Nov. 19, 2021


Xabier Blanco

Spain

Xabier Blanco

President, STI Norland

STI Norland Innovation stands ready to constantly adapt to new environments given that innovation is one of its key pillars.

BIO

Xabier Blanco's career has grown parallel to that of the company he presides over. He joined STI Norland in 1997, just one year after the company was founded. In 2002, he was appointed deputy general manager, in charge of developing the division of solar structures. He became CEO of the company in 2006 and currently holds the presidency of the STI Norland Group. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and management.


In February 2020, Aurica Capital acquired a 41.5% stake in STI Norland. What does mean for the company?

We incorporated shareholders and venture capital investors, which demonstrates the attractiveness of this sector for investors. From my point of view, this is extremely interesting because we are seeking a partner for the growth that we will continue to learn from. On top of that, Aurica is connected to Banco Sabadell. We saw some synergies because renewable energy projects are capital intensive, and most of them are financed. That took place in February, and the relationship has been excellent.

What are the latest innovations from STI Norland in terms of new products or others in the pipeline?

The main update is that for a year and a half now we have been working on a project to develop a program regarding the dynamic calculation of the tracker. This is something that is highly sought after in the market. It is a system that calculates the structures in a dynamic way and takes into account external factors such as wind. In addition, we have developed a control system and installed it, and we will start manufacturing it in Spain to sell it everywhere. We could sell this product to every country.

The sector is attractive but is also competitive. What differentiates the company from its competitors?

The main difference is our experience. We are the pioneering company in developing trackers in the world. We have developed an array of trackers, and these designs are for different products and are all our own. We certainly have extensive experience and capacity to develop products and are leaders in product development. We have been working with some of our clients for 18 years. There is no company in the sector that has been working with the same clients for such a long time. Furthermore, I want to stress the robustness of our products and our impeccable service, since we do everything for the clients. We work to provide the best service possible.

The company turns 25 years in 2021. In 2020, despite the pandemic, you entered into the Australian market. What was the process like, and are you planning to enter other markets?

We planned to start in early 2020 but postponed those plans because of the situation. It has been difficult to enter Australia due to the different lockdown measures. There are certain travel restrictions, so in 4Q2020 we launched a goal to develop between 100 and 150MW in 2021 and obtain more than EUR8 million in revenue. As for other markets, we have a roadmap, which is our growth plan. In addition to Australia, we want to enter other markets where we plan to replicate the model that we implemented in Brazil, where we are market leaders. We have a team of about 150 workers in Brazil, where we also manufacture.

In terms of innovation, you invest more than 2% of your annual revenue in R&D. How important is innovation for STI Norland?

Innovation is one of the pillars of STI Norland, and as a result of this, we have developed many products. There are technologies that did not succeed, though others did. We are heavily focused on R&D for trackers, and innovation differentiates us from our competitors. The photovoltaic industry evolves rapidly, as there are many new innovations constantly coming to the market. In that regard, we must be ready to constantly adapt to new environments.

In terms of regulations, what main challenges is the sector facing?

It is important to have a scenario for this sector. In 2018, 3GW of photovoltaic were developed in Spain, while in 2019 zero were developed. Investors in photovoltaic energy require stable regulations. It is important to provide certainty in the market so that investors know what they will face and can plan ahead. There has been a huge bubble in renewable energy, and that should be cooled off.