Today, more than 1600 apartments, private houses, state structures and business economies receive free electricity, hot water from the sun, and save tangible financial means every month thanks to the successfully operating solar stations installed by our knowledgeable specialists.
We were one of the first in the Armenian market to start talking about solar energy and its efficiency, we are glad that it has become widespread in Armenia today․
-Mr. Chobanyan, can you tell us a little about how the Freenergy company was founded?
–-We have started to make alternative energy available in Armenia and in Artsakh and we have been investing in the field since 2012. We had set a goal to find effective solutions to reduce expenses of citizens and business. It was also noticeable that fuel and energy resources required alternative means. We studied the international experience and development tendencies, and as a result, our Freenergy (free energy) company provides its services today. The basis of our activity is the production of energy from the sun, which, unlike wood, gas, coal or fuel oil, is inexhaustible, clean, and doesn’t pollute the environment.
-Your company aims to provide services to apartments, private houses, business organizations. What are the advantages of the solar systems and water heaters offered by the Freenergy company, and what products do you have?
-As you have rightly noticed, the citizens, state structures and business economies can produce hot water and electricity on their own from the clean, free energy of the sun. As a result, they’ll save tangible financial means through affordable, reliable thermal power plants offered by our company.
The advantage of our stations is the combination of price, quality, reliability and experience. In 2012, we entered the market, in particular, with solar water heating systems. The 25-year factory warranty speaks about the quality and reliability of both thermal power plants and solar power plants. A serious indicator of quality in Armenia, Artsakh, Also about 1600 stations built by us and operating continuously in Armenia and Artsakh are a serious indicator of quality.
The industry is huge, but we are the first to use every new model of alternative energy on the market. Since the establishment of the company until today, we have constructed a number of stations different from each other. Being the first, we have already accumulated experience for 7 years and have mastered solutions to provide quality service. Thanks to the consistent work of our knowledgeable professionals’ team, we are able to satisfy every customer.
In addition to quality, our advantage is the registered indicators of efficiency and savings, which we achieve during the preparatory stage of the installation of the solar system, during the evaluation and design. For each customer, a project is developed in accordance with the given place, accurate technical calculations are made, the solar system is installed in accordance with international standards and in strict compliance with the design conditions.
-And what is the price policy, are the prices available to everyone?
-To answer you briefly,our energy-saving solutions are cost-effective. Switching to solar energy is very profitable. And in the conditions of today’s rapid development of solar energy in Armenia, to continue to pay such huge amounts for electricity is simply a matter of inertia. It’s like not replacing old light bulbs and installing energy-saving ones.
Depending on the type of the solar station, paying once for the purchase, in summer or winter, for at least 25 years, you can have free hot water, heating and electricity. Moreover, you will pay a sum for the station, which would hardly be enough for 5-6 years of electricity and heating bills, at today’s prices. Whereas, with the same amount, you can get energy for five times longer in a cleaner way, from the sun, as well as get rid of power outages.
This is a good opportunity to alleviate the duties of our population. As for the business, it’s another solution to increase competitiveness, to improve the competitive position in the market in modern economic conditions. It should be mentioned that today a number of hotels, guesthouses, greenhouses, gas stations, production facilities and, in general, all other sectors of the economy successfully use them, as the consumption of fuel and energy resources is widespread in economic activity.
The development of solar energy is also promoted by financial organizations,which, in their turn, offer profitable lending and leasing offers, due to which it is even possible to install a solar power plant with 0% down payment, 8% annual interest rate and with an 8-year repayment period. The monthly payments are almost the same as the usual utility bill. This means that by switching to a solar station, paying the same amount of utility bills, in a few years you will completely get rid of the costs of hot water, heating and electricity.
I can add that there are more people who prefer solar thermal systems than solar power plants, because in case of thermal power plants the investment is less, and the payback period is relatively shorter.
-Mr. Chobanyan, how many years can the solar system serve?
-The solar stations we install have a 25-year factory warranty, and our company provides warranty service for the first 5 years. This means that the plant provides the return on investment still in guarantee. It doesn’t mean that the installed solar system isn’t subject to operation after 25 years. It can be updated and used for 10-15 years, investing only 30% of the initial amount.
-What major projects have been implemented by the company so far?
-If we talk about large projects, a few days ago the commissioning ceremony of another 1 MW solar power plant built by the order of the European Union took place.It differs from the other projects not only in size (it consists of 4000 panels and will take care of the needs of 500 houses in Vayots Dzor Marz for 25 years) but also our company set a new benchmark for maintaining European quality in the field of Armenian solar energy. During the construction of the station, the maintenance of European and international standards was mandatory, which we overcame successfully.
On the other hand, it should be emphasized that our company doesn’t differentiate the projects by their size, be it a small or big one. Any project is carried out with the same responsibility and diligence, from the operation of our dozens of stations to provide hot water to rural communities, to the provision of large capacities for large organizations. In general, let me say that we were the first in Armenia to build a 1 MW solar power plant. Today you can find hundreds of solar panels and water heaters installed by our specialists both on the roofs of the capital and in the remote regions of the republic and in Artsakh. Alternative energy can be used anywhere where hot water or electricity is used, so the solar system is demanded everywhere.
We have implemented numerous projects in medical centres, for example, in a few days, we will complete the work of increasing our 100 kW capacity station in the Malayan Ophthalmological Center by 50%. As well as, thanks to a separate 5 kW hybrid system the operating rooms will be provided with solar energy during power outages. We have dozens of successful projects in schools, kindergartens, for individuals, organizations that still successfully save and get energy from the sun.
– I wonder what development perspective do you see in the field of renewable energy?
-The transition to renewable energy has no alternative variant. Almost every day in the local and international press you can find many outrageous publications on climate change and the irreversible natural changes associated with it. It is known that the cause of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions, and the traditional methods of energy production assume large-scale emissions. Hence, it’s difficult to underestimate their role in climate change. Our company has managed not only to achieve unprecedented savings for our partners but also to save thousands of tons of CO2, which is one of the greenhouse gases.
I think that the number one reason for the rapid development of solar energy in Armenia is the increase in public awareness. Our new generation, successful in their profession, with high professional qualifications, with their own clear views and approaches, also has special ecological needs. For this generation, the development of the economy through the over-exploitation of natural resources, the pollution of the environment for the satisfaction of consumer needs is alien. If we compare this and last years’ sales, we will see that it has increased five times, which is the consequence of what I say.
Frankly speaking, many charitable programs and foundations that have made donations in rural communities have contributed to these results. For example, if 50 beneficiaries from the community have received donations, and solar systems have been installed, immediately after that solar system installations have increased in that region. As a result, the activities of these institutions have indirectly contributed to the great development of the renewable energy sector in Armenia.
-Recently, the RA Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources has been taking serious measures towards the development of solar energy in Armenia. As a representative of this sphere, how would you assess these measures? Do all conditions exist for the development of this sphere today?
– The RA Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources is taking really serious measures towards the development of the sphere. It was through the efforts of the Ministry of Energy that the Net-Metering Act was adopted in 2016, which provided considerable progress in this area. For two years now, the industry has been issued several licenses to have solar stations, and the tariff has been set.
-What is the professional staff of the company?
–Our team is quite large, and we have a separate staff of our engineers. We provide comprehensive services: we do the work from start to finish: research, cost estimation, design, system construction, operation and maintenance.
In the beginning, the sphere lacked professional specialists, as solar systems were a novelty for the Armenian market. We have organized many trainings, as a result of which many specialists have been trained, who form our current team today.
I can proudly say that the staff we have trained currently work in almost all the organizations operating in the field. We have always given great significance to the cooperation with educational institutions. Still, in 2014, we have been in close cooperation with Sevan Vocational School, Shushi Yeznik Mozyan Vocational School, as well as with Artashat College and Ijevan State College. We have provided laboratories to the training centres completely free of charge so that the students can get acquainted with the work of the systems and equipment and complete their studies with rich professional knowledge.
-Do you have awareness centres in the regions of Armenia?
-Yes, we have awareness centres in all regions, where our representatives provide the population with the necessary professional and technical information. The formation of a team of technical specialists in a given region gives us the advantage of providing fast service, at the same time we solve the problems of employment and social problems to the best of our ability.
– If we compare with other countries, what is the development level of solar energy in Armenia?
-Let me say that in this field we are not inferior to the solar energy systems used in the leading countries.
The potential of solar resources in Armenia is huge and there are few countries that have the potential equal to Armenia’s solar resources. This is also one of the key factors in the development of solar energy.
-Mr. Chobanyan, what is the formula for your success?
-The formula for the success of our team is consistent work and the correct professional approach. The formula for our success is also provided that we provide an individual approach to each client, we do not have a partner who was dissatisfied with our services or needed to turn to other organizations. Our working principle is, in case of any problem registered by the customer, to be at the mentioned place in a short time and settle the given problem within a maximum of 24 hours.
-If we summarize 2019, how would you assess the year and what are your expectations from 2020?
– I assess the results obtained during this year as satisfactory. This year we implemented a very useful program with the All-Armenian Fund of Armenia. We installed solar water heaters in kindergartens and schools in six villages. The construction of several large stations is underway, from the initial stage of which we have implemented the construction.
We have recently started successful cooperation with international engineering organizations an built a solar power plant, which was commissioned by a very well-known Ukrainian company in the field of solar power plant construction. This is a promising achievement for us that our organization was chosen as a partner company. In 2020, we should start the construction of solar stations in Gegharkunik and Aragatsotn Marzes, as the solar potential is much greater in those areas. So, I expect and there are all the preconditions and agreements reached that the volume of activities will triple in 2020.
Interview by Suzanna Ghukasyan
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