Lightsource builds on Chinese inventory with 69.5MW Renesola deal

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Lightsource Renewable Energy has penned a series of contracts with Renesola that will see the Chinese manufacturer supply 69.5MW of modules to the UK developer.

The 300,000 modules will be used for 10 solar farm projects in the South West, Isle of Wight and Kent, as well as a number of undisclosed future projects – ranging from 20MW to 1MW in scale. The companies expect the 69.5MWp of capacity to generate enough clean electricity to power more than 23,000 households.

Kareen Boutonnat, Lightsource’s managing director, told PV Tech that, in spite of the ongoing EU/China trade dispute, the company is seeking out Chinese modules, she said: “The scale of investment into facilities, research and carbon reductions by China is currently unrivalled. Such growth and investment into the British PV module manufacturing industry remains to be seen.”

The trade dispute has loomed large over UK solar developers ever since the European Commission imposed the mandatory registration of all Chinese solar imports back in March this year. Buotonnat explained: “I think that period has been quite difficult for everybody, mainly because the Chinese manufacturers were not shipping to Europe. It was difficult to get modules over, but overall we have managed to secure 130MW and we’re quite happy with that.

“The more concerning question for us is the future; how do we get modules between now and the end of March? Typically, because of the quota all of the Chinese companies are restricted in terms of what they can ship.”

Buotonnat believes that UK-based large-scale solar developers will continue to feel the effects of the agreed trade deal. The most pressing issue facing solar developers will be volume constraints in the module market.

Buotonnat remains sceptical that European manufacturers will be able to fill the void left by the Chinese manufacturers, she said: “There are a number of new names that are popping up in the UK but the issue for us is around bankability – most of our projects are getting re-financed by UK banks and we want to ensure that the modules that we are selecting are actually bankable; it will take more time to get new modules through that process.”

Lightsource Renewable Energy is the UK’s largest developer of solar farms, as well as the largest consumer of tier one, bankable Chinese solar modules in the UK.

“The recent announcement from Renesola confirms the strong pipeline that Lightsource is set to deploy over the next few quarters in the UK, and is another clear sign that supplier and developer can work within the confines of the EU-China regulations issued at the start of August,” Finlay Colville, vice president of consultancy NPD Solarbuzz told PV Tech.

“With module supply from China coming into Europe still somewhat tight, following the pull-back during May and June this year, European project developers like Lightsource that are seeking to deploy several hundred MW of solar PV over the next 12 months are required to set up multiple 50MW level supply deals with leading tier one Chinese suppliers like Renesola,” he added.

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