• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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We plan to establish a 400MW solar panel Nigerian factory – MD Tranos

We plan to establish a 400MW solar panel Nigerian factory – MD Tranos

Jude Abalaka is the managing director of Tranos – a top engineering and manufacturing business. In this interview with Josephine Okojie, the managing director spoke about Tranos, the role it plays in the solar manufacturing market and the challenges limiting Nigeria’s manufacturing.

Can you tell us about Tranos and what unique position it plays in the industrial manufacturing market?

Tranos is the engineering and manufacturing leader. We add value to our customers through our innovative products and solutions. We are a decade-and-a-half-old company that started initially as a service provider in the oil and gas industry and then expanded to become an industrial product design and manufacturing powerhouse.

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The journey so far has been intriguing, challenging and inspiring. We have faced challenges, overcome the challenges, failed, learnt, and grown. We have seven main categories of products. These are power protection, control & distribution panels, cable management systems and warehouse storage systems, enclosures, gaskets, power generation & backup solutions and lights & wiring devices among others.

At Tranos, we go from product conceptualisation through to prototyping and manufacturing. This gives us an unrivalled understanding of the application and use of our products, and this means we can understand the needs of the customers better and as such satisfy them better.

Having come this far, what is next for Tranos?

We have always been driven by the ethos of thinking further. This drive keeps us looking for ways of delivering value to customers. We have observed the gap in power supply in Nigeria and across many African countries and we have also seen that the deployment of renewable power solutions – especially solar power is having a lot of impact on the lives of people. Tranos has been supporting several solar companies with our products and we see that there is an opportunity to think further.

As a result of this, we are now taking steps to fill the gaps we have observed in the solar power market. These gaps include the manufacturing of solar mounting brackets and accessories.

We have spoken to many solar company executives and at the moment in Nigeria, there is no fit-for-purpose solution available for the installation of solar panels, and as such Tranos has been ideating on simple solutions that can solve this problem.

We intend to launch our solar panel mounting products in May 2024. In addition to the solar panel mounting solution, we find that over 90 percent of all solar panels installed in Nigeria are imported. This is a very big concern.

As renewables become more mainstream and adoption grows, solar panels of very high quality must be manufactured in Nigeria and readily available to customers.

“Local manufacturing of critical inputs in the energy value chain must be seen as an important step in our energy security policy.”

We at Tranos see this as an opportunity to add value to our customers and we have commenced the process of establishing a 400MW solar panels manufacturing factory in Nigeria.

We believe that this would as a first step meet most of the demand in Nigeria and we plan to expand in the future to cater to the demand within the African continent. We are passionate about problem solving and we strongly believe that this will have a positive impact on the electricity deficit in Nigeria.

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Why did Tranos decide to invest in solar panel manufacturing?

I think I alluded to this already – we love solving problems and we see that there is a big hole in Nigeria’s – and Africa’s – development of solar power.

We see that this is both a challenge and an opportunity and considering that we have approached similar gaps in the past and adequately filled them, we believe that we are well-positioned to fill this one.

What are the advantages of having a local solar panel manufacturing plant?

First, it will provide very high-quality products readily available in Nigeria. This shortens the lead time for deployment of small- and large-scale installations. Second, this will encourage the localisation of solar PV technology and help with the development of better solutions to address the power supply needs of the people.

For Nigeria, we must avoid the situation where we are completely dependent on imported sources for a lot of our energy needs. Local manufacturing of critical inputs in the energy value chain must be seen as an important step in our energy security policy.

Decades after oil was discovered in Nigeria, a large percentage of our fuels (diesel and petrol) are all imported. As the world shifts towards renewables, we must start early to ensure that that is not repeated.

Our factory will significantly reduce the project delivery cycle for solar projects which has a significant commercial advantage for the project developers and good news for their customers. So overall, it is a win for everyone.

When will the plant become fully operational?

Based on our project schedule, we expect the plant to be operational by December 2024, and our products in the market by February 2025.

What is the production capacity?

Our initial capacity will be 400MW per annum and we have plans to double that capacity to 800MW per annum within the first five years.

How do we guarantee the quality of your solar products and indeed other products from Tranos?

As an experienced manufacturer, we understand the importance of quality in our production and our products.

Our solar panels will be produced following internationally recognised quality processes and using high-quality raw materials. To guarantee quality and consistency, we will produce using largely automated processes, and our products will come with international certifications.

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What are the major problems facing manufacturing in Nigeria?

I get asked this question a lot and, in most instances, there is the undertone or assumption that I will say lack of electricity or power. Even though power supply (or the lack of it) constitutes a distraction to manufacturers, it is not among the top problems in our experience.

The myth that the major challenge to manufacturing in Nigeria is power is just a myth. There are lots of issues facing manufacturing in Nigeria, but in my experience, there are two major issues.

The first is a lack of skilled personnel. Nigeria lacks the knowledge base of people with the knowledge or experience to drive the required growth and productivity in manufacturing.

This is something that takes a long time to develop and requires as a foundational requirement, a vibrant and well-funded educational system. If you look at all developed countries or industrialized nations, you will notice that they are heavily invested in education. The current brain drain makes an already bad situation worse.

The second major issue is an anti-business trade system. Manufacturing involves the conversion of raw materials and in all manufacturing countries across the world, raw materials or input components must be brought in from other places.

No country manufactures as an island. In Nigeria, the entire trade-import/export system seems to be designed to punish businesses and discourage private enterprise.

So, the importation of raw materials and components is usually more expensive than in other jurisdictions, but even worse, it is unpredictable.

This dysfunctional trade policy makes importing raw materials and exporting finished goods more difficult than it should be resulting in an unnecessarily high cost of doing business and eating into management time. This puts Nigerian manufacturers at a major disadvantage.

How can the government support Tranos in the establishment of this new Solar Manufacturing plant?

The federal government is involved in numerous renewable energy projects. The government can support Tranos by patronizing our products for the government’s solar power development projects. Other areas would be for the government to take a look at the import duty and tariffs for solar PV panel raw materials. Currently, there is zero duty on the finished solar panel, but with various percentages of duty on the raw materials.

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Where do you expect Tranos to be in the next 10 years?

In a very fast-paced world, 10 years is a very long time. But I can tell you that within the next 5 years, we will be establishing our market leadership position in the manufacturing of energy production and distribution products. The Tranos Solar panels will be powering numerous homes, and commercial and industrial locations in Nigeria and across Africa.

Tranos is now at the point of consolidating our leadership position in the markets we serve and we expect that in 10 years, Tranos will be the leading industrial manufacturer in Africa.