Trina Solar said Monday it will turn its partnership with Spanish tracker company NClave Renewables into a full-blown purchase.
The acquisition of NClave marks the first time a Chinese company has purchased a solar tracker producer not based in China, a nod to the globalization of the tracker market. According to GTM Research, the market has become less concentrated, with the top-four vendors responsible for 64 percent of global shipments in 2016 as compared to 74 percent in 2015.
“Trina's acquisition is the latest in a long line of investments in the global solar tracker industry,” said Scott Moskowitz, a senior solar analyst at GTM Research. “This market has become extremely global, and a number of vendors are looking for partners or acquirers to help them increase their geographical reach and fuel their growth.”
The relationship between Trina and NClave originally began as a partnership in March, when the two started developing modular systems that included modules, trackers and inverters.
“This strategy is similar to SunPower's Oasis product and enables Trina to diversify while hopefully pulling a few pennies out of their customer's integration costs,” said Moskowitz.
A spokesperson with Trina told Greentech Media that the PV producer would bring NClave products to the global market, including China. That market currently remains small.
"Bringing NClave to China could be difficult, as the country to date has installed an extremely small volume of tracker installations due to the low cost of PV systems there," said Moskowitz. "The premium for tracking systems is considerably higher in China than it is in other markets, and the insolation is typically lower than in the Southwest U.S., Latin America, Australia, and the Middle East, where trackers are most common."
"The counterpoint is that in a 50-gigawatt market like China, even if trackers are appropriate in just a small share of projects, they can still amount to very significant volume," he added.
Though GTM Research puts China third in the top 15 markets for PV trackers through 2022 with 19 percent annual growth, trackers are only connected to 10 percent of projects. Domestic producers dominate the market.
Trina said the purchase would add to the company’s “strategic transformation” from a PV product supplier to a PV solution provider. Trina said NClave trackers and engineering will be incorporated in its TrinaPro products.
Currently, NClave’s shipments are concentrated in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa, but it has offices across the world in Europe, South America, Australia, Asia and North America.
Grupo Clavijo and MFV Solar merged last year to form NClave. In 2016, Grupo Clavijo ranked eighth in GTM Research’s Global PV tracker rankings by DC megawatts shipped.
The Trina acquisition, along with NClave's merger, fits within the M&A trend that GTM Research projects will accelerate in coming years.
“There are multiple perspectives on where tracker companies ultimately belong in a mature solar industry, but most expect they will be housed inside global corporations,” wrote Moskowitz in a January research note on ArcelorMittal’s acquisition of Exosun. “Such companies can better optimize supply chains and business operations while tolerating low margins and lumpy sales cycles.”
Trina, as one of the world’s top PV manufacturers with offices throughout Asia and in Madrid, Mexico City and California, offers NClave access to a wider variety of markets. And with the acquisition, Trina can continue building its profile as a “total energy solutions provider.”