Inquiries from gigantic projects

Miraikikai was the only Japanese start-up that took part in ADSW2018. The company has already started business in the Middle East and India. Its products have been used in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the company is not in the least inferior to major manufacturers in the global market.

"Our booth at the exhibition attracted many visitors and we were able to build a large network of contacts for projects and future partnerships," a company representative said. "Many of the inquiries were about specific projects, and some companies even said, 'we want to buy your PV robots right away'" (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Miraikikai, a PV robot start-up, exhibited its products as part of the Japan Pavilion (photo: Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Institute)

In terms of the scale, the utility-scale solar power segment is being polarized into projects less than several megawatts, such as rooftop solar, and larger projects with several hundreds of MW to GW-class solar power plants, according to the company.

Responding to the trend, the company has been promoting expansion of its business in the global market based on the business strategy of covering the small-scale segment with several MW or less with the products it initially developed and the segment with several hundred MW or more with the products it developed and released later for large-scale projects (See related article).

"Huge projects are emerging in the Middle East, and we have received a number of inquiries from the region," said Dr. Toru Miyake, CEO of Miraikikai. "Smaller rooftop projects are also finally increasing," he said expressing his expectations for the future development of the market.

Chinese manufacturers had a notable presence at the WFES/ADSW; in addition, multiple Chinese companies exhibited their PV cleaning robots. Talking about these companies, Dr. Miyake confidently said, "We are the only manufacturer that offers a PV cleaning robot that travel autonomously on solar arrays without any special rails, and no other company can develop similar products."

In regard to the cost, "Other companies offer lower prices at the beginning, but various costs are added later," Dr. Miyake said. "Our prospective customers say it is 'expensive' at the beginning. In many cases, however, they often later place orders with us once we explain the approximate annual cost of cleaning a 1MW solar power plant because almost no additional cost is incurred later in our case."

Dr. Miyake added, "We often go through a trial-and-error process in the overseas market," indicating that it is never easy to do business internationally. However, the company seems to have confidence in their business in the Middle East or India in the future.