Impressions from an international module conference

25 October 2018 |

I attended one of the world’s leading solar module industry events – PV ModuleTech in Penang, Malaysia – this week. There were about 200 participants from across the world including mainly all leading module manufacturers, various testing agencies and independent engineers. There were also a few project developers and investors such as Brookfield, Shell, 8minuteenergy, Clara and Mahindra.

The event was mainly technology-focused with most discussions ranging around prospects of new technologies – n-type, PERC, half-cut cells, IBC, HJT, multi-busbars, frameless, glass-glass. Growing scale and rising cost pressures are forcing rapid improvements in the technology landscape, which is getting further compounded by multiple module form factors, an innovation leap in materials – back-sheets, adhesives, polymers – and multiple design considerations. There has been a common perception in India that solar industry is highly commoditized with multi-crystalline modules accounting for over 98% market share. But these modules are turning obsolete – worldwide share has already fallen from over 70% in 2015 to less than 50% now. As for the developers, there seemed to be a feeling that their job is becoming difficult in trying to evaluate different technologies and picking the right one. Some developers mentioned that they have to run as many as 30 different project design combinations before settling on a final plan.

Another theme that came up in many discussions was that quality and reliability of modules has been a frequent problem across the world. Within just 5-7 years of operations, developers are having to replace faulty modules (delamination, higher degradation, cracks) and retrofitting of many solar plants is going to become unavoidable in the coming years. Independent engineers play a critical role in this regard by testing and certifying all key aspects of project design.

With India becoming one of the top three international markets, it seems high on the priority list for most module makers. India came up frequently in various sessions and the recurrent theme unsurprisingly was the Indian developers’ unremitting focus on price. There were suggestions that Indian developers don’t care about quality. While that is too broad a statement, the underlying message is clear – poor quality is going to pose a formidable challenge for Indian developers, investors as well as policy makers. The fact that Indian lenders, particularly public sector banks and FIs, typically have lax technical oversight standards does not help this situation.

It was heartening to see SECI attending the event and trying to get a grasp of new technologies. Participation from India also included some module makers (Adani, Jakson, Vikram, Waaree) and Mahindra but disappointingly, most major developers were absent.

Future of manufacturing in India? It remains bleak in our view. I did not note any serious interest by Indian or international manufacturer to set up high-volume integrated facilities. Most likely, Indian participation would continue to be restricted to downstream assembly. Even if trade barriers and other policy measures are successful in bringing some new investments in manufacturing, India would remain reliant on international technology expertise for years to come.

Back

Recent reports

India Solar Rooftop Map | September 2019

India added a record 1,853 MW rooftop solar capacity in the twelve-month period ending Sep-2019. Capacity addition was ...

Download

Global Corporate Renewable Power Procurement Models

Commercial & Industrial (C&I) consumers in India are increasingly looking to procure renewable energy for financi...

Download

India Solar Compass Q3 2019   

Slow capacity addition in the utility scale solar sector continued in Q3 2019. Capacity addition during the quarter was 1,734 MW, 43% below our estima...

Buy Report Download Executive Summary

India Solar Rooftop Market Analytics   

This report presents trends and observations from over 16,000 rooftop solar installations with an aggregate capacity of 2,265 MW in our database. It p...

Buy Report Download Executive Summary

Forecasting and Scheduling Regulations   

India’s central electricity regulator, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), issued an amendment to the Deviation Settlement Mechani...

Buy Report Download Executive Summary

India RE Map | September 2019

India added 9,327 MW of utility scale wind and solar capacity in the last 12 months. Total installed RE capacity is estimated at 66,650 MW as on 30 Se...

Download
Award winnig research
We use cookies to offer you an optimal user experience and collect information on website usage.