Towards assessment and optimisation of solar plants across the globe
George Kitoudis counts over 20 years of expertise in energy and environmental engineering as a systems designer, site supervisor and project manager. He experienced during his career a great number of areas such as solar heating and cooling, air ventilation as well as small solar thermal after which he started to work in the solar electric sector in the domains of production planning optimisation, warehouse management as well as logistics. Mr. Kitoudis joined The meeco Group team in 2008 as Head of Site Implementation & Operations and director of meeco’s Greek subsidiary, meeco Services Hellas S.A. Having now worked well over 10 years in the solar industry, George helps meeco on a global scale and daily to realise its mission towards clean energy and resource efficiency by overseeing the proper operation of multiple global renewable energy systems. Through this interview, given right after his recent business trip to meeco’s subsidiary in Pakistan to supervise the installation of a sun2roof system for a key industrial customer, George shares with us the global dimension of his responsibilities, as well as the opportunities and the challenges encountered.
What are exactly your responsibilities and tasks as Head of Site Implementation & Operations at The meeco Group?
My responsibilities are mainly based around the implementation of sun2live solar installations through our local offices in various global locations. At The meeco Group, my technical skills focusing on both grid-connected and off-grid areas, support to address the needs of various customers mainly from the business sector (industries, hotels, communications, shopping malls), which are interested in reducing their operating costs while at the same time contributing to a greener environment. From an operations perspective, I support the global company strategy by specialising myself in building communication bridges between head and local offices and projects, as well as assisting in the initial set up of local offices.
What is for you a typical day?
Our business environment especially in the emerging market where we see most growth is constantly changing, which requires us to continually adapt to different local conditions. A typical day might mainly consist of site visits, and implementing specific technical solutions adapted to the needs of each project and my day to day business obviously includes a lot of travelling. At the same time, it is important that everything is properly documented and presented in a clear and standardised way, allowing easy access and deeper understanding of the project for all members of the team locally and internationally to ensure the best service and reliability for our clients.
What are your main objectives?
The meeco Group team aims at delivering supreme quality, innovative, reliable and affordable clean energy turnkey solutions and services to our customers. My main objectives focus on the long-term realization of our mission statement by providing thorough assessments of all the different sites, we have across the globe. I am responsible for identifying anomalies and developing solutions to enhance the optimization of each solar plant, through steering and overseeing a high volume of different projects that we have with our partners. I summarize for each case our findings and share them via an executive project brief with my colleagues working in our offices in Europe using our established corporate communication and reporting system. (e.g The meeco Group headquarter is located in Zug, Switzerland).
What has been lately an important success?
meeco was assigned to execute the technological review, trouble shooting, sale and hand over of a 17,6 MW solar park in Viterbo (IT) to one of our investors. We had to check every screw, module, cable and evacuation line of the national grid to verify the high quality limits requested in the investment proposal for the installation: 99,5% availability and performance above 80% existing installation. The plant has been operating very successfully since May 2012, whilst exceeding even the forecasted performance and specified parameters.
You have been recently in Pakistan in order to develop a project. How did it run?
Besides a total pipeline of more than 15 MW of signed power purchase agreements that needs to be executed in the coming 9 months, meeco is at present installing a 3 MWp sun2roof project for one industrial customer in Lahore. The PV capacity is installed on various types of roofs such as flat, trapezoidal and shell type. The difficulties we faced were about the specific designs and constructions as well as the load bearing capacities of the roofs, which in some place were more than 30 years old. We were not allowed to drill or carry out construction with heavy ballast and we had to design completely new mounting structures to meet the special requirements. As always during the design phase, we made sure to consider sufficient water drainage, respect wind loads and weight requirements of the construction and cost efficiency in our design proposal. I was in charge of the technical assessment and served as a the leading member of the engineering team for the new designs.
In which other markets are you present?
I am assigned as Key Account Manager for the country of Zimbabwe, where we have already set up national offices. We are also investigating the potential opportunities and strategic partnerships in other countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda..
What obstacles or difficulties do you meet more generally in your job?
Each project is different and demands special attention. For example, for a PV project in a resort in the Maldives, you have to consider the balance of the system with the generators, the aesthetics of the resort, and the logistics (even a single screw missing on a small island results in costly delays). Cultural differences and language barriers are also factors that, if not properly considered, may lead to unexpected problems.
What competences are required particularly to face these difficulties?
One has to be very diligent and pay close attention to every last detail. I believe that this is the key, not only for the completion of a project, but also for successful living.
What is your favourite part in your job?
I take the most satisfaction at the point when a project is completed, the deadlines are met and the installation is delivered to the customer in full working order. It is the moment that you leave behind a job well done and just before you turn the page to the next project. In addition, I enjoy travelling and developing long lasting good friendships with several people from different countries all over the globe.
According to you, what challenges do you see arising in the future?
The increasing need for energy is an ever-present reality. For many areas on the planet, it is far from given that the quality of energy you need at the time you need is available from the grid, as we are used to in European countries. Some areas suffer from load shedding from the grid, or the absence of grid connection altogether. The challenge is to approach these markets with long term technical solutions, which are reliable, cost efficient and environmentally balanced, contributing at the same to a better future for our children.
To provide solutions that result in a better access to clean energy and improvement of resource efficiency around the world is a fascinating experience.
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