The global COVID-19 pandemic has upended the operation of almost all the economic sectors. During the past few weeks, the question of how the operation of the industry – and of SolServices Ltd, focusing on the development of Large-Scale Solar (LSS) projects – was affected by last year’s lockdown measures came up in the course of a number of discussions.
With January underway, looking back at 2020, we can establish that – contrary to expectations – the state of emergency declared in Hungary last spring made hardly any disruptions to our activities: our specialist colleagues managed to complete their tasks in the office or home office. Existing technical conditions and equipment made it possible for our team to perform most of their work from home. Besides the introduction of remote working, we also established the conditions to allow us to work safely in the office during the pandemic.
The key to the success of our large-scale solar projects is scrupulous preparatory work and completion of the related public administrative and licensing procedures according to schedule. Specifically, it was difficult to foresee the effect of the pandemic on our partners (designers and suppliers), and on the authorities conducting (or involved in) the licensing procedures. Our worst nightmare was that the pandemic would stall or completely stop public administration work. However, despite the changing situation, the authorities kept to standard procedural and administrative deadlines, contributing to the success and efficiency of economic stakeholders. They doubtless deserve recognition for their work.
However, the past months of the coronavirus pandemic were not completely without worries for us, either. Interactions relating to our development activities had to be considerably reduced, or partly moved to the online platform. This, however, is not always suitable for communicating our plans and our philosophy relating to raising awareness on sustainable energy generation and energy use to a broad spectrum of people. Due to COVID-19 we had less opportunity than planned or needed for building and maintaining direct relationships, and for direct communication and in-person meetings with residents of the settlements which provide the location for our solar projects.
Since the main components of solar parks come from import, the role of thorough project preparation and planning has become increasingly important. As soon as it became apparent for us that we have to deploy our large-scale solar parks in the midst of a protracted global pandemic, we re-scheduled our development and procurement strategy to adjust it to the new challenges.
One of the challenges is the global headway of renewable energy sources, as a result of which the indispensable main generating equipment could only be purchased with tight delivery deadlines even before the global pandemic started. This is particularly true for the 22/132kV transformer stations required for connecting the produced electricity to the grid, as well as for the quality products of leading solar cell producers, as they had to suspend their manufacturing processes for several months. This challenging situation is further complicated by the instability of the factors affecting – among others – the transportation of international goods, as well as the competition of the re-scheduled domestic and foreign projects for a skilled and well-qualified workforce. Since we intend to begin construction works on some projects this year, we have planned and prepared our strategy for the acquisition of fixed assets and capacities for the construction work in a way adjusted to the “new normal”, so that our first solar parks could start commercial operation in 2022.
We are getting used to living with the “new normal” and planning ahead as a risk management measure, as part of this year could be still determined by the crisis.
This article was published in Hungarian on LinkedIn profile of Managing Director, Gábor Farkas on January 25, 2021.