Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry taking place over three days in Munich’s International Congress Centre in May of every year. This year 1,354 exhibitors and around 50,000 visitors traversed the 100,000 square metre exhibition space.
Elgin Energy’s founders first attended Intersolar in 2009, after founding the company, to meet with industry leaders and identify business opportunities. This year a number of Elgin Energy’s team attended to see the new technology on offer for the solar sector.
Intersolar 2019 was significantly larger in size when compared to that of 2018, reflecting growth in European markets over the past twelve months. There was excitement and discussion amongst exhibitors about plans for unsubsidised solar projects that are currently in development across Europe, and in particular the UK, with plans for installation from 2020.
In terms of technology, our development team noted the market preference is changing from polycrystalline to monocrystalline modules. To date, polycrystalline modules were more economical than monocrystalline. However, now the price gap is growing smaller and leading manufacturers are predicting a market share of up to 50% for monocrystalline by next year.
Since 1976, the cost of crystalline-silicon PV modules has continually reduced and at the same time the performance has improved. Elgin Energy’s first projects installed in the UK used modules with a rated capacity of c. 250 watts peak (Wp). At Intersolar, a density of 370 – 425Wp is becoming the standard for 2019/20. This improvement means that projects today can produce double the energy for half the capital cost compared to five years ago.
An increased variety of bifacial modules were on display at this year’s exhbition. Bifacial is essentially a two sided solar panel. Sunlight is reflected from the ground surface on to the underside of the panel and energy is captured. This technology has the potential to increase yields between 5-15% depending on ground conditions.
Our team also noted significant growth in the use of trackers. Trackers increase the output of a project by turning the panels to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day. There are two types of trackers; single axis and dual axis. They are a popular choice in our new markets of America and Australia. According to the “Utility-Scale Solar 2018” report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), close to 80% of new capacity installed in 2017 included solar trackers; with one dual axis exception they are all single axis, east-west tracking.
Solar PV technology; both inverters and modules, continues to improve in performance and reduce in cost. String inverter technology has increased rapidly in recent years as an alternative to the larger central inverters. Sungrow showcased their 250kW string inverter at Intersolar 2019 – you can see a picture below.
This continuous trend of technology cost reductions and improvements coupled with the need for clean energy means the global solar industry is booming. SolarPower Europe’s Global Market Outlook cites 102.4GW of solar was installed in 2018, a 4% increase on 2017. Once again, solar installed more new capacity globally than any other fuel and twice that of coal and wind.
Solar PV is now the cheapest form of electricity as evidenced by many auction results across Europe. Closer to home, we are witnessing the second phase of the solar industry “solar 2.0” in the UK. Industry is beginning to see considerable innovation, with project revenues no longer requiring government subsidies and instead relying on wholesale spot market prices or fixed revenues from electricity suppliers. Recent announcements by large corporations to procure renewable energy, opens up alternative routes to market by providing fixed revenue for renewable projects and validates the cost competitive nature of solar PV.
Looking towards 2020, SolarPower Europe expects the Europe-wide solar market to grow by 18% with new PV installations adding 24.1GW of capacity. This would surpass the current record deployment seen in 2011, when newly installed PV capacity in Europe totalled 22.5 GW.
Intersolar 2019 demonstrated once again the unstoppable growth of the solar industry by showcasing new technologies and the opportunities they bring within the clean energy revolution.