Bad news: Utility-scale solar dipped in Q3 because of tariffs; Good news: Strong pipeline ahead

PV installation forecast

The Section 201 solar tariffs took a toll on utility-scale solar installations in the third quarter according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report for Q3 from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The residential market, meanwhile, continued to stabilize after a down 2017. Overall, the analysts expect 2018 growth to be flat. In total for Q3, the U.S. solar market installed 1.7 GWdc of solar PV, a 15% decrease from Q3 2017 and a 20% decrease from Q2 2018.

“If not for the tariffs, the U.S. solar market would undoubtedly look better today than it does now,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “However, as this report shows, this is a resilient industry that cannot be kept down for long. With smart policies in place, the potential for the solar industry is hard to overstate.”

Total installed U.S. PV capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years. By 2023, more than 14 GWdc of PV capacity will be installed annually.

Utility-scale

utility pipeline wood mackenzie

For the first time since 2015, quarterly additions of utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) fell below 1 gigawatt (GW), highlighting the impact of the tariffs and the uncertainty surrounding them in late 2017 and early 2018. As a result, the U.S. solar market was down 15 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of the year, but the report notes that a strong project pipeline lies ahead.

“Developers originally planning to bring projects online in Q3 2018 were forced to push out completion dates to Q4 2018 or Q1 2019 due to uncertainty around tariffs,” said Colin Smith, Senior Analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “We did, however, see utility PV procurement outpace installations fourfold in Q3, showing that despite the tariffs causing project delays, there is substantial growth ahead for the U.S. utility PV sector.”

Even with the tariffs, the report forecasts 3.5 GW of utility PV for Q4 2018, and projects that the fourth quarter will be the largest quarter for utility PV installations since Q4 2016, as Wood Mackenzie expects many of the delayed projects to come online by the end of the year.

Residential

On the residential side, Q3 was the third consecutive quarter in which residential PV was essentially flat or marginally up on both a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis after the market had contracted by 15 percent in 2017. Nevada was a particular bright spot as the state experienced steady installation growth, and Florida is on pace for a strong year.
Slightly improving their 2018 forecast, Wood Mackenzie now expects a total of 11.1 GW of new PV installations to come online by the end of the year.

Non-residential

Non-residential PV grew 6% quarter-over-quarter and declined by 6% year-over-year. California’s commercial sector experienced solid growth and New York saw a record-breaking quarter. Minnesota’s community solar build out continued, with more than 400 megawatts added so far this year.

— Solar Builder magazine

Trimark Associates adds new features to its SCADA System for utility-scale solar sites

 

Trimark Associates

Trimark Associates, Inc., a leading provider of metering, SCADA, and energy storage technology solutions for the electric power industry, completed software updates for its T1-S SCADA system. With these enhancements, clients can improve their performance management analysis to optimize power generation and profits. The latest T1-S Vantage User Interface enhancements include the following.

  • Simplified trending and analysis: Users can easily switch between historical and real-time trending values on one dashboard to improve the efficiency of analysis.
  • Portfolio-wide key performance indicators: T1-S Vantage calculates and displays a Performance Index (PI) to indicate if a site’s performance is aligned with the site conditions and an Availability Index (AI) to show whether all the power-producing devices are available.
  • Production forecasting integration: T1-S Vantage integrates production forecasting data from a client’s Clean Power Research (CPR) SolarAnywhere subscription, in addition to Trimark’s proprietary production forecasting model.
  • Control room / operations center dashboard displays: The entire dashboard displays critical performance data for improved visualization and decision-making, with the ability to customize displays.
  • Integrated external file repositories: Clients can access their external files from T1-S Vantage, while maintaining security and access restrictions, eliminating the need to duplicate documents.
  • Third-party gateway integration: T1-S SCADA can view, trend, report, and analyze data in T1-S Vantage from third-party gateways and data loggers.

— Solar Builder magazine

Rhode Island’s largest solar project is on the way via Southern Sky Renewable Energy, Conti Solar

Rhode Island solar project

Conti Solar, a national solar EPC, O&M and energy storage company, is providing full turnkey EPC services for the largest solar installation to date in Rhode Island. Developed by Southern Sky Renewable Energy, the 21.3-MW, Gold Meadow Farms solar project is being constructed in Cranston, Rhode Island. When completed, this solar project will generate clean solar energy for the City of Providence, significantly reduce the capital city’s energy costs and contribute to the state’s Clean Energy Portfolio.

The solar project spans over 100 acres of rugged, rocky terrain. With approximately 53,000 solar panels and 130 string inverters to be installed, the project will employ hundreds of people across the state. In addition, it will drive tens of thousands of dollars in revenue into the communities, through local businesses and taxes. The Gold Meadow Farms solar project is expected to be completed in early 2019.

sb-econference-web-post

Lindsay McGovern, Vice President of Southern Sky said, “Conti Solar has collaborated with our team to rapidly resolve any challenges we face. They are resourceful and responsive. This type of reliability is an important trait for an EPC provider.”

Conti Solar is a leading solar EPC in Rhode Island and builds some of the largest and highest profile projects in the state. The Gold Meadow Farms solar project is one of over 45 MW of projects that Conti Solar is currently constructing in the ocean state. The company’s substantial track record and project experience across solar subsegments including agriculture, landfill, community solar, and large-scale projects drive reliability in efficient project completion for solar developers, utilities and independent power producers. Both Southern Sky and Conti Solar are known for their exceptional problem-solving skills and their dedication to delivering high quality solar projects.

“Southern Sky’s regional knowledge and experience is critical to the success of challenging solar installations. We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with a developer who is focused on executing projects the right way, the first time,” said Eric Millard, Chief Commercial Officer of Conti Solar.

— Solar Builder magazine

Saving costs with large-scale string inverter design, part 1

CPS 60kW Ground AZ

String inverters are now a staple of the commercial and industrial and small utility-scale segments, which was solely the domain of central inverters once upon a time. The trend started about six years ago when string inverters souped-up to 1,000 volts and developers and EPCs saw the value in chasing the higher efficiencies, multiple MPPTs and greater energy harvest rewards provided by distributed string architecture.

But two years ago, the shift to an even lower cost 1,500-volt architecture started, and the math shifted right back to central inverters because 1,500-volt three-phase string inverters weren’t available.

“A year and a half ago, string inverters were about 8 cents per watt and central plus combiners were 6 cents per watt, so that seemed cheaper,” says Ed Heacox, GM, CPS America. “Central plus combiner boxes seemed cheaper.”

inverter-buyers-guide-300-250

But string inverters have souped-up again, and that economic story has flipped again. Instead of string vs. central, the discussion is changing to distributed string vs. “virtual centralized” string. In the Solar Builder Inverter Buyer’s Guide this year, you’ll see a bunch of string inverters in the 100 to 125 kW range, and those that aren’t rated at 1,500 volts will be soon. The cost is now closer to 5 to 6 cents per watt, with central inverters still sitting at a cost per watt similar to two years ago. That aforementioned 3 to 5 MW cap is about to be a thing of the past. CPS has its 1,500-volt product coming out in June and says it is rocketing past that 3 to 5 MW sweet spot.

“We are having regular discussions about projects 20 to 30 MW in size now when before, that was extremely rare,” says Sarah J. Ozga, product manager North America for CPS America. This could possibly go as high as 100 MW in the not-too-distant future.

Now, all costs being equal, some will still gravitate to central inverters because of operations and maintenance preferences: Lots of walking or driving all over to address each O&M issue spread across a 30 MW site, and god help you if the site was mapped incorrectly. String inverters can feel unwieldy if you’re unprepared for them.

“A lot of time O&M depends on the developer or EPC’s personal experience with inverter reliability,” Heacox says. “Those who had a lot of downtime on central, are for sure leaning to string. But those who have had great experiences don’t feel they need to change for projects larger than 5 MW. But some see that if they go down the string path, there is more interchangeability among suppliers with relatively similar products — and the engineering and workload need for swapping out string inverters is a lot easier than reengineering a 3 MW power station.”

In part 2, we will look at two different string solutions that offer the lowest cost path and meet any O&M preferences you may have. We will also dive into this in MUCH greater detail in this upcoming free webinar. Sign up here.

Utility-Scale String Design

Wed, Jun 20, 2018 2:00 PM EDT

When designing a large site one consideration is String or Central. Both have well defined benefits. Historically, the large utility-scale sites have mainly relied upon central inverters. Now a third option, the Virtual Central, is paving the way for string inverters into this space. In this webinar, we will discuss the benefits and disadvantages to both the distributed and centralized string architectures and how the design choice affects installers, developers and site owners. Sign up here.

— Solar Builder magazine

Trina Solar debuts utility-scale solution with Huawei, Sungrow, Nclave

Trinasolar

Trina Solar Limited launched a new smart PV solution, TrinaPro, at its global headquarters in Changzhou, China, designed for utility-scale ground mounted PV systems. It is the result of Trina Solar’s full cooperation agreement with Huawei Technologies Co., LTD, Sungrow Power Supply Co., LTD, as well as its strategic cooperation agreement with Nclave Renewable S.L., respectively.

TrinaPro is the first smart PV solution with an optimized combination of Trina Solar’s solar modules, state-of-the-art solar tracker systems or floating systems, and world-class inverters. As a new value-added product, TrinaPro is characterized by premium components, optimized system integration and smart O&M interconnection.

RELATED: Module Evolution: What big-time PV improvements will boost panel efficiency?

TrinaPro includes both ground-mounted solutions and floating solutions. The ground-mounted solution features a state-of-the-art solar tracker system, which will help improve energy gain by 10%-30%. The floating solution will cover several application scenarios such as reservoirs, lakes, beaches, etc. With the optimized matching among components and “Edge Computing” algorithm integration, TrinaPro can improve system stability with higher power generation and lower BOS cost in order to reduce system LCOE.

Furthermore, with the interconnection between the “Edge Computing” algorithm and a smart O&M system on a cloud platform, TrinaPro is empowered to analyze and process data from the cloud, to optimize the system’s operational model and ensure the system runs smoothly and efficiently.

— Solar Builder magazine