or ongoing initiatives in Europe. Whereas the corporate has efficiently developed utility-scale companies in China, India, and the USA, they’ve by no means earlier than employed a pacesetter to drive growth in Europe. My position is to vary that by constructing experience, enhancing dialogue with our companions in China, and making certain that Solis turns into a key participant within the European utility-scale market.

What are the R&D challenges in utility-scale photo voltaic?

Lukens: In my view, we should always discover including a further layer of software program to enhance our choices. This layer can embody information evaluation, visualization, and predictive modeling to optimize efficiency and predict failure charges. Though this can be a consideration for 2024-2025, we have to differentiate ourselves past {hardware}. Whereas {hardware} improvements akin to new supplies or improved integration with buyer SCADA programs are prospects, the main target must also be on software program enhancements.

Lastly, how does bankability differ when shifting from rooftop to utility-scale initiatives?

Lukens: Bankability is a important facet relating to utility-scale photo voltaic. The utility-scale market entails skilled consumers and shut scrutiny from buying departments. ESG necessities have gotten extra distinguished, and stakeholders, together with off-takers and venture banks, are completely inspecting initiatives. Solis has a wonderful alternative on this market, as our robust deal with string inverters aligns effectively with the expectations and calls for of utility clients.

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