Large-scale photovoltaic power plants are an important driver for global PV growth. A growing number of large-scale projects are being implemented and connected to the grid around the world. In the dynamically expanding markets – especially the largest market, China – multi-megawatt power plants account for most of the deployment. Intersolar Europe, the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry and its partners, and the accompanying Intersolar Europe Conference are taking an in-depth look at large-scale power plants and the opportunities and challenges they bring, including operation and maintenance (O&M), financing and the impact of sinking prices on PV components.
Market researchers from Mercom Capital have put the global rise in photovoltaics for 2016 at 76 gigawatts (GW), thereby pushing the total installed photovoltaic capacity around the world to around 300 GW at the end of 2016. Large-scale PV power plants account for the majority of the capacity added and are gaining in popularity, especially in countries with fast growing energy needs. This is in part because PV power plants can be implemented quickly. The sinking cost of PV components is also bringing down system prices for large installations – by 38% in 2017 compared with the previous year according to estimates from market researchers at IHS Markit. This has an impact on solar power prices, which were already at an all-time low in 2016, with a kilowatt hour (kWh) costing on average between 3 and 5 US cents.
The drop in prices is due to cheaper modules, inverters and tracking systems, as well as a growing market with increasing competition. In the future, these lower prices will also be felt in the installation and development sectors. Also affected is the balance of system (BoS) cost, which will steadily decrease until 2020.
O&M business enjoys dynamic growth
The increasing number of large-scale power plants also calls for more operation and maintenance work. O&M now qualifies as a market in its own right, and even PV power plant management is becoming an increasingly important factor for installation success. The technology used encompasses high-tech control rooms for remote operation and monitoring, which employ state-of-the-art control, maintenance and forecasting systems and may also deploy drones and robots. According to GTM Research, the global market for O&M services increased by 54% compared with 2015 to reach a total of 182 GW, with Europe accounting for 100 GW of this. The continent therefore remains the largest O&M market, with increasingly large O&M portfolios totaling several hundred megawatts emerging here.
Intersolar Europe Conference covers the latest trends
Experts can exchange expertise and experience at the Intersolar Europe Conference, taking place at ICM – Internationales Congress Center München from May 30–31, 2017. Here, project developers and businesses will discuss key topics on PV power plants in an international setting as part of several sessions. The PV Power Plants: Operation & Maintenance Business session, for example, will examine how O&M services are evolving into a business area of their own. Discussions will address data collection and diagnostics along with concepts for optimizing system profitability, and legal queries regarding warranty claims or guarantees will be clarified.
The session titled The Versatility and Impact of Drones & Robots sheds light on the use of drones and robots for diagnostic purposes, which offer the advantage of saving both time and money. The presentation will also point conference attendees to where this technology can be particularly useful.
Where there is insufficient space to install systems onshore, PV developers are increasingly turning to the water and building solar installations on reservoirs, ponds or other still bodies of water. Nearly 100 megawatts (MW) of floating PV power plants have been constructed to date. The direction of this market will be the focus of the Floating Power Plants: Concepts/Technologies/Case Studies session.
The presentation titled Global Financing Trends: Solar Merchant PV Power Plants/The Role of Rating Agencies/Insurances shines the spotlight on financing trends around the world. Experts will analyze merchant solar power stations, which market their power directly and, in doing so, pose new challenges to the global cost structure. What’s more, rating agencies have a growing influence on financing; where this will lead remains to be seen. Insurances are also being put to the test in an evolving PV landscape. Their future wil be addressed in this presentation.