Sunny side up: Sonnedix shows us how far the solar power sector has come in a short amount of time
18 October, 2020

Sonnedix is a global independent solar power producer that develops, builds, owns, and operates solar PV plants around the world to harness the power of the sun to build a bright future.

“As a team, we are focused on delivering on our purpose and making sure that we can work responsibly,” says Axel Thiemann, CEO of Sonnedix. “We’re responsible to our shareholders, to society and the communities we operate in, and of course the environment.”

While there is no denying that over recent years solar power has taken off, it is not until Thiemann puts that growth in concrete terms that the benefits of solar power become clear.

“We took the equivalent of almost 100,000 cars off the road with solar power last year,” he tells us. “Our largest market is Europe where we are among the five largest solar power producers in France, Italy and Spain and we’re also very active in terms of future growth in Japan – we’re one of the largest foreign solar power producers there – and in Chile, where our largest plant yet is currently under construction.”

Sonnedix has consolidated its place in the growing solar marketplace thanks to a technically orientated, detail- focused approach.

“We are incredibly dedicated. It allows us to act quickly and catch opportunities in the markets we operate in as and when they occur,” Thiemann says. “This lets us drive the best out of the technology we’re dealing with. We’re well-funded and able to deliver a growth trajectory in a reliable way that also allows us to build long-term relationships with our business partners.”

Indeed, the long-term is a core part of Sonnedix’s strategy. And for Sonnedix, long-term does not just mean “five or ten years down the road”.

“We’re a business for the long term that focuses on high- quality solar plants that we can run and operate and optimise for the next 25 to 35 years,” Thiemann says. “Meanwhile, our global reach lets us bring best practice from across the globe.”

The Rising Sun

Of course, as the market grows, it also becomes a more competitive playing field, and there has been no time for Sonnedix to rest on its laurels.

“Solar power’s been on a tremendous growth trajectory. The capacity ten years ago was 0.2% of global consumed electricity now it is more than 2.8%. It’s grown more than tenfold in that period, driven by tremendous progress and innovation in the technology and by solar being recognised as a reliable, trustworthy investment that is a very attractive business area,” Thiemann says. “That’s attracting increasing competition, sometimes from other larger players.”

To distinguish themselves Sonnedix is continuing to focus on innovation and building long-term relationships to stay competitive in the solar power space.

“We want to find and develop the right sites and contracts, deliver on our commitments for sustainable growth to deliver cost-efficient green electricity,” Thiemann says.

Innovation is one of the key battlefields in the increasingly competitive solar power market, but fortunately, Sonnedix is a veteran.

Powered By Innovation

“It helps that we’re built on change and innovation. We have seen, for example, innovation comes in different dimensions. We have seen the equipment we need going through dramatic changes in reliability, longevity and cost. We’ve seen dramatic increases in efficiency, with much more electricity being generated from the same surface area than ten years ago,” Thiemann tells us. “We’re seeing innovation in how these sites are managed and operated in terms of digitalization, predictive maintenance, cleaning and dealing with incidents. We have seen innovation on the financial side, how we can finance these plants in the most efficient way to be competitive and this is continuing. It is not something that ever stops driving us forward. We see continuous change for higher efficiency and output and definitely, that’s part of the DNA of the company.”

A challenge demanded innovation from businesses around the world has been the COVID-19 pandemic.

“First and foremost, it’s a human crisis and everybody has been affected,” Thiemann acknowledges. “We’ve had people affected within the team, we’ve had relatives, friends of team members who’ve been infected. It’s taken a toll – but we have come through it through a focus on the team.”

Sonnedix’s priority has been to look after its people.

“Our priority was team wellbeing,” Thiemann says. “We wanted to keep them physically safe, look after their mental wellbeing and job security. Through the focus on the team, we were able to weather the other challenges. We have seen continued construction at our plants, we have seen some logistics issues, but we could overcome them. We have seen a slowdown in growth, particularly on development activities. But we hope we’ll be able to catch up and I’m tremendously proud of our team that has been holding up very well.”

While Sonnedix has done all, it can protect its people, the company itself has also benefited from strong core business.

“The great thing is our core business is very simple. The sun shines and plants produce electricity,” Thiemann points out. “As long as things don’t break that’s a very reliable business model and things don’t break very frequently. We spend a lot of time making sure they do not. In parallel, we are very diversified with more than 300 plants in eight countries and have a highly contracted portfolio. It is very resilient in terms of operations issues and financing, so COVID has not had a strategic effect on the business. But what impresses me the most is how the team has responded; keeping connected, supporting each other at all times, and staying focused on maintaining sustainable productivity. Our culture has definitely grown stronger and we are, more than ever, driven by a shared purpose to build a bright future.”

Looking forward, Sonnedix has great plans as the solar sector continues to grow.

“The solar power sector is growing tremendously. Every year forecasts have been increased, and we are looking to continue to grow,” Thiemann tells us. “At the moment we are looking to growing our total portfolio to 7GW, and we are on track to deliver on that. In parallel, we are looking at really becoming more competitive and more customer-focused, to make sure we deliver this cost- efficient unsubsidised solar power to our customers. That is a big focus for us. To continue on our trajectory.”

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