Interview: Coveme CEO talks backsheets and Indian market opportunities

What technological advances has Coveme recently been focusing on in the backsheet industry?

Gian Paolo Fedrigo: as a leading backsheet manufacturer oriented to new R&D solutions, Coveme has been the first to produce backsheets for 1,500V high system voltage modules. These modules, engineered for both utility-scale and commercial applications, permit to achieve 3-4% reduction in balance of system costs. In 2015 Coveme completed the world’s first supply of backsheet for a groundbreaking 1.5 GW project of 1,500VDC modules, which is currently being installed in US. The desire to improve this winning solution has encouraged Coveme to develop new solutions, driving the 1500VDC backsheets to their third generation.

dyMat H2DPYE and dyMat MHDPYE L are in compliance with PDT 1500 VDC in AIR. The third generation of backsheets for high voltage insulation is in compliance with PDT 1,500 VDC in OIL.

A new product range, for 1,000VDC and 1,500VDC, is compliant with the new regulations under discussion by the IEC: both products are available with different customized reflectivity and in a low shrinkage version.

What other areas of innovation is Coveme exploring?

We are constrantly striving to face and overcome new challenges, and have been investigation a series of innovative products that are in the process of development. These include Superblack backsheets, which help reduce the energy loss in the module by more than 50% compared to a standard black backsheet.

We are also working on transparent backsheets for BIPV and for PV bifacial cells application for 1,500 VDC systems, including a special hybrid solution for bifacial modules that will increase the panel output. This product can also be applied to glass/glass solutions. Coveme has also developed backcontact new products for shingling and glass/glass solutions.

How does Coveme currently view the opportunities in the Indian solar market?

The Indian market is very vibrant. I was at the REI exhibition last year, and coming back in 2016 I see tremendous growth. There is hype, but it is hype that is backed up with plenty of players increasing their capacity in the Indian market. In the meantime, new companies are starting operations in the country, and we see plenty of good players here, which makes the market interesting to us.

Another point to remember about the Indian market is that there is a growing international presence. India is becoming very attractive for companies coming from all over the world. What is also interesting to observe is the heavy presence of Chinese companies here. The Indian market is very attractive for big Chinese companies, and this shows to me that there is a confidence that India will continue to enjoy growth.

Of course, with China recently having cut its FIT, this has meant India has become even more attractive for Chinese companies.

Manufacturing in India is a key topic right now. And given that India is a cost-conscious market and Coveme is known for high quality and innovation, how do you marry these two mindsets?

The Indian market is very cost competitive, yes. We try to not compromise on quality and performance, but try to be as close as possible to the committed price requirements of the market. We are in the Indian market because we are always aware of such pressures, and are able to tune our prices accordingly.

Prices that you see here in India, though, I have to say, are already in the global market range. The prices we work with India are not so different to what we see in China. There can be different negotiation styles and different negotiation approaches, very small cultural differences and business drivers. But what we see here is that there are not yet the big giants dominating that we see in China. It is a market where Coveme is growing.

What discussions have you had with Indian module makers? Are their demands or requirements any different from standard?

I don’t know if it’s the exhibition mood or what, but our local customers are happy to subscribe to our quality and performance. They want to work with us. When you meet them at the show, the topic of price is always on the agenda, and these are the discussions we have been having. Our customers here are placing a lot of importance on the long-term relationship, stability and reliability. I see that they are rewarding us because of this. Even if they are under price pressure, they still know that they need the reliability that we offer.

1500v components have begun to be embraced in some markets, Is it the same here in India?

It is picking up. I haven’t received any specific requirements about 1500v. We have great experience in 1500 volts, a leading supplier in this area, and have been awarded last year a major project of 1.5 GW using 1500 volts. We have already developed several new generation projects using 1500 volts, and today we are highly competitive in terms of performance and price points. And so have a lot of strong and successful experience in this area.

Things began later in India, and so the level of maturity is one step behind than maybe what we have seen in the US, Europe and China as well. However, India is now operating in a global market where large players are able to enter and raise standards. There is also quite good investor perspectives here, and good perspective on material. I believe that very shortly India will be a state-of-the-art market for PV.

People are more focused on what is next.

Coveme has a big presence in India. We come here very often, and our aim is to increase our customer base in India, and become more localized in the market.