The Top Trends, For 2014 And Beyond
This is one of my favorite issues of the year. The Solar Power World team taps into our vast network of industry experts and asks important questions about the various segments of solar. As we reach halfway through the year, it’s a good time to take stock of where we stand as an industry — and where our sources, in the thick each segment, think we are going.
The consolidation predicted last year for silicon panel manufacturers has been surprisingly slow. It’s not that there hasn’t been any consolidation and exits from the U.S. market (see Talesun, Creotecc, Power-One and Sharp), but I was expecting the pace to accelerate considerably this year.
Silicon prices appear to have stabilized, and GTM Research predicts significant increases in the prices of Chinese panels (I’m holding my breath to see the Department of Commerce’s ruling). It should allow some struggling manufacturers to take a breath and regain their footing.
On the other hand, it could significantly raise panel installation costs, which could slow down the phenomenal growth the industry has experienced in the past several years — but that’s another column for another day.
Kathie says use of module-level power electronics (MLPEs), including microinverters and power optimizers, is growing — at least in the residential and commercial inverter markets. More panel manufacturers are also teaming up with MLPE manufacturers to integrate their products into a single unit. There is also a push — which appears to be true across all the segments — for worldwide standards, which would lower manufacturing and installation costs.
Standards would also allow manufacturers to know how their products will be judged, and installers around the world could make even more informed decisions about what inverter best fits their needs. Lastly, it would weed out the weaker players and leave the space open for the best in class.
In racking-and-mounting (R&M), Steven says manufacturers are trying to minimize the number of parts in each system to speed up installation. “Integration” is the buzzword. What’s fascinating to me is the creative ways manufacturers are going about it.
As you peruse our trends section, you’ll see some category changes from last year. We’ve expanded our trends section this year from 15 to 19, breaking down generation technologies, inverters and racking-and mounting into their component parts to provide a more detailed look at the industry’s most important trends.
We’ve also added new categories, including:
Solar Hot Water, Off-Grid, MLPE, Distribution
We’ve tried to present these trends in ways that you can use to not only educate yourselves, but your customers as well. We hope you enjoy this section as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you.