Planning and pipeline transparency are essential, and customers need to be made aware of the items that can threaten deadlines well in advance.
PV Forecasts and Managing Supply Chain Issues and Customer Expectations
Q&A with | Soltec US
What is the current situation of Soltec in the US?
Soltec is in the best position it has ever been in the US. We’re working with multiple GW’s of capacity across a couple dozen operating projects in markets all across the country. Our largest supply project of 700MW is currently under construction in Colorado. We’ve started offering BOP/EPC services for the Distributed Generation markets in Colorado, NY state and the mid-Atlantic. We’ve opened new offices in Miami, Albany and Houston, and we now offer both 1P and 2P single-axis tracker products. Soltec is well-positioned to address the US market across the value chain for years to come.
What are the forecasts of the PV market for the coming years in the US and what role will Soltec play in it?
I touch upon this in the last question, but to elaborate, Soltec is not only a supplier of single-axis tracker equipment. We also offer installation services for high-volume projects (20MW and greater) and we offer EPC services for projects between 2 and 50MW. The scope of those services include Engineering, Permitting, Procurement of main equipment, Mechanical Install, Civil, Electrical design/engineering/install. We also provide tracker O&M services. These solutions are great for customers looking to onboard EPC providers for the DG market, save money and find efficiencies working with Soltec as an integrated tracker supplier and EPC.
The forecast is filled with committed projects over the next two calendar years. This is true of both the EPC business and the tracker supply business.
How are supply chain issues affecting your forecasts?
Soltec has made a concerted effort to communicate the challenges and the mitigation strategies to its customer base. There are some critical items, namely transformers that are experiencing lead times as long as 40-55 weeks. Planning and pipeline transparency are essential, and customers need to be made aware of the items that can threaten deadlines well in advance. Moreover, finding equipment that can be applied or adapted to supply chain surprises are important to have on hand. For example, Soltec’s tracker team has module fixation hardware that can be used on a wide variety of modules to allow customers to make late-stage changes. We’ve also pre-approved many US suppliers of steel for local componentry and we’ve added additional suppliers of electronics to mitigate supply chain risks for tracker controllers.
What plants has Soltec supplied in the US in the last year? How many of them have been bifacial?
Neptune and Thunderwolf are two large projects in Colorado that use bifacial modules. Each is about 350MW. The Great Cove (260MW) portfolio in Pennsylvania also uses bifacial modules. There are other projects in Hawaii, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Virginia and Delaware that also use bifacial equipment. In fact, it might be the case that all of the projects we supplied last year used bifacial panels.
How important will bifacial technology be in the next projects in the US market?
We’re seeing that nearly all of the PV imports into the US are bifacial. So it’s vitally important, needless to say. I’ve even been made aware that some of the thin film products are dabbling with bifacial products. They’ve found a way to cost-effectively produce thin film panels that produce energy on the underside as well.
What implementations or developments is Soltec carrying out to adapt to the US market?
The introduction of our 1P product was a big one. We were historically, and remain the leader in 2P installation globally. Our SF1 product was released to address large-scale, flat ground projects with friendly soil conditions at an aggressive sale price. The speed of install, lesser number of motors and gearboxes and low consumption of steel is a good recipe for keeping CAPEX low and improving LCOE. 2P remains a relevant product for certain project conditions, but the SF1 was designed to address a large part of the US market that keys in on 1P tracker products.
What benefit does the Soltec solar tracker have compared to others in the market?
Many things: A breadth of experience to draw from, a variety of product options to address different conditions and situations, features that avoid inter-row shading, software and hardware that optimize diffuse-light production, specific design considerations for bifacial equipment, high tolerances for installation, slope adaptability, low cost of installation, but most importantly, reliability, financial strength, and a strong team to provide customer support.
About Colin Caufield
Colin Caufield has developed business and relationships with a rapidly expanding list of contacts since he joined Soltec in 2015. He is driven by his passion for renewable energy and people, and is finding success with the Soltec offer and the positive state of the utility-scale PV tracker market in the USA with the ITC extension in place. In 2017, Caufield was promoted to VP of Sales North America.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
Soltec technical reliability comes from our team of amazing people combining seasoned solar tracker experience with young talent and cutting-edge technology to push the boundaries of innovation within standard product cost-effectiveness criteria. Customers choose Soltec for the combined cost-effectiveness of high-yield equipment with high-tolerance installation features, and the proven reliability of Soltec to meet project criteria of schedule, cost and quality.
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