In the second part of a two-part feature for Solar Power Portal – part one of which can be read here – Q CELLS’ Ian Clover discusses the diversification of the solar industry into other areas of clean energy as solar PV continues to evolve and the challenges it may still face.
Diversity as a strength
It is no coincidence that the diversification of Q CELLS’ business model matches the diversification seen across the entire clean energy sector. While Q CELLS remains a top ten producer of solar modules and cells globally, the company’s short- and long-term ambitions go beyond solar and into the fields of 100% renewable energy retail, storage, and the development of high-quality renewable energy projects including solar and wind.
Hanwha Solutions, the mother company of Q CELLS, recently acquired a 100% equity stake in RES France, the French business unit of UK-headquartered renewable energy developer RES Group. With this acquisition, Q CELLS has doubled its clean energy pipeline in Europe from 5GW to 10GW, making it one of the largest renewable energy developers on the continent.
In entering the wind power industry, Q CELLS has reached across the aisle. For all of solar’s adaptability, a greener energy future is one built upon a diverse foundation of wind, solar, storage, hydrogen and nuclear. With sector coupling, all forms of energy generation can play their part in a flexible energy system, powering not only our homes and buildings, but also meeting our vast transportation and heating demands, cleanly and efficiently.
To reach this objective, a more joined-up approach towards energy policy is required from government. With Glasgow hosting COP26 in November 2021, there is growing recognition in the corridors of British power that decisive action needs to be taken to develop a more secure and stable policy environment for renewables. Uncertain political planning or mixed messages on policy can often yield retroactive or hidden costs. Under such conditions, investors become nervous. A clear-sighted political framework has the joint benefits of not only setting attainable targets, but also not spooking investors nor the financial community.
The UK government is now showing encouraging signs of settled, long-term thinking. Policy is broadly supportive of electric vehicle (EV) take-up and infrastructure build-out, as well as greater provisions for household energy efficiency improvements. Both of these sectors will benefit from greater PV deployment of course – either at scale, or installed on the rooftops of private homes and businesses. Zero energy homes are the perfect vehicle for PV, and data shows that the Green Homes grant is already beginning to have an impact on solar PV uptake in the UK.
Ross Kent added: “The UK is now on a clear path of accelerated electrification at a domestic level. The increased adoption of EVs and the phasing-out of gas boilers in favour of technologies such as air source heat pumps needs a continued culture change in terms of how we source that extra demand. Additionally, government future homes standards will require homes built in 2025 to produce 80% less carbon emissions. All of these factors tell us that solar PV should be front and centre when it comes to the energy mix, and that micro generation is no longer an optional add-on, but absolutely essential. Q CELLS will continue to explore options around BIPV/in-roof applications, which can smoothly integrate with the house-building process, and we have shown for over a decade our unwavering commitment to the UK market in providing products and services that meet demand at a local level.”
The challenges that lay ahead
Q CELLS’ 20-plus-year journey in the PV industry has certainly not been without its ups and downs. The term ‘solar-coaster’ exists for a very good reason. Despite PV’s exceptional ability to not only ride out the impact of COVID, but even thrive under these historic and unprecedented conditions, pitfalls may still lay ahead – for both solar and other renewable energy technologies.
This year, the price of PV components took an unexpected rise due to a number of unforeseen external factors that impacted the supply and thus base cost of raw materials. From inverters to batteries, costs for electronic components have also increased more drastically in 2021 than most analysts had expected.
Q CELLS not only anticipates but is able to largely absorb these fluctuations in the supply chain. In diversifying not only our manufacturing footprint, but also our areas of expertise and direction of investment, the company can remain fleet-footed in the face of fast-moving market situations. This means that the supply of solar modules to UK customers remains stable, as do our prices. Our experienced sales team in the UK boasts intimate knowledge of the British market, and is backed by the technical support of Q CELLS’ German R&D HQ and the financial support of Seoul-headquartered Hanwha Group.
Bankable, innovative, ambitious, global, and with dedicated teams geared towards meeting the distinct needs of numerous local markets, Q CELLS has developed strong foundations from which it can continue to serve the clean energy industry of the UK. Be it in solar, wind, storage, EVs, or 100% renewable energy supply – Q CELLS is leading the way towards a brighter, cleaner future for all. Here’s to the next two decades, and beyond.