Solar trackers continue to take more market share in large-scale PV design, and the #TrumpTariffs may even encourage more tracker deployment, in order for more conservative investors who traditionally installed fixed-tilt under pre-tariff pricing look to boost long-term project value. Even before accounting for that possibility, according to new data from GTM Research, global solar tracker shipments hit a record 14.5 gigawatts in 2017. This represents growth of 32 percent year-over-year.
“Mexico and Brazil are two of the fastest growing solar markets in the world, each accounting for over 1.5 gigawatts of tracker shipments in 2017, notes Scott Moskowitz, senior analyst at GTM Research and author of the study. “The U.S. utility-scale market was significantly stunted last year due to tariff uncertainty, so it took a backseat to Latin America.”
In spite of strong growth, GTM expects to see continued consolidation in the industry. The report notes that vendor margins continue to compress as the market grows, making profitable growth a significant challenge. There has already been one significant acquisition in 2018, with steel giant ArcelorMittal acquiring Exosun out of French bankruptcy court in January.
However, analysts at GTM Research remain optimistic. “Fundamentals in the global utility-scale solar industry are excellent, and trackers are an obvious choice in most developing solar markets,” said Moskowitz. “We expect 30 percent growth in 2018, with shipments approaching 20 gigawatts.”
Leclanché, an Ontario, Canada-based global integrator of energy storage, has selected NEXTracker to supply its NX Drive energy storage system (ESS) for battery solutions the company is installing at commercial and industrial businesses in Ontario, Canada. NX Drive is a standardized battery enclosure system for generation-plus-storage and stand-alone storage applications. In this installation, NX Drive ESS will be utilized as a stand-alone system, incorporating a storage inverter and entire ESS within the enclosure to help power several small businesses in metropolitan Toronto. Selected for its long-term value, intelligent design and quality components, each ESS unit has a capacity of approximately two MWh.
“NEXTracker’s NX Drive ESS technology exceeded our safety and aesthetic design requirements while reducing the required footprint,” said Thom Reddington, Leclanché Sr. VP North America. “They were able to design the solution to incorporate the entire PCS (power control system) which includes not just a battery in the container, but also a fully integrated inverter and entire ESS system.”
“By partnering with Leclanché on this innovative program, we can help commercial and industrial customers minimize their energy demand costs with our NX Drive ESS,” said Dan Shugar, NEXTracker CEO. “With the Canadian power supply relying more on renewable but intermittent power sources, NX Drive takes the pain out of these grid management challenges by providing an integrated and reliable storage system.”
NX Drive provides a flexible, pre-engineered balance-of-system (BOS) solution for virtually any generation-plus-storage or stand-alone storage application. NX Drive consists of a standard ISO form-factor enclosure with pre-engineered and integrated electrical, mechanical and thermal management safety features. Customers can also upgrade battery modules as technology evolves, and integrate photovoltaic and/or storage inverters, depending on design preference. Using advanced, patent-pending technologies to ensure safe operation and optimized performance, the NX Drive system infrastructure supports standard customer-supplied or NEXTracker-sourced Tier 1 lithium-ion batteries.
These Leclanché energy storage projects support the larger trend in Ontario towards clean, reliable energy generation and grid resiliency. In 2010, Ontario launched the Long-Term Energy Plan which has phased out coal-fired electricity generation and built a clean system that is more than 90% free of greenhouse gas emissions. Now the Energy Plan is focused on ensuring there is a robust supply of electricity to power homes and businesses across Ontario by increasing the renewable mix on the grid using energy storage applications.
Project not pictured. Just a lovely shot of a bridge in Richmond, Calif.
Built on an old refinery, MCE Solar One is a new 60-acre, 10.5 MW ground mount solar farm in Richmond, Calif., brought to life by Cenergy Power and sPower.
The project deployed approximately 80,000 ground mounted modules using both a fixed tilt rack as well as single axis trackers, with RPCS supplying and installing the Array Technologies DuraTrack HZ v3 tracker for the SAT portion. Pre-development costs were covered in part by customers participating in MCE’s Deep Green 100 percentrenewable energy service. Once completed, MCE Solar One will generate renewable energy to power 3,417 homes per year.
MCE and the city of Richmond also committed to a 50 percent local hire requirement to build MCE Solar One, guaranteeing local benefits through clean energy job creation. In supporting this local hire requirement, MCE created over 300 jobs by partnering with RichmondBUILD, a program that focuses on developing skill in the high growth, high wage construction and renewable energy sectors. Eighty percent of graduates from RichmondBUILD’s programs are placed into well-paying jobs. MCE will train and hire skilled graduates of the RichmondBuild program as employees for the project.
“It’s great seeing an old refinery convert its property to a solar project. Overcoming site-specific environmental and property challenges on this site is proof that more of these projects are going to keep happening. It was a pleasure supporting MCE, sPower, and our long-term partners at Cenergy while providing opportunities for local workers through RichmondBUILD,” said RPCS Chief Sales Officer Alex Smith. “This project is a real achievement for everyone involved and a success for lots of people on lots of different levels. We’re very happy to have helped support MCE Solar One and to congratulate MCE, sPower, and Cenergy Power.”
Together, MCE, sPower, Cenergy, and RPCS are working toward increasing the use of renewable energy resources in an effort to help the state reach its greenhouse gas reduction goals, all while creating local jobs and clean power.
Global solar EPC company Sterling and Wilson selected NEXTracker to supply 325 megawatts (5 blocks of 65 MW each) of its smart solar trackers to its massive project within the Benban solar park in Aswan, Egypt. The Benban solar park occupies 37-square-kilometers and, when completed in 2019, will host a total capacity of more than 1.6 gigawatts (GW), making it the largest planned solar installation in the world.
Egypt is increasingly turning to the sun for power as solar has become competitive with traditional generation. The World Bank reports that Egypt relied on fossil fuels for 96 percent of its total energy consumption in 2014. Looking forward, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports, “Egypt plans to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2022.”
“We’re thrilled that Sterling and Wilson chose NEXTracker to supply our trackers for what’s predicted to be the largest solar facility in the world,” said Dan Shugar, founder and CEO at NEXTracker. “We’ve developed a successful partnership with Sterling and Wilson, having deployed over 400 MW of trackers for their projects in India, and are delighted to be extending that partnership to North Africa. It’s very gratifying to be a part of Egypt’s investment in the solar industry and the country’s movement towards a cleaner and brighter future.”
Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts the global energy storage market will “double six times” by 2030, growing from less than 5 gigawatt-hours in 2016 to more than 300 gigawatt-hours. An estimated $103 billion will be invested in energy storage over that time period. All of those numbers mean a big opportunity for solar, which is why NEXTracker is broadening its approach to large-scale PV deployment by adding an Energy Storage Solutions portfolio of products alongside its decentralized tracker system.
The storage solutions include NX Drive, a standardized battery enclosure system for generation-plus-storage or stand-alone storage applications, and NX Flow, a modular, integrated solution designed for long duration solar-plus-storage applications. Each is designed to maximize long-term value and offer the lowest levelized cost of storage (LCOS) for a wide variety of applications, such as peak smoothing, bulk load shifting and demand charge reduction.
Inside NX Drive
NX Drive provides a flexible, pre-engineered balance-of-system (BOS) solution for virtually any generation-plus-storage or stand-alone storage application. NX Drive consists of a standard ISO form factor enclosure with pre-engineered and integrated electrical, mechanical, and thermal management features. Customers can also upgrade battery modules as technology continues to evolve and integrate PV and/or storage inverters depending on design preference. Using advanced, patent-pending technologies to ensure safe operation and optimized performance, the container delivers a standardized system infrastructure for customer-supplied or NEXTracker-procured Tier 1 lithium-ion batteries.
Inside NX Flow
NX Flow’s complete storage solution (formerly known as NX Fusion Plus) integrates battery, inverter, solar tracker and software technologies to improve return on investment for owners of solar power plants. At the core of the system lies an advanced vanadium flow battery (VFB), which is DC-coupled with the photovoltaic (PV) array for high round-trip efficiency. With NX Flow, the battery charges directly off the array, enabling the battery to capture “clipped” energy up to its storage capacity limit. Energy that has been lost to clipping can now be captured and used to generate additional kilowatt-hours revenue. Pairing NX Flow VFB technology with ground-mounted solar power offers a bankable long duration storage option for project developers and asset owners.