A new report published by Wood Mackenzie identifies six key themes to pay attention to over the next 10 years for those interested in work in the solar industry. It will be defined by two trends: a shift from purely decreasing capital expenditure to a more holistic approach to reduce lifetime solar system costs and “solar plus” solutions.
“The 2020s will see levelized cost of energy (LCOE)-oriented supply chain innovation continue to drive down solar system cost and improve energy yields,” Wood Mackenzie stated in the report. “The urgent need to fight climate change will demand the solar industry to think creatively beyond what was previously expected to be feasible.”
As noted, the report identifies six key themes:
- Project LCOE reduction: “Enhancing solar system performance is crucial for lowering LCOE,” said Xiaojing Sun, a senior analyst at the firm. “Module and system components innovation will increase the energy generation per watt and reduce degradation.” In addition, innovations in wafer, cell, and modules will increase the panel power output without proportionally increasing manufacturing costs. “We are likely to see widespread applications of n-type bifacial modules using large wafers with improved hotspot performance and lower light- and temperature-induced degradations,” Sun said.
- “Solar Plus” applications taking over the market: The most talked-about “solar plus” application is solar-plus-storage. As solar and storage costs are driven down the curve, Wood Mackenzie believes that more utilities are likely to turn to solar-plus-storage instead of solar-only procurements to provide more dispatchable capacity on their grids. Further promoting the solar-plus-storage concept is the fact that more system integrators have warmed up to DC-coupled solutions that eliminate the need for a second inverter.
- Repowering existing solar plants: As existing solar projects age, and as newer, more efficient and less expensive solar technologies become available, Wood Mackenzie predicts that more owners will opt for the idea of “repowering” their existing solar plants using existing land and interconnections. As such, electrical contractors will have the opportunity to rebuild existing projects.
- Trade tensions and tariffs: The report covers a number of scenarios on the possible effects on price and availability of solar modules, depending on what happens with trade tensions and tariffs
- Intelligent manufacturing revolutionizes solar supply chain: The firm predicts as solar manufacturing plants become more technologically advanced and more automated, solar panels will be able to be manufactured in “smarter factories.”
- Cybersecurity breaches becoming commonplace: “Security experts view an attack on the electricity grid as imminent, which could have serious and far-reaching implications for the solar industry,” Wood Mackenzie stated. “While cybersecurity is addressed in portions of federal standards in the U.S., no comprehensive standard exists, leaving solar plants and the grid vulnerable.”
This again provides opportunities for contractors that can provide solutions designed to improve security.