Key takeaways from Solar Quality Summit Europe


Stakeholders across the solar industry converged in Barcelona, Spain, at this year’s Solar Quality Summit Europe to discuss best practices in operations and maintenance (O&M), asset management, and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC). The two-day conference this week attracted around 250 participants, according to the co-organizers, SolarPower Europe and Intersolar Europe.

SolarPower Europe CEO Walburga Hemetsberger opened the session by cautioning that failing to deliver on quality threatens the loss of trust of politicians, investors, and the public. And while the panelists argued that the marginal cost of quality is minimal, they noted just how important it is to prepare early on to establish supply chains, train workers, or lock in deals with the best suppliers.

Sessions on finance and bankability, technology, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards focused on developing best practices, in order to avoid the mistakes of the solar boom of the late 2000s. Spain, in particular, experienced a flood of solar installations in 2008, prior to the end of its generous incentive program.

“Today many if not all of the utility plants installed around that time should be revamped,” Asier Ukar, managing director of PI Berlin’s Spanish subsidiary, told pv magazine.

A panel on revamping and repowering said that replacing low-efficiency PV modules with today’s 21%-efficient panels could lead to energy yield gains of around 8%, even without altering the fixed power of PV systems. Revamped sites would also require up to 20% less space to produce the same amount of power, according to the panelists. They said this would open up the opportunity to use that extra land for boosting local biodiversity, for example.

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Emergency legislative changes at the European level could also simplify and speed up the approval process to revamp projects, providing a second chance for quality installations and better-performing assets. And as it might make financial sense to revamp or repower sites with modules performing at as high as 90% capacity, recycling schemes and the second-life market in Europe could also get a boost in the coming years.

Another topic was the role of factory and transportation audits in quality manufacturing. While the industry is increasingly adopting n-type module technology, 20% to 25% of these modules are found to need reworking during factory audits, according to Arthur Claire, head of technology at technical compliance and quality consultancy Sinovoltaics. The lack of standards for transportation audits and the resulting lack of accountability for damaged products shows a pressing need for companies and the industry as a whole to put systems in place to assure quality at each step of the way.

Other topics included innovations in monitoring, including a new peer-to-peer model to rival digital twin solutions in residential monitoring from Dutch software company Solar Monkey, and aerial solutions for image-based fault detection from UK-based Above.

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