At the recent Solar Power International trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah, part of the larger North America Smart Energy Week, pv magazine met with Hank Wang, President of the Americas Region at the Chinese inverter manufacturer Sungrow. The company expects to ship 2 GW of products to North American markets this year with utility-scale products making up the bulk of these shipments.
In the U.S. utility-scale market bankability is a key metric, since generally these projects involve non-recourse financing, making dependable PV brands a key criterion. In August, Sungrow became one of the few inverter companies to be ranked 100% bankable by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). In its latest survey this summer BNEF had asked banks, developers and technical due diligence firms to list PV brands they considered bankable. Companies surveyed could select from among 17 inverter manufacturers. While 17 hardly captures all inverter manufacturers and is still a much smaller list than the 40+ suppliers BNEF tracks on the module bankability side, it does provide useful guidance to market participants.
In fact, this survey marks the first time that BNEF has collected opinions on the bankability of inverter manufacturers and it will be interesting to see the traction this survey gets in the industry this year and next year. It certainly makes sense to not only monitor bankability on the module side, but also assess bankability with the other key PV system component, the inverter. For BNEF one challenge in doing so is the fact that inverters are less of a commodity product, since they perform multiple functions, some of which are tied to the requirements of the local electricity grid. This makes the inverter market more localized, rendering a global survey more challenging.
U.S. grid requirements are especially rigorous, so that some inverter manufacturers have opted to play in other markets, leaving the U.S. market to suppliers who have the R & D and technical resources to handle this long list of requirements. For example, Sungrow’s flagship central inverter solution SG3150/2500U-MV complies with UL 1741, UL 1741 SA, IEEE 1547, Rule 21 and NEC 2014/2017, while also allowing grid support, including L/HVRT, L/HFRT, as well as active and reactive power control and power ramp rate control.
Hank Wang sees this solution as the company’s core offering this year and next year, but for 2021 he sees the company’s string inverters playing a more prominent role, both in the utility-scale segment and in the commercial & industrial (C & I) segment. At its SPI booth the company showcased its new SG250HX string inverter, which the manufacturer claims is the most powerful 1500Vdc string inverter in the world. The SG250HX was officially launched at Intersolar Europe this May and together with the new SG33CX-US and SG55CX-US, these new string inverters promise to provide interesting options to North American PV developers and EPCs looking for a string inverter to drive their large utility-scale and C & I systems.
On the bankability front the new BNEF survey is undoubtedly very helpful. What helps as well are high-profile projects with prominent developers in exciting states like Texas. Wang highlights Sungrow’s success in supplying the largest PV project in Texas, a large leading European firm’s Roadrunner project in Upton County, which consists of one 252 MW phase to be completed this year and another 245 MW phase to be completed next year, amounting to a very big 497 MW overall.