Soltec has plenty of experience in bifacial tracking technology, with the Spanish company having designed the first bifacial tracker specifically created to mount bifacial panels at utility plants at a global level. Since then, Soltec has been implementing its bifacial trackers on projects around the world. Here, Colin Caufield, Soltec VP of Sales USA, tells us about the projects they’ve recently been involved with in the US, and he shares more about the benefits of bifacial equipment – including a yield boost which is consistently greater than seven per cent.
What is the current situation of Soltec in the US?
We’ve brought on four new customers over the past two fiscal quarters, and we expect to see that trend continuing throughout 2020. Our new customers are EPC contractors in some cases and in others we’ve contracted directly with IPPs who will be owning and operating their power-generating assets. We’ll supply over 500MW in the US in the first half of 2020, and this volume is split almost evenly between projects using bifacial crystalline products and First Solar’s Series 6 panels. Our projects are situated across the country with significant volumes in the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and in the Hawaiian Islands. This gives us a great variety of site conditions from high winds to significant snow loads and soft soils to grounds covered by volcanic rock. These are exciting times!
What are the forecasts of the PV market for the coming years in the US, and what role will Soltec play in it?
Despite year-over-year step downs in the Investment Tax Credit incentives, all forecasts are showing that the US market will be the standout leader for utility-scale PV in the near future. Demand for new energy sources combined with a downward trend in PV equipment, execution and plant operating expenses will continue to foster new solar developments well into the 2020s. As an equipment supplier with over 15 years of experience and over 9GW of installations worldwide, Soltec intends to be a primary player in the single-axis tracker industry. Our R&D combined with our best-in-class equipment and breadth of ancillary services will make Soltec a strategic partner for many throughout the decade.
What plants has Soltec supplied in the US in the last year? How many of them have been bifacial?
We have eleven projects currently under supply contracts and ten of those projects are using bifacial equipment.
How important will bifacial technology be in the next projects in the US market?
Incredibly. We’re already seeing most crystalline projects trend in that direction. It’s of little surprise when you consider that the premium for procuring and installing bifacial equipment is relatively low while the yield boost is consistently greater than 7 per cent, even at sites with less-than-favourable conditions. It is key, however, that attention be paid not only to the use of certain bifacial panels, but also to the tracker choice and overall plant design. These are major factors in how much extra yield one can expect to see when compared to a monofacial plant in the same environment. With the research that Soltec has been performing at our BiTEC facility in Livermore, CA, we’ve identified the ways that tracker design, algorithms and overall plant design can be optimised to see bifacial gains as high as 15.7 per cent (yearly average under high albedo conditions). We encourage industry partners to get in touch with us to learn how to maximize the potential of their power plants.
What implementations or developments is Soltec carrying out to adapt to the US market?
A big key to our success will be expanding our team in order to give personalised service to an increasing customer base. As I mentioned earlier, we intend to work with Developers and IPPs in early development stages of projects to optimise the yield potential of their plants. The results will make their proposals far more competitive, and we’re committed to special attention to detail provided by our Project Engineering team. A similar focus will be put into our Project Management and Construction Success teams to ensure execution is as smooth as it can possibly be. After-Sales services is another area of focus that we’ve worked to expand and improve. Our SolMate platform has a state-of-the-art interface and commitment to speedy customer service to ensure minimal downtime and rapid diagnosis of operational issues.
What benefit does the Soltec solar tracker have compared to others in the market?
I’ve focused on a lot of the benefits that IPPs and Developers are seeing by using our equipment for bifacial plants and extra yield boost. First, I’d like to add that we intend to have IE studies performed that will allow those customers to see these benefits during project finance stages. This is expected to fuel the industry even more so, but I’d be remiss not to mention that EPC contractors working with our equipment have been noticing installation efficiencies that are exceeding their expectations, too. It was long assumed that two-portrait trackers were more expensive to install, but recent project execution has been debunking that theory and doing so unequivocally. This not only allows them to save margin during execution, but also enables them to confidently bid more aggressively on future projects. The results are increasingly lower LCOE.
We encourage industry partners to get in touch with us to learn how to maximize the potential of their power plants.