SNEC opens to bustling crowds

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The 8th SNEC PV Power Expo kicked off in Shanghai on Tuesday with bustling crowds and an upbeat atmosphere. The Chinese and global market growth energized the mood in the expo’s 13 exhibition halls.

Crowds of visitors gathered at the Heraeus stand to hear about the opening of the company’s new Chinese production facility for metallization pastes. Evonik also reported increased demand in China for its polymers for module protection (Vestamid) and raw materials for encapsulants (Taicros).

Suntech is one of the Chinese companies that is investing in upgraded or new equipment, as Hui Wu, director of global marketing at Wuxi Suntech Power told pv magazine. European companies like Schmid, Singulus, Teamtechnik and Manz, which are exhibiting their products at the Shanghai show, are benefiting from this trend despite the obvious the increased presence of Chinese equipment and inverter manufacturers compared to earlier shows.

Industry insiders told pv magazine that the selling prices for many Chinese residential string inverters have dropped below $0.20 per watt, whereas European and U.S. brands are sold between $0.35 to $0.26 per watt. Despite the high competition, European inverter makers like Kostal Solar are planning to enter the Chinese market and start local manufacturers, as Kostal General Manager Werner Palm told pv magazine. He is banking on the growing number of private homes in China and the start of the distributed PV power market.

Dinghuan Shi, chairman of the Chinese Renewable Energy Society (CRES), stressed the challenge of building up a new segment for distributed PV power in China – and a reason for the so far low installations of only 188 MW in the first quarter of the year.

The Chinese government is implementing several measures and guidelines for the involved parties at the local and regional level to speed up the process, he said. If the target of 8 GW for distributed PV power in 2014 cannot be reached, the government will compensate the sector with a higher installation target for 2015, he added.

Consultant Frank Haugwitz listed several challenges facing the distributed power sector in China: Many commercial rooftops are not strong enough for PV installations; often the ownership of buildings is not clear; there is no definition of the eligible plant sizes for commercial and private rooftops and often there are no electric meters for single rooftops. Yet Haugwitz is also optimistic that those hurdles can finally be overcome and the announced installation goals in China can be reached.