Innova Solar Colombia

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

FAQS

How does Solar Energy work?

Each project and each client represent a unique solution. However, they all have one thing in common, which is independent from the system scale: how systems transform solar energy into electrical energy. Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy is obtained through the transformation of solar energy into electrical energy through a photoelectric effect, which consists of the emission of electrons (electric current) that are produced when light hits certain surfaces. In the case of PV solar energy, these surfaces are cells formed by one or more panels of semiconducting materials, in most cases silicon, and are covered by a transparent glass that allows solar radiation to pass through and minimizes loss. Cells are grouped into modules (panels) for integration into PV systems. Solar modules have an estimated life of 25 years and their performance after 20 years is above 80%. Regardless of this, there is ongoing research to increase their efficiency. PV modules generate DC power that is transformed into AC power through the use of an electrical device called an “inverter”. Subsequently, and as necessary, the electrical energy that is produced goes through a “transformation center” that adapts the electricity to the power and tension conditions of the transportation line for consumption. In addition, there is usually the incorporation of a monitoring and data management system that enables tracking of the energy produced by the PV solar system.

Inverter

The inverter is an electrical device that converts the current that is continually generated by the solar panels into AC power.

This equipment is normally located in an accessible place, as close as possible to the modules. The fact that the inverters produce a slight noise must be taken into consideration when deciding where the equipment will be placed.

Support Structure

The support structure is the mechanical structure used to mount the solar panels on the roof, walls or ground.

There is a great variety of structures, which should be carefully evaluated depending on the place where the PV system will be installed.

Bi-directional Meter

In Colombia, every client that has a self-generation system, as is the case of a PV solar system, must have a Bi-Directional Meter.

A Bi-Directional Meter can measure the flow of electrical energy in two directions. It can measure how much energy a client receives from the utility company, and at the same time, it differentiates between the production of energy from the solar system and the client’s consumption of energy from the grid.

All solar panels are classified as having Direct Current (DC) power produced under standard test conditions. For example, if 100 panels are installed and each one has a power of 250 watts (W), the system can have an approximate output of 25 kilowatts (kW). Having said that, the daily or monthly energy that this system can produce is directly related to the amount of solar radiation of the place where the system is installed.

A common way to classify PV systems is according to their scale, in which solutions range from residential to large-scale or “solar utility.” ISC focuses on the following solutions:

Solar Utility

Solar Rooftop (Commercial and Industrial)

Hybrid Solar Systems

PV Floating Solar Systems

Off Grid Solar Systems

Regulatory Aspects

In Colombia, Law 1715 regulates the integration of renewable energies into the national energy system, and establishes the legal framework and necessary tools for the expansion of alternative energy sources, as well as the promotion of investment, while it adopts a strategy geared towards self-generation with non-conventional energy sources.
Law 1715 provides tax incentives to companies that execute all types of renewable energy projects. The tax incentives afforded by the law enhance the financial feasibility of renewable projects. Fiscal incentives provided by the Law include: Income tax deduction of 50% of investment value for up to 50% of taxable income for up to 5 years; Accelerated depreciation of up to 20% per year for renewable energy investments; VAT exemption for renewable energy equipment and services; Import duty exemption for renewable energy equipment not produced locally.
First, it is necessary to submit the project for review by the Energy-Mining Planning Unit (Unidad de Planeación Minero-Energética – UPME), which is part of the Ministry of Mines and Energy. After forty-five working days from the submission of the appropriate documentation, the UPME, decides if the project is approved, objected or rejected. Subsequently, if the UPME approves the project, it is then necessary to submit additional documentation to Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (La Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales – ANLA), which is the authority responsible for the final approval and certification to obtain the tax benefits. ISC handles all processes with the competent authorities in order to obtain the benefits for these projects.
Law 1715 establishes this possibility; however, currently there is no legal framework in place in Colombia that establishes the necessary conditions so that small-scale self-generators (systems smaller than 1MW) can inject their energy surplus into the electrical grid. In this regard, the Ministry of Mines and Energy issued Decree 2469 of December of 2014, which establishes the parameters for the provision of energy surplus. However, it will be necessary to await for the Energy and Gas Regulatory Commission (Comisión Reguladora de Energía y Gas – CREG) to issue the implementation mechanism for energy credits for the commercialization of such surplus, and to establish the technical conditions and the mechanism for the monetary compensation of this energy.
Net Metering is a billing mechanism that credits the owners of solar energy systems for the energy they provide to the grid. That is, the client’s energy meter will measure both the energy that feeds its consumption from the distribution grid, and the energy that the client injects into the grid from a generation system with the PV panels. This mechanism has proven to be efficient in the development of infrastructure to generate renewable energy in Europe, Japan, Canada and the United States. In countries such as Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica this policy is being evaluated. However, as previously mentioned, the mechanism for the implementation of Net Metering is in the process of being regulated in Colombia.

Environmental Aspects

It is easy to quantify. For example, calculations show that solar energy produced by a solar photovoltaic (PV) system of 100 kWp in Medellín would compensate for an average of 2,012 tons of CO2. This is equivalent to: 998 tons of coal not burned, 4,931,859 miles of driving avoided or 52,148 tree seedlings absorbing CO2 for 10 years. These estimates were obtained from the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator (September 2017)

Financial Aspects

In Colombia, the per kWh price of energy is made up of the sum of several components: generation, transmission, distribution, and commercialization. As such the utility charges the end user for each one of these components and then the final cost is transferred to the client or end user.

A self-generation system through a solar rooftop is pretty simple, since the energy generated by the sun flows directly from the panels to the building. Eliminating the majority of the components previously mentioned allows for reduction of costs and increased savings.

The answer to whether it is better to lease, to execute a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), or to directly purchase a solar energy system will depend on the client’s financial and credit profile, the relation and situation of the property where the solar solution will be located, the financing costs which are available, and on other factors that are unique to each client. The great majority of leasing agreements are constituted as “operational leases”, which operate as a lease or rental agreement where payments are considered operational expenses and the leased asset is not included in the company’s balance sheet; in general, financial institutions that offer this service offer different options at the termination of the agreement, such as renewing the agreement, purchasing the asset for its commercial value or returning the asset. On the other hand, a “financial lease” is more similar to a loan and is common practice for acquiring capital assets. Under this modality, once the leasing contract expires, a purchase option may be exercised and the asset is transferred to the client, therefore becoming part of their balance sheet. With the leaseback option, the assets may be sold to the financial institution with which the agreement was executed. Under both leasing options, the client is responsible for the costs inherent to the operation and maintenance of the assets. Under the PPA, a third party is the owner of the PV solar system and a long-term energy supply agreement is executed, at a fixed or variable rate, as agreed to by the parties. Under this modality, the third-party owner of the system is responsible for operating and maintaining the system. The main practical distinction between a lease, PPA and the outright purchase of a PV solar system options is ownership. This distinction affects the cost, maintenance, contractual terms, financial compensation and the savings/returns on investment of the solar system.
Bankability is related to the quality and performance of the components of the solar system, as well as to the financial soundness of the manufacturer of such components. For example, the bankability of a solar module means that a bank is willing to finance a project with the solar modules selected for the project, given that the bank relies on aspects such as the quality and durability of the solar module and the financial soundness of the manufacturer. Bankability in the PV industry is a term used to describe the degree of financial risk. The degree of bankability of a project affects the availability and cost of capital. That is, banks need to know if the project’s cash flow is reliable or not, to make sure that their loan will be paid. A reliable cash flow means that the solar project is trustworthy from a legal, technical, and economic perspective.

Design and Production

At ISC, we not only make sure that the solar system is designed to technically maximize power production, we also consider the aesthetic and architectonic aspects at the moment of selection the equipment (panels and structures) that best adapt to the needs of our clients. Solar technology is fast-evolving, and our team is continually abreast of the latest technologies in order to offer our clients the most innovative solutions.
There are several factors that will determine if your rooftop is a good candidate for a solar solution. The following are some of the installation requirements: Climate conditions: Does your location have high levels of solar radiation? In Colombia, sunny cities in the Atlantic Coast, such as Barranquilla, are ideal for a solar energy system, while the rainy cities of the Pacific, although apt for solar energy systems, have lower levels of energy production. Type of rooftop and shades: Although solar energy systems are compatible with the majority of the materials for rooftops, there are some that make it more difficult to install panels, such as clay and wood tiles. Flat surface rooftops are ideal for the installation of solar energy systems. Ideally, the space must be free of ventilation pipelines, chimneys and skylights as well as structurally sound.
The amount of energy that a solar energy system can produce is proportional to the solar radiation of the site of installation. In addition, to calculate energy production, one must take into account additional factors such as: the efficiency of the solar panel, the power and size of the panels, and the direct solar radiation that impacts the panels.

Technology

The main components of a solar energy system are the panels, the inverters and the meters. ISC works with high quality components from bankable manufacturers that provide solid guarantee and warranties.
Yes, solar energy can be stored. Often a solar installation can produce more energy during the sunny hours of the day than the client actually requires, and this energy can be stored in batteries to be used later at nighttime. Inverters can manage the flow of energy to maximize the use of this energy and inject the surplus into the grid. However, the implementation of these types of technologies must be evaluated from a cost-benefit perspective, and given the current regulatory framework in Colombia, storage of surplus energy is still not competitive if we compare it to the cost of energy from the electrical grid. Regardless of this, at ISC we are constantly monitoring the technological advances and price reductions in storage solution in order to integrate them to our solutions when they represent a benefit for our clients.
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline modules are both types of solar cells that are made of crystalline silicon. This technology dominates the production of solar modules, with a market share of 93% in 2015. These types of solar silicon panels are known in the industry as ‘mono’ or ‘poly’. Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells are very similar in performance, despite of the physical differences in the modules and in the manufacturing process. But more important than the module is knowing how to select a good panel brand/manufacturer. It is extremely important to select equipment from financially sound (“bankable”) manufacturers, that offer solid warranties and post-sale services, and who will replace panels if their performance is below the service levels guaranteed in the technical fact sheets.

Connectivity

Yes, all the systems that we design, build and operate are connected to the electrical grid. During the day, the solar energy system produces energy that is consumed directly by the client, therefore reducing consumption from the electrical grid, and at night, all energy required by the client is obtained from the electrical grid.
Yes, all the systems that we install are equipped with sensors and a remote monitoring system. Our clients have access to a web portal where they can look up this information in real-time and historical.