Also to mark its 20th anniversary this year, Trina Solar launched its TrinaPro integrated PV solution at a ceremony attended by Chinese and foreign participants. Trina Solar’s founder and CEO Jifan Gao noted this important move from not only supplying top-notch photovoltaic components, such as the manufacturer’s high-efficiency cells and modules, but now supplying integrated solutions capable of further reducing PV’s already low levelized cost of energy (LCOE).
The TrinaPro solution consists of premium components, including Trina Solar’s high efficiency panels, inverters from partners Huawei and Sungrow, and premium trackers from Spanish manufacturer Nclave. One hallmark of TrinaPro is the use of bifacial double glass modules to further boost system output.
But this is not only a bifacial story, even though bifacial glass-glass modules are poised to have a major impact on the global PV market this year. Another essential element of TrinaPro is its optimized system integration, which reduces balance of system (BOS) costs and obviates the need for other parts of the PV supply chain to address the optimal matching of components. In selecting Huawei, Nclave and Sungrow as its strategic partners for this new business, Trina is also including best-of-breed suppliers in this solution.
Trina Solar refers to TrinaPro as a “smart PV solution” and this product is clearly an attempt to incorporate the latest IT technologies, which are having an increasing impact on PV systems and are helping to drive down solar LCOE. Specifically, Trina has incorporated edge computing algorithms in TrinaPro, as well as harnessed cloud technology to optimize operations and maintenance. This is referred to as “smart O & M interconnection” with the “interconnection” consisting of a coupling of the edge computing algorithms with the cloud-based smart O & M system.
Although the technology giant Apple was not mentioned at yesterday’s launch ceremony, the perfect matching of hardware and software, as well as the incorporation of cloud-based services, is a mantra that the U.S. tech giant has pursued with great success, not least because of its visionary and quality-obsessed founder Steve Jobs. Jifan Gao is a pioneer of the global PV industry and just like Jobs steered Apple clear of the commoditization of personal computers and mobile phones, Gao is keen to move Trina Solar away from being predominantly a supplier of commoditized panels, even if the company has broken conversion efficiency records eighteen times in the past twenty years, as Gao remarked in his keynote address yesterday.
After shipping over 32 GW to over one hundred countries around the world in the past twenty years, Gao has watched the cost of PV panels decline to a fraction of the cost when he started his venture in Changzhou in Jiangsu province in eastern China. This has catapulted solar PV to a position where it has now achieved grid parity in many markets. However, the flip side of the coin is that this tremendous price decline has also impacted margins, making cell and module production a fairly low margin high volume business. So to boost profitability and with it further reduce PV LCOE, embarking on the production of integrated PV solutions seems an attractive next step for Trina.
In Europe IBC Solar AG has been one of Trina’s key partners and at yesterday’s launch ceremony IBC’s shareholder Julius Möhrstedt remarked that “Trina is always one step ahead.” So Trina’s bold move to introduce TrinaPro to the global market is just such a first-mover maneuver. Of course, for a distributor like IBC, integrating best-of-breed components is one of their value-added services and it remains to be seen how distributors will react to an offering like TrinaPro, which already includes this integration in a one-stop solution.
TrinaPro has been developed for utility-scale and commercial and industrial (C & I) applications and the initial set of geographic markets targeted include China, the U.S., Latin America and the Middle East. TrinaPro comes in various flavors, including a floating PV solution using centralized inverters from Sungrow. Floating PV is especially attractive in China’s home market, where lakes and fishing ponds dot provinces like Trina’s home province Jiangsu. In an interview with pv magazine, Trina’s Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, Rongfang Yin, also points to markets like Japan, where very expensive land prices make floating PV projects attractive.
Yin expects TrinaPro to account for 15 to 18 percent of Trina’s global revenues this year, which would be an impressive figure for the launch year of this solution. The manufacturer has not yet revealed pricing details and it will be interesting to compare the final pricing of TrinaPro in its various configurations with the pricing of systems that do not come out of the box and where system components are procured individually. That the conventional procurement process involves an additional layer of complexity and cost seems fairly straightforward, so we can expect integrated solutions like TrinaPro to usher in a new era of even lower priced PV systems, at least in the market segments where such out-of-the-box solutions make sense. And if this allows module manufacturers to boost their margins, this development should be a welcome one for the global PV industry as a whole.
Author: Eckhart K. Gouras