Categorized | Industry News, SEMIKRON

Winds of Change for Brazil

Posted on 25 March 2019

Brazil and power electronics. Sounds like a somewhat unusual combination. Dr. Edelweis Ritt, CEO at Semikron Brazil since March, on the Brazilian electronics market and her plans for Semikron.

Brazil is commensurate with sun, Samba and football. Now, however, Brazil can also be reckoned with as a serious business location. In fact, with the stable currency that Brazil now boasts, today the country is regarded as an important investment location. There are, however, companies that recognised this potential much sooner: semiconductor specialist Semikron has been present in Brazil since 1963. Semikron Brazil was the first of Semikron’s subsidiaries outside Europe and plays an important role for the company even today. And still an era is coming to an end for Semikron in Brazil this year: Claus Ebert is retiring after 42 years as CEO and is succeeded by Dr. Edelweis Ritt, renowned expert in semiconductor technology. Following studies in IT and gaining her doctorate, Ms. Ritt went on to work in the area of IC design and semiconductor production. Starting in 2005, she played a key role in the development of a semiconductor factory commissioned by the Brazilian government, taking the total number of semiconductor factories in Brazil up to 2, the first being run by Semikron. ‘‘Other firms from the electronics industry are just starting to come to Brazil,’’ explains Ms. Ritt.

Industry as a turnover driver

In Carapicuiba, in the direct vicinity of the metropolis Sao Paulo, Semikron employs around 500 people, roughly 85 percent of whom are women. This makes Semikron the biggest employer in the 700,000-strong city. Around 40 million people live in the entire Sao Paulo region. With a population of 190 million, Brazil is the most densely populated country in South America and, in terms of area and population, the fifth largest country in the world. In terms of area, Brazil is roughly 24 times the size of Germany. In terms of economy, however, Brazil is still lagging behind somewhat. Having said that, the NIC Brazil has caught up significantly over the past few years. Ms. Ritt explains that the economic upturn over the past eight years has helped lift more than 24 million people out of absolute poverty -- something that not least the electronics industry is now profiting from. In fact, a turnover of 124 billion Real (approx. 56 billion euro) has been achieved here in the last year, mainly in the areas of home appliances and computers. And pent-up demand for products such as microwaves, washing machines, computers and television sets is high. At the same time, the government is investing hugely into the development of infrastructure. For example, new houses with solar panels are being built. Generally speaking, renewables play a major role in Brazil. This can be seen, among other things, in growth forecasts: in 2010, the electronics industry and the energy market were already growing faster than the economy at large. For 2011 the entire Brazilian electronics market is expected to grow by 13 percent; the energy sector is forecast to go up by 19 percent.

In Carapicuiba near Sao Paulo, Semikron employs around 500 people, 85% of whom are women

In Brazil, too, the full Semikron range of components, systems and customer-specific solutions is available. In fact, Semikron is the only manufacturer of power semiconductors in South America to export semiconductor chips -- albeit to within the Semikron Group only. In Brazil itself, these components play a lesser role, since up till now the development of electronics here -- like developments in the country at large -- have played a minor role only. Device assembly, on the other hand, is all the more important, which is why solutions are particularly high in demand. It is therefore no surprise that this is Semikron’s biggest growth sector here, too. The biggest turnover at Semikron Brazil however, is still achieved in the industrial sector (e.g. elevators).

The future of the wind power market

According to Ms. Ritt, the wind power market bears the greatest growth potential. ‘‘At the moment, green is the way to go in Brazil,’’ explains Ms. Ritt. The wind power market, in particular, is booming in South America, with today’s mediocre 606 MW of wind power to be upped to 31 GW by 2025. Germany and China, in contrast, currently produce around 25 GW each; by way of comparison, the total global wind power output is 122 GW. Here, Semikron can draw upon its wealth of experience in this area, for approximately half of all wind power installed worldwide today contains Semikron components and solutions. A number of projects backed by the Brazilian government are also underway. Here, the sole condition is that the equipment be made in Brazil. And the only manufacturer of power semiconductors in South America is Semikron. Having worked for the government for several years, Ms. Ritt is best informed about the allocation of state funding. Today, Semikron supplies half the Brazilian energy market with power electronics, the focus being on highly flexible customer-specific solutions. And in wind power applications the requirements are high: protection from oxidation, vibrations and large temperature swings is an absolute must. Here, too, Semikron’s wealth of experience with what is known as ‘tropicalisation’’ pays off. Despite the availability of space, in Brazilian the focus tends to be on wind power rather than solar power, which is not to say that solar power solutions are non-existent. Large-scale solar parks, however, have proven to be too expensive. Instead, wind farms are installed along the more than 8,000 km of coastline in Brazil -- with no sign of the typical resistance to such installations found in Germany. ‘‘Often wind farms are installed in very poor regions, creating jobs in these regions,’’ says Ms. Ritt, explaining the rather positive reaction in Brazil. Instead of protests based on the visual impacts of such developments, there is a feeling of gratitude for economic progress -- something that is unthinkable in prosperous western countries. Brazil is estimated to have 143 GW of onshore wind power potential -- more than the total amount of wind power installed worldwide today. And this does not include potential energy yield from off-shore wind farms. For Brazil, the switchover to wind power means a radical change in the country. In 1999, 93 percent of energy was generated in hydroelectric power plants. Here, however, the potential has already been largely exploited. This fact -- plus the direct impact on the environment -- is becoming increasingly important. Not to mention the fact that additional energy sources are vital for ensuring economic growth. Another growth market which Semikron is watching with great interest is the market for electric vehicles. In mega cities such as Sao Paulo, traffic is a major contributor to environmental pollution, something which the future use of electric vehicles is to help remedy. From flex-fuel to eCar The Brazilian government is currently pushing the development of the necessary infrastructure -- a great benefit to companies that produce in Brazil. Even if electric vehicles are currently in the prototype stage only, Ms. Ritt is optimistic that this market will grow fast. This assessment is based on the introduction of vehicles with flexible-fuel or flex-fuel engines, which can run on petrol or ethanol. Within just four years, 90% of all registered vehicles had been upgraded to flex-fuel. A similar scenario could arise with electric vehicles: by 2015, 4.3 million electric vehicles are to be sold; the target for 2030 is 60 million electric cars -- made in Brazil of course! Here, too, Semikron profits from many years of experience in the area of public transport. Electric buses in Brazil, for example, already feature Semikron components. ‘‘I have great plans for Semikron Brazil for the next five years. We will not be left behind, but will ride with the growth.’’ But it's not just about Semikron the company. In fact, Ms. Ritt’s motivation goes beyond the realms of Semikron: ‘‘We want to help develop Brazil as a country, too.’’ The opportunities that are presenting themselves for Brazil are very good. The social and economic changes in the country within the past few years are testimony to this. In addition, Brazil is a paradigm for environmentally sound and sustainable power generation. Here, too, Ms. Ritt hopes to be instrumental: ‘‘I am now doing something to help my country and create jobs.’’ And all this with the help of a company that has not only been present in Brazil for many years, but one that is socially committed, too. Ms. Ritt hopes to make a change --for Semikron and for the people of Brazil. Who can tell - in five years’ time Brazil may not just be the land of sun and Samba, but a key player in the global power electronics industry.

Experienced authority on semiconductor technology Dr. Edelweis Ritt

Experienced authority on semiconductor technology Dr. Edelweis Ritt hopes to bring in her expertise to the benefit of Semikron Brazil

Despite the availability of space, in Brazilian the focus tends to be on wind power rather than solar power, which is not to say that solar power solutions are non-existent. Large-scale solar parks, however, have proven to be too expensive. Instead, wind farms are installed along the more than 8,000 km of coastline in Brazil -- with no sign of the typical resistance to such installations found in Germany. ‘‘Often wind farms are installed in very poor regions, creating jobs in these regions,’’ says Ms. Ritt, explaining the rather positive reaction in Brazil. Instead of protests based on the visual impacts of such developments, there is a feeling of gratitude for economic progress -- something that is unthinkable in prosperous western countries.

Brazil is estimated to have 143 GW of onshore wind power potential -- more than the total amount of wind power installed worldwide today. And this does not include potential energy yield from off-shore wind farms. For Brazil, the switchover to wind power means a radical change in the country. In 1999, 93 percent of energy was generated in hydroelectric power plants. Here, however, the potential has already been largely exploited. This fact -- plus the direct impact on the environment -- is becoming increasingly important. Not to mention the fact that additional energy sources are vital for ensuring economic growth. Another growth market which Semikron is watching with great interest is the market for electric vehicles. In mega cities such as Sao Paulo, traffic is a major contributor to environmental pollution, something which the future use of electric vehicles is to help remedy.

From flex-fuel to eCar

The Brazilian government is currently pushing the development of the necessary infrastructure -- a great benefit to companies that produce in Brazil. Even if electric vehicles are currently in the prototype stage only, Ms. Ritt is optimistic that this market will grow fast. This assessment is based on the introduction of vehicles with flexible-fuel or flex-fuel engines, which can run on petrol or ethanol. Within just four years, 90% of all registered vehicles had been upgraded to flex-fuel. A similar scenario could arise with electric vehicles: by 2015, 4.3 million electric vehicles are to be sold; the target for 2030 is 60 million electric cars -- made in Brazil of course! Here, too, Semikron profits from many years of experience in the area of public transport. Electric buses in Brazil, for example, already feature Semikron components. ‘‘I have great plans for Semikron Brazil for the next five years. We will not be left behind, but will ride with the growth.’’ But it's not just about Semikron the company. In fact, Ms. Ritt’s motivation goes beyond the realms of Semikron: ‘‘We want to help develop Brazil as a country, too.’’ The opportunities that are presenting themselves for Brazil are very good. The social and economic changes in the country within the past few years are testimony to this. In addition, Brazil is a paradigm for environmentally sound and sustainable power generation. Here, too, Ms. Ritt hopes to be instrumental: ‘‘I am now doing something to help my country and create jobs.’’ And all this with the help of a company that has not only been present in Brazil for many years, but one that is socially committed, too. Ms. Ritt hopes to make a change --for Semikron and for the people of Brazil. Who can tell - in five years’ time Brazil may not just be the land of sun and Samba, but a key player in the global power electronics industry.

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