STS News

Dec 2020

Q4-2020 STS Public Webinar- “Navigating Today’s PV Module Trends through Upstream and Downstream Vetting”

This public webinar focuses on both the value and risks associated with large modules technology trend and how they may distribute along the value chain, with RETC and Clearway as the special content contributors.

The session topic discussion was one of the most relevant in the industry today, focusing on both the value and risks associated with large modules technology trend and how they may distribute along the value chain.

Some highlights:

#1 From the perspective of the inspection body, what are the most important points of attention when buying large modules?

“We have just released a White Paper describing exactly that. We have identified, indeed, a number of risks when looking at large modules from a manufacturing point of view. Actually, there are quite a number of things that can go wrong with large modules. It’s important to understand that the high-power modules that we see today are not so much coming from the increase of efficiency. The efficiency as a function of the module power is pretty much scattered all over the place. It’s really a matter of increasing the size of the modules and the size increase of the modules comes mostly from the size of the wafers.

One type of wafer was dominating the market this year, and next year we expect that to shift, and the shift is extremely rapid. When you take the value chain, you first look at the wafers. Mechanically, you have some risk of breakage. In addition, when processing wafers into cells, a change of one nanometer in cell processing passivation deposition can have a huge impact on the efficiency. Another concern is about the measurement of these modules. It is complex to build a solar simulator that will be homogeneous to the level that is required.”

– FRÉDÉRIC DROSS, PhD, VP of Strategic Development, STS

#2 What do buyers expect from modules manufacturers introducing a new product? How do they vet a new technology?

“As the participant in the development and ownership and operation side of the project, it’s our responsibility to pull together with counterparties, financing and construction, a system that produces the energy. When new technologies come to market, we are eager to embrace it because we want to have a competitive advantage in the electricity pricing we can offer, but we’re also cautious.

The first and most important thing we consider with new technologies is reliability. We have to consider performance, it’s not just, obviously, the pricing. We have to figure out whether this new product or technology will yield the different amount of energy or longer lifetime.

Consideration about all those factors provides us with an indication of what the pricing should be for that product and whether we’re able to pay any amount of premium for that or not.”

– Scott Stephens, Head of Technology, Clearway Energy Group

#3 How does RETC assess the risks associated with the latest module trends, and what risks have you identified so far?

“What we’re setting out to do is to ensure that these risks are understood, tested, evaluated and communicated to the industry. In this regard, we have developed a hail durability test program. Any module that module manufacturer produces, we will vet them and offer different test severities that will allow us to understand how they will perform and what risk they present under different conditions.

There are other risks, like connectors, you should take into consideration, and what we’re here to do is really to help these module manufacturers assess their products and provide them with the technical due diligence reports that are going to end up on your desk to be able to make good solid decisions based on actual data.”