Greentech Media reporters and analysts have been at Intersolar all week. Here's a quick digest of reports from the show and events of the week.
Array Technologies founder and CEO Ron Corio told GTM that the solar tracker company has a 4-gigawatt pipeline with its "zero-maintenance" systems.
Dan Shugar, the CEO of NEXTracker, spoke of "massive acceleration" in the company's tracker business and "powering through 2017" with a mix of utility and distributed generation projects. Shugar also mentioned the firm's 1.85-gigawatt master supply agreement with SunEdison and a 1-gigawatt agreement with Blattner.
Trina Solar, the No.1 solar module company in 2014, expects to be the No. 1 solar module company in 2015 too. Roy Shaw, a regional sales manager at the firm, said that module capacity is tight for all Tier 1 module suppliers, but Trina is adding an additional 1.5 gigawatts of new capacity at factories in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. According to Shaw, the expansion "is happening now."
Draker and Inaccess are merging to provide PV monitoring and asset management services. The two firms have a combined portfolio of 5 gigawatts of utility and commercial-scale solar power plants. According to the report Global PV Monitoring 2014-2018 by GTM Research and SoliChamba Consulting, the combined firm would rank No. 5, surpassed by the three German giants (meteocontrol, Solar-Log and skytron energy) and Japanese leader Laplace System.
Yingli Green Energy Americas spun out an independent engineering services company, Amplify Energy, to address what the company’s CEO Brian Grenko called "an overlooked piece of asset management -- performance monitoring." Grenko likened the process to a "recommissioning" and bringing in a home inspector before one purchases a house. "We want to be the home inspector in the megawatt-scale secondary market," said the CEO.
REC Solar claims that it was the leading solar company in Hawaii based on 2014 revenue, topping the list at nearly $55 million, according to PBN Research. With the backing of Duke Energy and a $225 million C&I war chest, Drew Bradley, director of business development at REC Solar, said, "The commercial market will remain strong, ITC be damned." Bradley also said to be on the lookout for a decision from the Hawaii PUC in the next two weeks that will determine the fate of a total of 220 megawatts in seven "waivered" solar projects.
Over the past few years, Japanese solar-inverter maker Tabuchi Electric has been building a solar inverter-energy storage system that comes with a control system that can pick between charging its 10-kilowatt-hour Panasonic lithium-ion battery pack with cheap overnight grid power or daytime solar power.
Bill Eddie, president of OneEnergy Renewables, a distributed, utility scale solar project developer, spoke of "purpose-built solar power sold to the end user" that allows school districts or businesses to tackle the variable commodity cost of energy. OneEnergy is simplifying the contract structure of off-site solar, an ownership scheme with some resemblance to a community solar program.
Avondale Partners, an investment firm, reports that SolarCity "intends to procure roughly 30 percent of its inverters from [module-level power electronics] suppliers, with Vivint Solar's and Sunrun’s captive business likely settling in at a similar level." The firm also expects "SolarEdge will continue to gain share at these top three accounts. [...] Continued customer momentum, a credible long-term cost curve, and end market tailwinds leave [SolarEdge] well positioned."
Avondale also suggested that microinverter vendor Enphase's "counter-offensive" will include "new strategic relationships to change the discourse." CEO Paul Nahi told GTM to watch for a series of upcoming announcements. Nahi said, "We have to build a business model that allows utilities to engage in the solar revolution -- with less of an 'us-versus-them' mentality." He also suggested that in a few years, a customer will be purchasing not just solar panels, but an integrated system with generation, storage and load management.
Zvi Alon, the CEO of Tigo Energy, the third-largest MLPE supplier behind SolarEdge and Enphase, suggested that "every module is going to have some electronics." Analysts have also predicted that regulations on panel-level smart inverter capabilities could make for a 100 percent MLPE market share in the U.S. Tigo's open system provides for modular communication, protection and optimization with customers including JA Solar, Sunpreme and JinkoSolar.
SolarWorld set a record efficiency for a PERC solar cell of 21.7 percent, as verified by Fraunhofer ISE, according to PV-Tech.
Bob Olsen, global marketing director at DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions, noted that the PV materials supplier continues to refine and improve its Tedlar backsheet and silver pastes. He also said the company is looking to "change the conversation to lowering LCOE instead of cost per watt." DuPont's Thomas Earnest said that the industry must be vigilant about the technical downside as it continues its "quest to reduce silver."
Taiwan-based Hulk electronic technologies was the rare CIGS thin-film PV module company at Intersolar amidst a sea of silicon modules, and one of the few named after a gamma-ray experiment gone bad. CEO Brian Sung said the company is still holding the line on thin film's advantages of performance in low and diffuse light and at high temperature with its oversized 325-watt modules. Hulk uses the same process as Solar Frontier -- sputtered metal precursor, selenite/sulfurize for the absorber, and a wet chemical Zn (O, OH, S) buffer layer.
Headline with apologies to The Nails.