Risen Energy has an interesting position in the market with a varied industry segment offering. How is business in 2019?
This year is quite a fruitful year for Risen – we have had very good growth on shipment volume, revenue and profitability.
To what do you attribute these strong results?
Two years ago, there was a shift in the company strategy and we now have more than 5 GW of cell capacity for high-efficiency PERC products. It was really good timing for Risen with the PERC segment being strong with stable pricing, and this has built into the good growth and performance this year.
Of course, Risen Energy isn’t only a cell and module maker – it is also a project developer in certain key markets. How has the project side of the business performed?
This year, Risen has made good progress with developing projects. We have two big projects in Australia, two in Vietnam, and also projects in other markets like Kazakhstan and Mexico. We are very active, particularly in new, emerging markets. And we are particularly familiar with the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. At the moment we have a 5 GW [project] pipeline. In Australia alone, we have 2 GW of capacity in development. For the next three to five years, Risen will do quite well in the project business.
PV project development has longer investment cycles than module manufacturing, and it can be much more capital intensive. Is it a challenge to balance this?
Project development does rely heavily on capital, and that is why we always take a careful approach and do things step by step. Risen builds around 1 GW of projects each year, and balances between the project and the manufacturing business. We are not overly aggressive on our projects.
So, you believe something approaching 9.1 GW of production capacity and around 1 GW of projects under construction is a good balance in the 2019 market?
Yes, I do. And I have to add again that it is 10 GW of module capacity, of which 5 GW is high-efficiency cells.
Some of Risen Energy’s projects have included solar trackers. Why did you make the decision to use trackers for some projects?
As a project investor, Risen is focused on IRR and LCOE. If any new technology can raise the IRR or bring down the LCOE, then we will deploy it, and tracking is a good example of that. But I must say, it depends on the location and scenario. We rely on our engineers, who calculate very precisely as to whether it’s best to use tracking or to deploy fixed mounting structures. We will evaluate each case, and it depends on the environment, and what our knowledgeable engineers recommend.
In years past, there have been concerns about the reliability of trackers, simply due to the fact that you are introducing moving parts to a solar array. Does Risen Energy have confidence in tracking technology today?
Today, we are confident to deploy tracking systems – but reliability is the most important factor in a project for us. So, we always ensure that we have high quality for any component – including tracking systems. But if the components meet our high standards and requirements, then they are reliable enough for a project to operate well.
Risen Energy has worked with Arctech Solar for both tracking systems and fixed tilt mounting structures. How did that relationship develop?
We have a very good relationship with Arctech – it is more of a partnership. Risen does not supply trackers or mounting systems, and Arctech does not produce modules or [focus on the] upstream business. So, we are a good fit for each other. This why I call the relationship a partnership.
How important has this partnership been to Risen Energy’s project business?
It has been quite important for us. For each project we need a mounting system, whether it’s tracking or fixed. For each project, our engineering team runs calculations and designs, and we work with Arctech for the best solution for the system. We work very well together on almost every project [that Risen develops].
For Chinese solar producers, right across the supply chain, international markets are important – notwithstanding the size of the Chinese domestic market. Both Risen and Arctech have considerable experience working outside of China. What do you think is the key to succeeding outside of China as a Chinese manufacturer?
Quality, service and reasonable pricing are the key elements for our success in the market. We put quality as number one – with very high criteria and standards for all of our products. We also provide very good service – “in time” service. Almost everyone can provide good service, but providing solutions when the customer needs it is important. Our mission is to provide clean energy to the world – so our projects must be very good and have a reasonable price. High prices can’t be supported by customers and investors, and too low pricing does not provide the reasonable margin that allows us to invest in R&D and new products to continue to drive down LCOE.
That sounds like it requires the development of in-country, on-the-ground teams. You have spoken about quite geographically diverse markets – how have you gone about building those teams?
Risen is growing into an international company. We have employed a lot of local team members in Mexico, in Australia and in Vietnam, as examples. We have sales teams, after-sales service, and of course quality.
Again, that requires investment.
As an international company, we have to keep making investments, which means not only in equipment and technology, but also in human resources, and on developing market channels.
What is on the horizon? What is coming up?
Risen is a tier-one company in the global solar market with an increasing production capacity. But we will balance our capacity expansion with global demand growth – and be in the top three. Risen will continue to invest in development, working on projects of around 1 GW each year across the next three to five years, and invest more resources, in terms of capital, in this. Our company will continue to invest in technology, service and products to keep a good brand and reputation in the market. We want to be a reliable partner for the solar industry and the world.