From the Mag: A selection of stories from the November issue

Front and center for the November issue of pv magazine is an examination of the tracking sector’s growing recognition as one of solar’s best value-add technologies, boasting a healthy-looking demand curve that is set to keep on rising as costs fall, technology improves and solar’s growth spreads across more emerging markets.

Elsewhere in this issue pv magazine explores topics as diverse as Southern Europe’s blossoming love for net metering, Taiwan’s post-duty PV landscape, and innovation in the lamination landscape.

Regular subscribers know what to do next – head on over to our archive section to either read the entire publication online or download the magazine PDF – while those yet to furnish themselves with a regular subscription can enjoy this month’s three free articles, right here. But first, here’s a taste of what lies in store…

Right on track

"The tracker industry is moving at about 1,000 mph now, because trackers significantly enhance the financial value of PV solar as a generation asset" – those are the words of Array Technologies’ CEO Thomas Conroy.

And he should know. As one of the largest providers of trackers globally, Array Technologies has seen first-hand the uptick in interest in the technology, and their emergence as a fully recognized addition to large-scale solar farms in many of the world’s most viable markets.

Within four years, IHS forecasts that the tracker market will be worth $2 billion annually, reaching 26 GW by 2022 – up from 9 GW currently. Such growth will not come easily, nor organically. Rather, the leading suppliers are having to up their game – in terms of technical proficiency, cost reduction, improved logistical supply and additional layers of operational support – but the rewards are apparent.

One such approach towards cornering greater market share is the pursuit of trackers that support 1,500 V systems – something U.S. company NEXTracker has focused on.

"The 1,500 V tracker adds a huge amount of value to customers; we’ve been shipping that quite a bit," NEXTracker CEO Dan Shugar told pv magazine. The CEO also spoke candidly about the company’s takeover by assembly giant Flex, describing the move as an inevitable consolidation of an industry that is working hard to meet surging global demand for tracker technology.

With fewer companies able to withstand these pricing and supply pressures, a select handful of those that survive will have to seek out strategic partners as well as strategic technical approaches in order to maintain a viable market share – but these are challenges that the sector appears well-equipped for as innovation in the form of robotics eases some of the strain.

Inverter rankings

Every year pv magazine bends the ear of IHS to rank and analyze the performance of the ten leading inverter suppliers operating in the solar industry. This year, based on data analyzed over the first six months of the year, the rankings throw up a couple of surprises amid the status quo.

SMA, top-spot still secure, actually confounded doubters in the most impressive way, increasing its share of global market revenues from 11% at the end of 2014 to 14% by the midway point of this year thanks to the swift action the company took in responding to falling sales and straitened market conditions in 2014.

The ranking also sees ABB remain in situ in second place having enjoyed a steady year, before throwing up its first surprise: SolarEdge – the Israeli power optimizer supplier – took third place in terms of global market revenues over the first half of the year, rising from tenth place at the end of 2014 to become the market’s biggest winner.

The remainder of the list can be viewed here online, and the article also touches on wider trends that have shaped the inverter industry in 2015, and looks ahead to what may further mould the market into 2016 and beyond.

Farming and storage

The growing prominence of smartly managed storage systems supporting solar arrays is brought under the microscope this month at a farm in rural Germany.

German storage solution provider Tesvolt supplied its modular battery system to a dairy farm in the country’s Schleswig-Holstein region to support its 40 kW rooftop solar PV array. The idea of combining solar+storage with dairy farming is to ensure that the farm’s energy load profile is properly supported by a smart energy system able to respond to peaks and troughs in energy use and demand.

Aside from the benefits that a modular, flexible and clean solar+storage system delivers to time-poor farmers, the case study also examined the cost savings wrought by such an approach, with Tesvolt claiming that initial costs for the battery are paid back within eight years for a standard, commercial-scale application.

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