Solar industry looks for McDonald’s version 2.0 to win back market share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

In the Eddie Murphy film Coming to America, the protagonist prince quickly realises that the USA is not a place where guests come to sit on their hands when he lands himself a job at a McDonald's lookalike fast food joint on his quest to find a wife.

In today's global fast food chain of PV manufacturers, some guest solar manufacturers from abroad have sacrificed volume over quality in this land of opportunity where calories are cheap, but nutritious, sustainable food is expensive.

Arturo Herrero, Chief Marketing Officer at Jinko Solar, gave a good account of the company's game plan that had seen it succeed where many other Chinese ‘transplants’ like it have failed. Herrero said the company was the only profitable large Chinese solar module manufacturer in the US and had reached 1.2GW capacity by the end of last year. Its polysilicon supply of US$25 a kilo means it can produce modules at 66 cents at watt.

But not everyone is impressed by the gigawatt race in the US solar market, where for once, size isn't everything, said Ryan McMeniman President and Chief Executive at Ward Hill Marketing in Massachusetts. McMeniman told the story of how he “coached” Shanghai-based executives of Solarfun before it was acquired by Hanwha.

“At the time when Solarfun was coming to the US, they had a very hard time being taken seriously and it had nothing to do with the name,” he said. “It had everything to do with how they were perceived by the people in the marketplace.

They weren't bankable, even though they had massive amounts of megawatts installed in Germany under somebody else's name. So it becomes a game of volume not quality; that's not where we want to be. Pushing down the cost of everything degrades the brand. At the end of the day, it doesn't help.

“We all wanted the gigawatt race – but what about the 20% race? What about modules that are going to last more than 10 years because of the quality in the manufacturing that was put into them? That's what we have to talk about, not driving down the cost.”

Aside from the complexities of federal and state incentives and regulation in the US, it was also important to bear in mind that the “point of view in California is not the same as the view in New Jersey”, McMenimen said.

“There is not one America. Energy independence is going to work in some states; green is going to work in other states. Local manufacturing may be important in a state such as Nevada that has an unemployment rate of 11%, but not so much in Massachusetts which was 6.7% unemployed.”

Roger Little, founder of Spire Corporation in Massachusetts, put forward an idea to generate more opportunities for US-based PV manufacturing with point-of-use assembly lines sited at utility-scale solar farms that made “super-size” modules of 1,000W, a ‘McDonald's of solar, version 2.0’ if you like.

“We're trying hard to put module factories in the US but as you know foreign competition is relentless especially from the Chinese, the low-cost manufacturers in the world. But [now] they are being subjected to the 32% duty which gives you a little more advantage for manufacturing in the US,” Little said.

Module costs would not be altered too greatly, he said. But the real savings would come from the system that would require fewer components. A 1,000 watt panel to serve a utility market estimated to reach 4,425MW by 2016 would cost US$3.11, versus US$2.57 for a 250w panel.

Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research, said he expected aggressive growth in the US over the next several years to take it to around 14% of global market share.

“The US has held a surprisingly steady share of the global market — somewhere between 5% and 7%. It wasn't outpacing the global market, but it should be, starting this year and heading into the next couple of years.  We don't expect to see the same kind of massive growth out of the global market that we do out of the US. The US is becoming a more important market,” Kann said.

The utility sector would indeed be a potentially profitable sector to target, despite what the headlines lead people to believe, he said. “The residential market is the incrementally growing base of the market. It's the smallest market segment and it grows every quarter but it only inches upward. We haven't seen this massive boom in the residential market yet despite the fact that if you read the news you would think the market is booming just based on the growth of third-party residential owners. That model [the 3rd party ownership] model is taking over the market. But isn't really expanding the market taken up the whole pie yet though we expect that it will.”

One of the really interesting points Kann drew from his data was a slump in Chinese imports in Q2 this year in response to the preliminary determination on the anti-dumping case which has since been finalised.

But the jury is out on what impact that will have on the home team.

22 September 2021
To commemorate the World Energy Storage Day(WESD) on 22 September, being recognized worldwide, Customized Energy Solutions (CES) and India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) is organising the 5th global conference and virtual expo, which will be held virtually on 22 September 2021. WESD is a global movement initiated by various apex trade bodies working to promote and adopt energy storage, e-mobility & green hydrogen technologies for a sustainable future. The forthcoming edition of WESD is expected to attract global participation with an intent to facilitate bi-lateral trade, market development and new research and innovation, which will invite 100+ countries, 100+ regulators & policy makers, 100+ International speakers,1000+ organisations, 100+ partners & exhibitors and 20,000+ global delegates.
28 September 2021
Solar Solutions International is the largest trade show for solar energy in Northwest Europe. Now the solar market has grown up, it's time for the next step. Solar Solutions International displays more than 500 innovations and over 100 practical seminars concerning the latest in energy storage, smart products, and an ever evolving array of solar panels. As an exclusively B2B trade show, Solar Solutions International offers both exhibitors and visitors the chance to network at the highest level. Duurzaam Verwarmd, the largest trade show for sustainable HVAC technology in the Benelux, is held simultaneously. This way your one visit gets you up to date with all of the developments in both sustainable energy and heating.
6 October 2021
Intersolar Europe is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry. It takes place as part of The smarter E Europe – the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry. Under the motto “Connecting solar business,” manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and project planners and developers from around the world meet in Munich every year to discuss the latest developments and trends, explore innovations firsthand and meet potential new customers.
6 October 2021
The future is bright for a new era of US solar and storage, and the 8th annual Solar & Storage Finance Summit will provide opportunities to discuss solutions to the industry’s challenges and provide a networking platform designed to bring together the top minds in the industry to do business. With a mix of high-level, informative presentations and panels, a stellar cast of speakers and audience members with deal-making capacity, the 2021 edition of the event will be a sell-out success.
18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.

Read Next

September 16, 2021
Renewables developer Amp Energy has secured financing for a 120MW solar installation in the Australian state of New South Wales that is expected to begin energisation in early 2022.
September 16, 2021
As much as 191GW of new solar PV is expected to be installed this year – up by a third on last year’s deployment figure – despite polysilicon and module prices remaining high into 2022, BloombergNEF has said.
September 16, 2021
Australia’s government has committed AU$19.2 million (US$14 million) to implement the recommendations of a new report that that aims to improve regulation and compliance in the country’s rooftop solar sector.
September 16, 2021
Energy engineering firm Babcock & Wilcox is to enter the US solar market through the acquisition of a majority stake in Illinois-based solar contractor Fosler Construction.
September 16, 2021
North American module manufacturer Silfab Solar has received an investment led by private equity firm ARC Financial Corp to help scale up its US PV production footprint.
PV Tech Premium
September 16, 2021
Spencer Jansen, head of new technology solutions at developers Hive Energy and Ethical Power, assesses how the introduction of large-format solar modules has had repercussions throughout the solar design and procurement process.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021