Module manufacturer Jinko Solar has said there should be a single “benchmark” test for modules used in the UK, especially for large-scale projects seeking investment.
Talking to Solar Power Portal at Ecobuild 2014, Steve Gladman, sales manager for the UK branch of Jinko Solar said there is “lots of investor interest in large-scale [solar]” in the UK from names such as, Santander, Aviva, and Macquarie but “there is a gap in the market for aiding return on investment with quality and high yield modules”.
UK developers seek the lowest prices and modules that will also deliver on investor interest for the 25-year life spans of solar parks, and that will pass rigorous investor due diligence tests. Gladman said a “benchmark” test should be established for modules installed in the UK to bring more clarity to bankability.
“There is a huge amount of money available, but no rules or regulations. Developers want to get the best they can, but there is no reference for performance. Bankability is a huge deal, as is faith in the company,” said Gladman.
“Investment is very important, Santander and Aviva etc., they are looking for the long-term investments.” According to Gladman, for module manufacturers to meet the requirements for a good return on investment, developers “such as Lightsource are asking for independent testing for new modules”.
Gladman claims independent tests can however sometimes overlook overall performance of modules, and “there is a gap in the market as no one is looking at finished performance tests. There should be an annual independent test to set a benchmark, it has to be voluntary, but to prevent manufacturers from using smoke and mirrors”.
Gladman explained further how modules can be tested on specific strengths, so manufacturers can claim high performance of a module – leaving out the overall performance of the module over the long-term, which can confuse developers and end up with investors losing out if modules do not perform over the life of a solar park.
Jinko are currently targeting large-scale UK projects, with a push for more marketing, to meet the “rush for new products to be bought out,” as developers seek higher performing modules, reiterating “but [new products] are not tried and tested, as developers seek higher efficiency [products] which also need to be independently verified,” continued Gladman.
Last year the National Solar Centre based at the Eden Project began module testing, and DECC solar advisor, Ray Noble, produced a white paper on large-scale installation rules to try and set industry standards, also promoted by minister for climate change, Greg Barker.
Gladman also noted how without regulation, residential solar “is at risk from bad press, solar is tarnished from one bad installation”, as smaller distributors take advantage of short-term opportunities and choose low-grade, untested modules.
Currently Jinko Solar is focusing on a five-project portfolio of 42MW with UK large-scale developer, Lightsource Renewable Energy, to come online in the second quarter of 2014, and a new 60 cell smart module to be bought onto the market once it has gained TUV and MCS approval.