As prices along the entire supply chain continue to fall, cost-lowering and performance enhancing has always been sole, sure strategies to success. To PV power plant (PVPP) investors, the OPEX across 20 years and energy yield will prove more significant than the up-front CAPEX when considering the entire 20-year plant lifetime.
Returning to module and inverter manufacturers, the key to increasing sales and revenue lies in moving from a ‘product-only’ mindset to a holistic view of the entire PVPP system and the services thereof. Figuring out ways to increase product energy yield while keeping cost-per-area fixed for PVPPs will serve as the turning point in product development and determine whether profits will benefit from pricing strategies. This is precisely the idea of reducing cost and improving efficiency. The reason why current Mono PERC module became mainstream is none other than that poly module are able to improve power generation of PVPPs by 3%. Further calculations show that, upon comparing normal Poly 285W module and Mono PERC 315W module, mono module can bring overall energy yield of PVPP systems up to RMB 0.2~0.3/W. Although Mono PERC module prices stand above multi module prices by over 10%, the energy yields of up to 0.2~0.3/W offset those costs for investors, decreasing overall LCOE for mono PERCs despite slightly higher CAPEX. This is also why Mono PERC module went mainstream in 2018 and well into 2019. Bifacial PERC module can further increase power generation of PVPPs by 5~25% compared to conventional mono PERC modules, while the energy yields can lower LCOE by up to 4%~19%, presenting it as a clear contender for mainstream status in 2019.
For inverter manufacturers, the PVPP energy yields may still be extended to inverters, and increases in array-to-inverter ratio has always been a hot topic. The array-to-inverter ratio is the ratio between the power of the connected component(s) and the nameplate capacity of the inverter. According to current test calculations on PVPPs, a 1.5:1 ratio is generally ideal for lowering LCOE. Yet increasing the DC proportion may help raise the overall economic gains of PVPPs, effectively increasing the capacity of components by a certain degree. That way, string inverters with multi-channel MPPTs will possess an advantage over central inverters. When comparing the energy yields of central and string inverters, large-scale projects benefit more from central inverters, while mid- and small-scale PVPPs enjoy not only a lower BOS cost with string inverters compared to using central inverters, but also a PR value upwards of 83%, an average increase in power generation of at least 2%, and an overall increase in IRR of 3%. Although a global examination shows that string inverter prices arrive above that of central inverters by 30%~40%, assessments of entire PVPP show that string inverters, suffering from the larger initial CAPEX during design stage (compared to central inverters), more than make up for it in the long-run, thanks to the 3% increase in overall power generation and OPEX and BOS savings. For this reason, PV investors will prefer string inverters over central ones.
PV investors are no longer mainly concerned about the prices of modules and inverters, but how products to raise more power generation while keeping LCOE low. This is also the key to winning over profits for module and inverter suppliers.