Canadian Solar orders one of the largest single-project deployments of DC optimizers

canadian-solar-logoCanadian Solar is going to deploy Ampt LLC DC optimizers in a 33-MW PV system, which would make it one of the largest deployments of DC power optimizers in the world. The 33 MW installation capped off a six-month evaluation period by Canadian Solar, which began with a smaller demonstration project. Following the successful demonstration, Canadian Solar selected Ampt’s String Optimizer as it consistently outperformed other designs while costing less.

“Our initial work with Ampt surpassed expectations and laid the groundwork for the 33 MW utility-scale installation,” said Ken Rowbotham at Canadian Solar. “We chose Ampt for its clear technology advantages which support our broader commitment to being the industry-leading provider of clean solar energy across the globe.”

RELATED: How optimizers bridge the gap to 1,500-volt PV systems 

Ampt’s patented technology puts voltage and current limits on the output of each optimizer to allow twice the number of PV modules per string and eliminate half of the combiner boxes and associated cable and labor. Ampt also performs maximum power point tracking (MPPT) on every 20 modules to mitigate losses due to mismatch, and allows the inverter to operate at a high and narrow input voltage range to improve inverter performance. Ampt’s optional string-level data reporting via wireless communication helped validate comparison data.

“At Canadian Solar, we are always evaluating new technologies to lower the cost of solar energy for our customers,” said Ken Rowbotham at Canadian Solar. “The Ampt solution stood out, as it allowed us to reduce the cost of electrical balance-of-system (BOS) components, produce more energy and get the most out of the inverters.”

According to research from Global Market Insights, DC power optimizers will continue to see rapid growth in the solar market. While the use of DC optimization started with the residential market at the module level, Ampt’s String Optimizers bring unique power conversion technology to large commercial and utility-scale power plants by lowering the total upfront cost of systems while increasing energy generation.


— Solar Builder magazine

WATCH: Massive Mustang solar project comes together, ready for commercial operation

The Mustang solar power project in Kings County, Calif., is massive (100 MWac/134 MWp) and ready for commercial operation, says  Recurrent Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Solar Inc., one of the world’s largest solar power companies.

“The commercial operation of the Mustang solar project continues a historic year that will see Recurrent Energy complete more than one gigawatt of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) projects,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar.

In 2015, Recurrent Energy secured a tax equity investment commitment for the Mustang project from U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC).

The renewable energy generated by the Mustang project will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements to Sonoma Clean Power and MCE. The project is expected to produce enough electricity to power approximately 45,000 homes.

Construction of the 1,000 acre project created 450 peak construction jobs. Blattner Energy served as the provider of Engineering, Procurement, and Construction services.

RELATED: The value of a team approach to fixed-tilt ground-mount projects 

— Solar Builder magazine

Sunrun stocks up on Canadian Solar PV modules in 2016

canadian-solar-logoCanadian Solar Inc. says that it will supply 112 MW of Canadian Solar CS6P-265P PV modules to Sunrun in 2016.

“We are pleased to be working with an industry leader like Canadian Solar to ensure our customers have a great customer experience and access to high quality modules for their home solar systems,” said Paul Winnowski, Chief Operating Officer of Sunrun. “We look forward to helping more American families switch to solar and furthering our goal of creating a planet run by the sun.”

Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar, commented, “As North America’s largest module manufacturer, Canadian Solar believes wholeheartedly in our corporate mission of making a difference in the lives of others through solar. Together with Sunrun, this joint collaboration will help allow us to reach new solar users and spread the word about the incredible power of solar energy.”

Founded in 2001 in Canada, Canadian Solar is one of the world’s largest solar power companies and has a geographically diversified pipeline of utility-scale power projects. In the past 14 years, Canadian Solar has successfully deployed over 12 GW of premium quality modules in over 70 countries around the world.

— Solar Builder magazine

How new solar module technology lifts efficiency, limits price

Trina Solar module

Trina is adding power electronics onto its Trinaswitch panel, which optimizes power, facilitates string planning and helps minimize shading effects.

A whirlwind of new technology improvements are appearing in solar modules made by the world’s leading manufacturers, with common goals of improving performance and efficiency, while holding costs down to the bare bone. Many of these advances were touted during the recent SPI show in Anaheim, where manufacturers vied for the estimated 9-GW U.S. module market.

Cost cutting, which seems to be approaching bottom for basic Chinese-made p-type cells, is not receiving as much focus as higher efficiency and lowest cost of electricity (LCOE) from manufacturers targeting the U.S. market.

“At SPI, you could see more happening in crystalline silicon compared to thin film, with a particular focus on expanding mono crystalline technologies and applications,” says Mohit Anand, a senior analyst in solar markets at GTM Research in Boston. “For example, you see more n-type cells in mono crystalline modules from companies like LG and SunPower.”

More bang for the buck is also being achieved by innovation outside the cell, in the areas of frames, mounting and power electronics.

“Another thing I noticed in particular at SPI were the number of updates in frameless modules, including offerings by Canadian Solar and Trina,” Anand observes.

More watts per panel

One panel maker that has boosted watts per panel is Canadian Solar, which has raised the output of its CS6X-P over the past year to 320 W.

“Our power increases do not come with any cost increases, so the cost per watt is going continuously down,” says Thomas Koerner, the general manager of Canadian Solar, in San Ramon, Calif.

LG Electronics also has boosted wattage on both its 60- and 72-cell panels, according to David Chang, the senior manager for module sales in the Western United States for LG Electronics USA in San Jose. “Knowing that efficiency was the way to go, we’ve made tremendous strides every year and just released our 72-cell module with up to 365 watts per panel,” he says. “We also have a new version of our 60-cell panel out now, up to 320 W,” he adds.

RELATED: LG’s new lineup of high-efficiency NeON panels on the scene at SPI 

LG gains more watts from its 60-cell Mono X NeON because of its n-type double-sided cell structure, which allows the light reflected from the rear of the module to be absorbed, Chang notes.

Another panel maker that is raising the wattage is Hulk Energy Technology (HULKet), which earlier this year certified its CIGS module power at 324 W by German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.

“Our CIGS technology yields 20 to 30 percent more kWh based on the same watts as a polycrystalline PV module because it features low light absorption,” notes Brian Sung, the founder and president, of HULKet, based in Miaoli, Taiwan, just outside Taipei. “In two or three years, the cost of CIGS could be 40 percent lower than polycrystalline.”

The composition of the company’s CIGS panels is cadmium-free, unlike traditional CIGS modules, and they are marketed under a CDF trademark to promote the green effort.

RELATED: Hulk Energy Technology debuts powerful CIGS solar module in U.S. 

Because HULKet’s new Prometea panel is flexible, it is likely to be adopted in architectural applications where curves are used, as well as by mobile users, Sung suggests. His company now has production capacity of 50 MW and that soon may reach 100 MW, he notes. HULKet’s strategic partner, Energyka Group, of Montebelluna, Italy, may also add capacity near its base outside of Venice to serve the European market.

At the same time wattage is growing, more companies are offering 1,500-volt panels.

“The 1,500-volt panels are becoming more common, but it will be an installer-led transition, and it will be the same for AC panels,” Anand suggests. Among manufacturers producing 1,500-volt panels is Canadian Solar, which also will be unveiling a glass-on-glass panel within the first quarter of 2016, Koerner notes. Similarly, Trina gained UL certification for its 1,500-volt panel in July.

HULKet’s new Prometea panel is flexible and likely to be adopted in curved architectural applications.

HULKet’s new Prometea panel is flexible and likely to be adopted in curved architectural applications.

More, better electronics

Improvements in manufacturing continue to emerge, involving a host of new technology variations. One popular improvement is the shift to n-type cells from p-type cells popular among Chinese manufacturers. LG’s n-type cells use phosphorous instead of boron in the doping process to avoid light induced degradation (LID), which is caused by the simultaneous presence of boron and oxygen in the wafers. Standard poly and mono p-type cells typically show a degradation of 2 to 3 percent within the first few weeks of installation, the company notes.

Another way that LG has improved its panels is through internal wiring design. The company’s Cello technology utilizes “circular-shaped wires to scatter light for better absorption while reducing the electrical loss and increasing power output and reliability by spreading the current with 12 thin wires rather than the traditional three buss bars.”

Similarly, tenKsolar internally wires its XT Duo panels with both rows and columns so that cells have multiple paths for electricity conduction, and so shading is minimized, notes Dallas Miner, the chief technology officer for tenKsolar, based in Bloomington, Minn. This wiring mesh permits the panel to operate at a mere 15 volts, enhancing safety and eliminating potentially induced degradation (PID), while delivering 500 W. The company’s panels also come with a thin aluminum back sheet, helping to ground the panel and reduce the cost of traditional back sheet materials like polyvinyl fluoride (PVF). While tenKsolar’s panels are framed, they require no racking and are erected in a raised wave form so that they also gather reflected light.

RELATED: Watch: tenKsolar takes a totally new approach to PV system architecture #SPI 

Trina is adding power electronics onto its Trinaswitch panel, which optimizes power, facilitates string planning and helps minimize shading effects, according to Jing Tian, the head of global marketing for Trina Solar. With its Duo-Max glass-on-glass module design, PID is eliminated and cost is reduced over framed competition. The company will have 4.8 GW of module capacity by year’s end, and “we see 2016 as being a record year for us,” he notes. Glass-on-glass designs offer a number of advantages apart from the lack of a frame, which cuts costs and eliminates PID, commonly caused by electron migration into the metal frame under high temperature conditions.

Higher efficiency

SolarCity has claimed the highest efficiency panel to date with its 22.04 percent efficient offering, now being manufactured at its pilot facility in Fremont, Calif., which will ramp up to 100 MW. Then by early 2017, additional production will be available from the company’s Buffalo plant. Panasonic briefly attempted to trump the SolarCity number with a 22.5 percent claim, which was based on testing at the glass only, rather than the whole panel, which provides a more accurate estimate.

Click next page for more on efficiency, R&D, global markets and a totally new module process you don’t even know about yet

— Solar Builder magazine

Canadian Solar module shipments higher than expected this quarter

canadian-solar-logoCanadian Solar updated its business outlook for the third quarter of 2015 to reflect higher than expected solar demand in the quarter and the sale of 51 percent of the 200 MW Tranquillity solar power project in California by the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Recurrent Energy, to Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co.

For the third quarter of 2015, Canadian Solar now expects its total solar module shipments to be in the range of approximately 1.18 GW to 1.23 GW, compared to its previous guidance, which was in the range of 970 MW to 1.02 GW, including approximately 99 MW of shipments to the company’s utility-scale solar projects that will not be recognized as revenue in the third quarter of 2015.


RELATED: Canadian Solar to build huge 47-MWp solar plant in Japan 

The company now expects its total revenue for the third quarter of 2015 to be in the range of $805 million to $815 million, compared to previous guidance which was in the range of $570 million to $620 million. Gross margin for the third quarter of 2015 is expected to be at or slightly above the high end of previous guidance, which was in the range of 12 to 14 percent , primarily reflecting stronger than expected average module selling price partially offset by the Tranquillity project sale, which is expected to be profitable but with lower average gross margin.

“We ended the third quarter with stronger than expected demand in our solar module business, led by the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Japan,” said Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar. “We also benefited from the sale of a controlling interest in our 200 MW Tranquillity project in California. We are entering the fourth quarter of 2015 in an excellent competitive and financial position. We expect to see continued robust demand levels in our solar module business and we continue to execute on our already robust and steadily expanding utility-scale solar project development pipeline.”

Separately, on Oct. 19, 2015, Canadian Solar reached an agreement with LDK Solar Co. to settle a legal dispute related to a December 2012 arbitration award decision by the former Shanghai branch of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission. Under this agreement Canadian Solar will incur a cost of $20.9 million and LDK will waive any rights and benefits in connection with the December 2012 arbitration award decision. In addition, under this agreement Canadian Solar will purchase from LDK, approximately 64.3 million pieces of wafers at market prices over a three year period starting on Dec. 11, 2015.

— Solar Builder magazine