Green steel – powered by a rooftop

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SolarApex is Tosyali Holding’s solution partner for what it calls ‘the world’s largest rooftop solar power plant project’ – a 140 MW installation across multiple sites. What are the challenges of such a large project?

Besime Özderici: The biggest challenge we face during construction is quite simply the organization of such a large and multifaceted project. You can imagine, 140 MW of rooftop solar across multiple facilities, it took a lot of ambition but perhaps even more planning and execution. Coordinating the resources, keeping our teams safe and healthy, especially during a global pandemic, was quite challenging to say the least. But we tackled each and every aspect of this project through the joint efforts of every person on the team, each of whom proved determined in achieving our goals.

How does Huawei’s FusionSolar Smart PV Solution enable such a large project?

Huawei’s FusionSolar Smart PV Solution means high quality products and it means no fuses. To be sure, Huawei’s products provide higher yields, so from an economic point of view its solution enables investors to obtain maximum efficiency. And from an O&M perspective, the intelligence of the systems means the PV plant, even a diffuse rooftop system like this project, is easy to maintain.

How many individual installations make up the 140 MW project? How many panels will be used? Approximately how much roof space will be utilized across how many facilities?

The Tosyali Solar Project in Osmaniye/Adana is the world’s largest rooftop solar project. It took 300 people to complete the installation which took place in two phases. The amount of materials used was simply staggering – 260,000 solar panels, 1,400 inverters, 2,000 km of solar cables and 3,500 tons of steel profiles are going into the project. With a total capacity of 140 MW, you can imagine that is spread across many rooftops, indeed covering approximately 632,000 square meters of Tosyali’s production facilities.

Why did SolarApex use the ‘purlin connection’ technique for this project?

With the purlin connection technique, the steel profiles are mounted right on the column instead of the roof itself, so that the system is not affected by the strong winds nor the strong vibrations. This technique is rather rarely applied, probably because it requires a considerable amount of engineering expertise. But we at SolarApex employed it for this project because the region where the various rooftop installations were to be installed can see pretty harsh weather conditions, particularly heavy winds. On top of that, the heavy machinery within the buildings causes quite a strong vibration during production. If we had employed conventional installation techniques in these circumstances the rooftop system would not be as solid and durable as we’d like it to be. And we are not in the business of putting the system at risk.

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Huawei Turkey is now in its 20th year – did your previous experience with Huawei give you confidence that such a large and coordinated project was possible?

Huawei is a partner we trust with the quality of its product and technology. We share a common vision, and that is why we have been collaborating with Huawei for almost all of our previous projects, in which Huawei’s smart PV inverters are always present. Both SolarApex and the investors are more than satisfied by the performance and service of Huawei’s projects, and as a result of that mutual trust and contentment our bond is only strengthening. At SolarApex, we are honored and proud to have collaborated with our long-time solution partner Huawei on this world-wide legendary project. And it is a sweet coincidence that Huawei’s 20th year in Turkey has come in the same year as we collaborate on realizing this significant project.

Is this project a sign that energy-dense commercial rooftop PV can deliver enough energy for companies to cut their emissions?

We estimate that 140 MW will generate approximately 250 million kWh of green energy annually. For Tosyali Holding, a portion of this energy will be used to produce hydrogen for the production of green iron and steel – two very hard-to-decarbonize sectors. This project will definitely be seen as a magnificent example of what large-scale rooftop solar can do, an example which will lead major industrial companies to consider their own energy transition. After all, in terms of size and scale, as well as quality and technology, this project is one of a kind, pioneering, but hopefully one day in the near future there will be many others like it.

How important are partially independent energy supplies for big industrial players like steel producers, in order to maintain a competitive edge?

Stability of power supply is absolutely crucial for producers with large energy consumption, and of course, the heavy industry is highly energy intensive. With electricity prices surging almost constantly, generating energy through renewables means independence from those fluctuations, and that stability is extremely important, not only because it saves money in the long run, but because it protects against grid outages and other issues that arise from dependency. Moreover, generating energy where you use it reduces transmission losses. Big industry players like steel producers must eliminate their carbon footprint in order to maintain their position in the global market. In response to the Paris Climate Accord, and more and more countries pledging carbon neutrality targets, global players must reduce their emissions while continuing to export and remain competitive, especially with mechanisms like carbon taxes in the mix.

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