Alberto Cuter
General Manager LATAM & Italy
Jinko Solar
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Jinko Solar's Advanced Modules for the Renewable Revolution

By Cas Biekmann | Wed, 06/24/2020 - 09:00

Q: What is the history of Jinko Solar in Mexico, and what have been its main accomplishments in the market?

A: Jinko Solar has been the largest module manufacturer in terms of capacity since 2016 and leads in terms of sales as well. In Mexico, the company has a very good market share, already having delivered 2GW with the largest installed power plant in Latin America. The 830MW Villanueva solar plant is fully equipped with Jinko Solar modules. It has been in operation since 2018, and has produced more energy than was already expected. We also have important partnerships with Krannich Solar, with the intention of promoting solar energy in commercial markets as well.

 

Q: What does the company look for in its partnerships, and where do you see opportunities within the supply chain?

A: Establishing a long-term relationship is the most important factor when looking for local partnerships. We are not interested in one-time partners when it comes to projects. For the most part, local partners are developers. What Mexico is missing is a construction company with the ability to build large MW projects. Most of the local companies with this ability are from Spain. Therefore, Mexican companies have an opportunity to start looking at this market and develop themselves to be able to supply these kinds of services to the industry.

 

Q: How has the pandemic disrupted the company’s supply chain?

A: We have not encountered any problems in the supply chain at the moment. There had been some delays because of the lockdown in China during the first quarter of 2020, but starting in March we have returned to 100 percent of our production capacity. The main issue is now related to demand. Countries like Mexico and Brazil that have been affected by COVID-19 have seen their markets decrease significantly. This is also because of a worsening exchange rate and the political situation, with the government acting unfavorably toward renewable energy. It is the perfect storm that has reduced most energy projects or put them on hold. Nonetheless, Mexico’s market potential remains.

 

Q: How does the company assess the regulatory struggle between the public and private sectors brought on by the regulatory action taken by CENACE and SENER?

A: It is not a simple question to answer. Mexico has enormous solar potential, given that 70 percent of Mexico’s energy used to come from fossil fuels. Solar represents only 5 percent of the energy matrix, which is lower than the 7 percent of coal. In the rest of the world, specifically in Europe, the collective consciousness believes it is possible to live in a better environment. During the lockdown, we achieved around an 80 percent decrease in pollution from big cities such as Milan, Paris and Madrid. It has impacted people strongly; for instance, in Milan we even saw an eagle fly over the city. According to analysts, we will reach an 8 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to 2019. No G20 summit has managed to achieve this before. To think you can stop the trend toward renewable energy is almost anachronistic.

 

What is happening in Mexico is difficult to understand. There is no reason from an economic point of view to stop the renewables revolution. Recently, we saw one of the lowest costs for energy production ever with the 1.5GW project in Abu Dhabi. The cost was US$13.5/MWh. Of course, renewable energy has its issues, as solar and wind output are not fully predictable. Technology, however, gives us the opportunity for storage. I do not really think that the current regulatory situation is helping the sector. On the contrary, it is creating uncertainty and generates destabilization. There is the risk that foreign investors will leave the country until it is clear what the government wants to do with renewables.

 

Nonetheless, I think this is just a short-term decision by the government. I hope it will see investment in renewables more as an opportunity than a risk. This is what is helping the EU to develop its entire economy. We need to work together to show Mexico that renewable energy is an opportunity, not a risk.

 

Q: What are the perks of Jinko Solar’s new Tiger Pro module?

A: Tiger Pro is the most powerful product on the market. Yet, I would like to clarify that power means nothing without control regarding production costs and the construction costs of the solar plant. This is why we engineered this product in collaboration with the main tracker and inverter manufacturers. We wanted to have a product that maximizes the power for production efficiency. At the same time, it diminishes the costs of building the powerplant. We developed an entire family of products, which include 60-cell, 72-cell and 78-cell modules, both in monofacial and bifacial configurations. For the bifacial product, we have dual glass and transparent backsheet options. The latter has superior durability and efficiency compared to the other options. Therefore, we are pushing the backsheet option. According to our calculations, the dual glass option with transparent backsheet has a better energy yield than any other product in the industry right now.

 

Q: How does the company assess the importance of development within the solar sector?

A: R&D is fundamental to a company such as ours, which is dedicated to continuously fine-tuning technological developments. Recently, a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed that electricity costs in the past 10 years had dropped dramatically. This is the result of a combination of factors, but improved technology definitely plays a very important role. The cost for modules in 2008 was about US$2.5 dollar per Wp. Today, it costs around US$0.2 per Wp. We have better quality modules, with higher durability and increased efficiency for a longer duration and a better overall performance. All of this comes at a cost that is 90 percent lower. This has been achieved mostly thanks to the efforts of the R&D departments of module manufacturers and their industry partners. Just two years ago, 95 percent of production was polycrystalline. Now, the same percentage of production is mono PERC modules. In a two-year span, the entire technology standard changed. This happened due to the technological revolution, which was driven by R&D departments.

 

Q: How is Jinko Solar’s new $1.6 billion factory in China helping the company to ramp up efficiency and bring down costs?

A: Jinko Solar operates several factories. This new factory is fully automated, which is helping us reduce costs, but also to further improve the quality of the production of modules. This is because we are able to keep automatic control over all of the production phases and detect any possible defects before we even start the production of the module itself. Together with our R&D department, the factory has helped us deliver the highest quality at the lowest costs.

 

Q: How does the company assess opportunity in Mexico’s distributed generation market?

A: We have several partners that we collaborate with to develop this market. Mexico has huge potential in its distribution market, both in the residential and commercial-industrial spheres. This is regardless of the fact that Mexico does not have optimal legislation like in other markets, such as Brazil. Last year, the distributed generation market in Mexico added around 200MW. In Brazil, they already have over five times this installed capacity. The potential of Mexico’s need for energy is huge, as well as its production potential. What I think is missing is that renewable energy does not have the opportunity to compete at the same level as other energy producers. Renewable energy does not need special tariffs or incentives. All it needs is the possibility to enter the competition.

 

Q: Is the company considering options for energy storage to complement its solar projects?

A: We have established a new business unit regarding solar storage, both for residential as well as for utility-scale projects. We offer a production line with battery storage products that is focused on utility-scale projects. It is intended for the US, but we might be able to provide this solution to the Latin American market as well.

 

But there are other options for storage. I have much more faith in hydro or hydrogen-based storage. These can be much more useful to complement solar energy during nighttime or when it is cloudy. Even though Mexico does not have the hydro capacity that Brazil has, it still has a great deal of hydro. As a result, a good possibility is to use a hybrid solution that uses both solar and hydro, using the latter for storage as well.  Regarding these hybrid solutions, there are already several applications, such as in Chile. There, the hybrid consists of both solar and wind energy in one power plant. Why not consider using both, and then using hydro as a third to compensate decreased production of solar and wind through battery storage? It is absolutely a possibility. The only reason to not think so is because you are against the renewable revolution; after all, the technology is already there.

 

Q: What does the company want to achieve by the end of 2020?

A: Jinko has been the largest module manufacturer since 2016. For this year, we are committed to continuing our stride and lead the industry. But above all, our goal is to provide the best available product on the market for our partners at a competitive price. We have demonstrated this resolve with the new Tiger Pro Module. Frankly speaking, this is one of the toughest years that I have experienced in Jinko Solar in the past 10 years.  It will be a challenging year due to COVID-19, Latin America’s current exchange rate, and political uncertainties. We want to achieve some very challenging targets for 2020 and the coming years. Jinko Solar possesses 20GW, but plans to close the year at 25GW of production capacity.

 

Jinko Solar is a key manufacturer of solar panels. It has has seven factories located in China, Malaysia and the US and has presence in 34 countries all over the world, including Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Chile and Argentina.

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst