Phono Solar: Diverse offerings key to impacting challenging market

At the Intersolar, Phono Solar released its Phono Enercube, an inverter and energy-storage solution. Also on display were BIPV solutions for the residential market. What is Phono Solar’s strategy with these new products?

The BIPV solutions are only a part of our offerings for the residential market. We are also showing the Phono Solar Intelligent Series at Intersolar. We have been cooperating with SolarEdge and also with Tigo Energy on some of these new products. The Enercube is like a CPU for a computer, it’s an interesting product. We also have an off-grid solution, also with storage, and a solar lighting system. So there are a lot of things on offer.

The market at this time is very challenging for a lot of manufacturers, even for more established, bigger players. How difficult is it to establish the Phono Solar brand under these circumstances?

We believe that we are differentiated from our competitors, because we are not focusing on production capacity and vertical integration. At Phono Solar, our parent companies the Sumec Group Corporation and Sinomec. They have more than 33 years of experience in international trading, especially focused on machinery trading. We therefore believe that at Phono Solar we are horizontally integrated, not vertically like our competitors. So from this time on, we believe we can show many more system solutions, compared with those from our competitors.

Last year in China the 12th Five Year Plan was handed down and we repositioned ourselves accordingly. When we entered the photovoltaic industry, we had the aim of being the number one module supplier. But we have refreshed those targets. We now how a three [pronged] position in the market:

  • The first is that we become the key supplier for the whole system;
  • The second is that we are a system integrator;
  • And finally we aim to be the project investor and operator.

So we can do these three things at the same time, but of course, for different market we have different strategies.

Does the Sino-US photovoltaic trade case – or perhaps one eventually arriving in Europe – in any way change that strategy?

At this point we have not changed our global strategy. For the U.S. market we have already slowed down the number of shipments. But for Europe, we haven’t changed anything.

Is Phono Solar using OEM manufacturers in Taiwan, to circumvent the US tariffs?

We already are doing this with a cell and even a module company in Taiwan

Phono Solar has a 450 MW manufacturing capacity at present, where are those modules being shipped?

The European market represents about 70 to 80 percent of shipments at the moment, with the U.S. only being 10 percent. When you look at the rest of the world, Phono Solar has a special team for the south-east Asian market. We also already have a good brand-recognition in Pakistan and we believe there are good opportunities there.

And will the domestic Chinese market become increasingly important for Phono Solar?

Of course! I always say that the proportion of demand from the Chinese market will grow dramatically. The Chinese market is already important in 2012 and because we are a state-owned company, we have a very strong network and are very famous in the domestic market. So we already have the capacity to do much better than some of our competitors in the Chinese market.

Will there be a residential market in China of some significance in the future?

It’s not booming right now, because there isn’t a great deal of knowledge out there about photovoltaics right now. But our geographic strategy is that in the eastern part of China, we will focus on the commercial rooftop market segment, but in the west, ground-mounted solar parks.

How would describe Phono Solar’s outlook for 2012?

I believe that this Intersolar will be a system war between the players. This is largely because of FIT changes in Germany. So we believe that in the near future, the self-consumption based system in Germany will become much more popular.