A New Era for Renewables Construction

Published on Thursday, 30 November 2017

“We’ve imagined the photovoltaic plant as the product of a manufacturing process completed on the ground, as if the machines usually used on factory production lines had been moved directly to the field to build the plant itself. This is an incredible innovation and EGP is among the first to implement integrated automation in the field, which has us involved in everything from civil engineering works made with automatic machines to the installation of preassembled photovoltaic modules by special robots.”

– Umberto Magrini, Head of Engineering & Construction for EGP

Revolutionising to be More Competitive

Behind this revolutionary drive, there is a desire to improve every day and go beyond our limits. The way to do this is through continuous innovation that, for Enel Green Power, means updating plant design and moving to 3D and digital modelling that integrates time, costs, resources; assuring greater productivity in installation phases; reducing risks and construction times for our solar worksites, and improving quality, health, safety and sustainability standards. All of this work can lead to a competitive advantage that must be protected. 

“We went from 1,000 MW of additional capacity in 2015 to 2,000 in 2016. This year, we are about to hit 2.6 GW. But going beyond this threshold is not simple, if we want to remain competitive. The E&C (R)evolution project allows us to embark on an operational phase typical of Engineering & Construction 4.0 that will be able, on one hand, to put together the innovations belonging to the 4.0 industry and, on the other, reach the annual additional capacity of 3 GW with management of a project park in execution close to 10 GW and a presence in over 20 countries. ”

– Umberto Magrini, Head of Engineering & Construction for EGP

Key Word: “Contamination”

But to fully understand the significance and the amount of innovation contained in the E&C (R)evolution project, we have to consider the broader horizon, which involves all of Enel Green Power and brings together the experience of the automotive and agricultural industries.

The attempt to revolutionise construction engineering involves a large number of units within the Group and this requires a perspective change at all levels. For those at work in the field, it’s necessary to understand how much their work can be improved with the introduction of these technologies. On the other hand, for those who must decide how to innovate, it’s essential to know how to look to the outside, including expertise from other industries.

“In the case of the E&C (R)evolution project, for example, several external companies specialised in robotics have been involved. We’ve tried to adapt these realities to other renewable technologies besides solar.”

– Umberto Magrini, Head of Engineering & Construction for EGP

4.0 Realities

To make this aspiration come true, we must push ourselves beyond what we know. So Enel Green Power is going forward with experimentation and the introduction of 3D modelling with the use of drones and cameras that allow us to record everything being built in a central system, in real time.

Some examples of how this revolution is already a reality can be found at the Passo Martino laboratory in Catania, Sicilia, where, thanks to a collaboration between EGP and COMAU, a global leader in Industrial Automation and Robotics and part of the FCA Group, they are testing the use of robots on AGV (Autonomous Guided Vehicles) for the installation of photovoltaic modules. Or the enormous construction site at Villanueva in Mexico, where GPS tracking machines are used to move dirt and dig trenches with integrated cable laying.

Or the use of drones for monitoring and control of photovoltaic fields, like at the Chilean plant “La Silla”, which has been operational since May 2016.

These are just a few concrete examples of how Enel Green Power has already created 4.0 realities in various countries where it works. We’re in the early stages of a revolution that, from solar, will most likely spread to wind and hydropower as well.