Solar Quality over QuantityWed, 02/21/2018 - 10:40
For any company looking to make it in the solar energy industry, “long term” is the primary variable. Solar companies need to ensure their products, services and solutions will withstand the test of time. This is particularly true for Mexico’s long-term electricity auctions, where projects are designed to provide renewable energy in 15 to 20-year periods for a total power capacity of 3GW between the first and second auctions. Jinko Solar, one of the major winners of the first auction, is ready to meet that challenge. “We are the first PV modules supplier with product quality certificates that comply with the highest international standards,” says Alberto Cuter, General Manager Latin America and Italy of Jinko Solar.
In May, Jinko Solar said it had become the first Chinese PV manufacturer to pass the 160 KWh/m2 UV Test from TÜV Rheinland, based on the International Electrotechnical Commissions’ (IEC) 61345 standard. This test verifies the module’s UV resistance under UVA 320nm~400nm and UVB 280nm~320nm wavelengths and places Jinko’s PV products above the most demanding standards of the solar energy industry. “Through this certification, we can comply with the warranty policies of our solar modules for the long term, vital for the operation of any project,” Cuter says.
Since its inception, Jinko Solar’s approach, both from a technological and manufacturing standpoint, relied on providing quality solar panels. Any variability in the quality of the module’s components is fatal for PV solar park projects, regardless of size. Divergent quality levels in the module’s backsheet or even the Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) can severely impact the product’s quality and cause performance issues in the long term, endangering the project's viability. Cuter cautioned that in the past, in Europe, certain PV parks operated from six to seven years with questionable quality components and modules that generated lower energy levels than the guaranteed performance.
The fundamental element of any lasting strategy in PV module manufacturing, then, is quality. What about devising a lasting and successful strategy for the renewable energy market? What is true about PV solar modules is also true for the renewable energy market. Mexico, according to Cuter’s analysis for renewable energy’s future, “is Latin America’s most interesting market, with long-term electricity auctions programed every year.” This government-designed instrument opens the possibility to develop the Mexican manufacturing industry in the long term. “We are witnessing a shift from projects designed initially by European EPC contractors to projects developed by local EPC contractors and developers.” Jinko’s pioneering efforts in quality control policies will be vital for these local players as best practices permeate the business strategies of Mexican players to ensure their success in the long run, he says.
For Cuter, Mexico’s renewable energy bet on the long term needs an essential element to be successful: continuity. Cuter recalled the current status of Chile’s renewable energy market as a case in point. In June 2016, Bloomberg reported Chile’s solar capacity in its central power grid had more than quadrupled to 770MW since 2013, while the country’s central and northern grids are not connected to each other and some areas lack adequate transmission capacity, causing bottlenecks and generating energy spot prices close to zero.
The economic success of the auctions, resulting in lower than expected renewable energy MWh tariffs, must be sustained by a solid legal and regulatory framework for the projects launched in the first auction to achieve operational status by 2018. Infrastructure and transmission lines must also be on par with the increase in electricity demand Mexico will witness in the coming years. In this sense, the long-term auctions were designed to stipulate as a required condition that projects be able to connect to the grid. As a result of its local strategy in Mexico, through its participation in the auctions and capitalizing on the opportunities inherent to distributed generation and private PPAs, “we will position ourselves as the reliable ally our clients need for the long-term success of PV energy,” Cuter says.