Featured Talks With Li Jianfei, CTO / VP, Sineng Electric

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How has the average selling price of solar inverters changed over the last decade? How is Sineng working towards lowering its inverter prices?

India has won the tag of the lowest cost producer of solar globally. As per the analysis of IRENA, the costs have dropped at a fast pace – 80% – in India since 2010. Allegedly, ASP of solar inverter is already in its consolidated phase and has reached a level where if further drop happens it will be a great threat to the industry. In particular, it is hard for Sineng Electric to talk about any further price reduction as it has already been offering the most cost-effective and favorable price to the customers while providing top-class high quality products. Nevertheless, an inverter is an evolving technology sector and Sineng R&D team reckons that there still is fertile space in power electronics innovation that can lower the per watt price and optimize the project cost for the customers year-on-year for the coming years.

What are some innovations happening in inverter technology?

As is known to all, an inverter, which is the heart component of a PV power station system, has a crucial impact on the stability, durability and efficient operation of the station. Constant innovation and optimization at each level are the only way to exist in the present competitive environment. In recent years, we have seen that market moved from small block size to 6.25/12.5MW block size and 1000V to 1500V. In the near future, a higher capacity inverter (central and string), bigger block size and higher voltage system would appear to reduce the BoS cost and system cable loss.

To keep up with the lower bidding price year by year, penetration of large wafer182/210mm will accelerate in 2022, and large wafer based module production will dominate in the coming years. Due to the increased short circuit current rating of the module, there will be some implications on the module –inverter interface. That is the short circuit current limitation of string inverter MPPT which leads to clipping, ultimately the inverter is not able to harness maximum power from the string. Due to that, we will lose some power with the solution available in the market which will effectively affect the LCOE. So customers will incline to higher current inverter massively so as to adapt to large wafer based modules. Having recognized the implication as early as 2020, Sineng has come up with state of art solution (string inverter model: SP-275K-INH) which is tailored for the high power modules.

Inverter monitoring already forms the backbone of solar O&M strategies. As techniques are advanced and refined, predictive, corrective and preventive measures are increasingly able to reduce both the occurrence of failures and their impact. Hence, apart from power electronics innovation, we will also see more and more integration of artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, big data,

cloud computing and deep learning in the inverter segment. A future inverter will be super intelligent and smart and they will be equipped with more tools than ever to detect faults faster and earlier, higher uptime and boost the generation.

How is Sineng planning to contribute to the ‘Make in India’ initiative keeping in mind the BIS certification requirements and increase in BCD?

BIS certification is a recommended certification and well praised step by the government of India considering various factors defining quality product implementation in solar power systems.

We appreciate that BIS certification has been extended to December 2021 by MNRE due to COVID-19 disruption and the abilities of limited test facilities. As per the MNRE notification published on 4th August 2021, the inverter manufacturers must have IEC certificates corresponding to IEC 62109-2:2011 and IEC 62116:2008 and test reports from the international test lab – Sineng already has these certifications and reports done. More clarity on the timeline of BIS testing for larger capacity inverters would help us to plan in a better way. At the same time, more infrastructure availability along with better ITES could automate the back-end work of documents processing.

BCD on inverter imports has been imposed since 1st February 2021. However, Duty increment has no impact on Sineng Electric, as it has established a localized company in Bangalore in 2018. At the moment, the Bangalore manufacturing base has a 3 GW annual manufacturing capacity and a 10 GW brand new modernized manufacturing base is expected to put its full operation by the Q4 of 2021.

In 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India would achieve the target of 450 GW of renewable energy generation by 2030 and 175 GW before the deadline of 2022. With a long term commitment to the Indian solar market, we were, and are very passionate to contribute to “Make in India” and bring success to the goal.

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As one of the leading companies in the solar industry, what challenges are you presently facing in the Indian market?

Indian solar industry is a mature market growing at a decent speed. Indian Government has always been highly supportive and has shown its intent to drive growth. Reportedly, many inverter manufacturers are seeing 20% BCD on inverter imports as a great hurdle. And, BCD has no impact on Sineng Electric as it has a total 10GW manufacturing base in Bangalore, India. We acknowledge and appreciate the ‘make in India’ policy. It is no secret that India is a highly price-sensitive market and for any industry to make a significant footprint, price is a key indicator. On the other hand, inverter manufacturing is in its infancy in India, hence price reduction would have a huge impact on the deployment of solar projects as well as the PPAs.

Other challenges are minor like BIS certification, incentives, and uniform and stable policies etc. Tender cancellations and tariff re-negotiations had increased the uncertainty of some of the large-scale projects in recent years and hence delayed their executions. Similarly, policy flip flops and regulatory changes have also posed a challenge. A uniform National Solar Policy would remove bottle-necks and hasten further adoption and boost the industry growth.

What potential do you see in the PV+ESS segment? Also, please help our readers understand your energy storage solutions.

There is great potential in the storage segment and that is why so many inverter players have entered this field. Storage options have now been applied to many different scenarios including ground-mounted PV stations, C&I projects and roof-top residential PV.

For large-scale PV stations, storage can help shave peaks and improve power quality. For C&I projects, it can improve off-grid utilization. Storage technologies will allow for more reliable and flexible operation of the electricity distribution and transmission grids, enhancing electric power quality and making renewable energy user-friendly.

So, there is still a lot of potentials and we expect the market to boom in the next few years. We saw the turning point coming last year and we know it’s just the beginning. Sineng has been offering its DC/AC coupled energy storage solution with various rating PCS. Our energy storage solutions have extensively been adopted in various places in China and Korea etc. Our Energy storage products are as follows:

● Central PCS solution ( EH-2.5/3.15/3.45-HA-UD ) – Max. efficiency 99.0%; IP65 protection; PQ, VF, SVG, VSG and other functionality; Off-grid operation and black start etc.

● String PCS solution ( EH-0200-HA-M ) – Max. 220kW; IP66+C5 protection; Pack level management; Independent charging and discharging etc.

● DC-DC converter (EH-0182-HA-M ) – Max. 200kW; IP66+C5 protection; Pack level management; Independent charging and discharging etc.

● Battery container – Outdoor design; Smaller footprint; Liquid cooling system; Three level BMS protection etc. 

What is your current manufacturing capacity and how do you plan to expand further in the near future?

By virtue of cutting edge high-quality products, better performance and competitive price, Sineng Electric has achieved the recognition of capital market in the last successive years. Consequently, it has been listed as a public company on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) in April, 2020.

At present, the annual production capacity of China’s manufacturing base is 10GW and India’s manufacturing base is 3GW. To meet exponentially increased demands due to the vigorous development of the global PV market, we have increased the production capacity of China to 20GW in total with 10GW in Wuxi and 10GW in Ningxia. In the meantime, we will also increase the production capacity of India’s manufacturing base to 10 GW in Q4 of 2021, respectively.

At the same time, Sineng Electric will continuously expand the international market and beef up its core business in the coming years. As a part of the expansion plan, the Spain branch for the European market and the Dubai branch for the MNEA market has started its full operation in May 2021 to better serve the customers in the respected areas in terms of spare parts and after-sales services along with collaboration, cooperation and communication etc.

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