Between COVID-19 and escalating trade tensions, especially between the U.S. and China, the global supply chain is experiencing a period of unsteadiness. But rethinking how the supply chain looks can be a challenge, especially for sectors in which the supply chain has been built up over the course of many years.
With solar PV products being manufactured internationally, U.S. solar professionals could witness supply chain disruption firsthand. This is especially problematic as the industry moves toward compliance with rapid shutdown requirements, which are currently in place in 34 states and mandate that distributed energy resources have a simple method for de-energizing in the event of an emergency.
But there is a way for installers, purchasing managers and operations managers to better protect themselves from supply chain issues. A growing number of companies are manufacturing rapid shutdown solutions that are certified by the SunSpec Alliance, a standards body that establishes communications protocol and ensures products can operate effectively across systems, regardless of brand, origin or supplier.
Think back on some of your recent projects. Solar installers may have had jobs that are fully designed, only to find the parts they want aren’t available. Purchasing managers could face a situation where they want to switch vendors but can’t, because they rely on a specific product feature. Operations managers may face a scenario where they’re responsible for a fleet of systems, but are limited by lack of knowledge about a specific component.
These are all scenarios in which a SunSpec-certified rapid shutdown solution would help professionals keep their businesses moving forward rather than being hung up on limitations from one specific supplier.
The SunSpec Alliance has the support of many industry leaders, including balance-of-system suppliers balance-of-system suppliers with stand-alone PV module-level initiators and transmitter products (APsystems, JMTHY, Midnite Solar, Stäubli and ZERUN); inverter manufacturers with integrated transmitters (Fronius, Ginlong and SMA); semiconductor companies (Texas Instruments) and SunSpec Authorized Testing Laboratories (CSA, Intertek and UL).
Together, these companies offer more choices for solar professionals when it comes to balance-of-system components, inverters and semiconductors. Greater choice helps in times of supply chain constraints and provides a wide range of cost-effective, standardized solutions for rapid shutdown compliance. With standardized solutions in place, the solar PV industry can be more profitable, competitive and better achieve widespread deployment over other forms of energy.
When designing projects or sourcing products, be sure to evaluate the health of any vendors you may want to work with. Take into consideration the current global landscape when it comes to trade and supply chain, and when possible, consider products that are SunSpec-certified because this will give you more choice and more flexibility should you run into issues with one supplier.
Tom Tansy is chairman of the SunSpec Alliance.
— Solar Builder magazine