Published on September 25th, 2018 |
by Kyle Field
September 25th, 2018 by Kyle Field
AUO is a player in solar cell and module manufacturing, but in recent years, manufacturing has increasingly evolved into a very commoditized part of the business. The real profits from many vertically integrated companies like AUO come from the engineer, procurement and construction, or EPC, and the operate and maintain, or O&M, parts of the business.
Just the same, AUO continues to innovate in its solar modules and brought out its new 12 buss bar solar modules to the show. The increase in the number of buss bars, which are the wires you can see running across each of the solar cells inside of a solar module, reduce the internal resistance of the module, resulting in a net increase in the output. That translates to higher wattage ratings for its panels, which have been improved even further with their half-cut cells. Perhaps counter-intuitively, cutting the standard solar cells physically in half results in even less internal resistance, further increasing the output of the now 120 half-cut cell panels to an impressive 335 watts per panel.
It is worth sharing an anecdote that AUO shared that was also echoed by every other company we talked to about it at the show: they are not even considering exports to the US due to tariffs. It’s one thing to ship modules at a premium price into the US but it is a completely different thing to have the entire country taken off the radar by tariffs, not to mention that this same thing is happening in other countries in Asia and around the world. Taiwan might be an island, but the US is making itself a de facto island when it comes to global trade. It’s a bass ackwards trade policy if you ask me.
AUO makes its profits in its EPC business, which makes it a great case study for what we saw as a proliferation of floating solar farm solutions across the show. We probed to see what percentage of EPC volumes this year have been floating systems and after attempting to dodge the question several times, they reluctantly shared that it was a very low percentage of their overall volume.
Installations over water increase the complexity of the installation and maintenance, not to mention the challenges of running electrical generating equipment power lines in, around, or over water. Having said that, many companies see the tech as having potential but that the market for over-water installations is still maturing.
One key benefit of installing over water that some manufacturers are looking at comes from installing bifacial solar panels in floating installations and capturing reflected solar light that bounces up off of the water. Bifacial panels are solar panels that have solar cells laminated between two panes of glass and are designed to generate power from both sides of the solar cell. Bifacial panels can capture up to 80% of the reflected light off of the water, resulting in increases in system output of 20-50% over traditional solar panels.
AUO also brought its new wireless Sensing Tree to the show, which it has designed to be installed alongside solar farms to give owners insight into relevant conditions at the solar farm. The AUO Sensing Tree captures relevant weather metrics like the solar radiation, temperature, humidity, and wind to allow owners to track and correlate weather factors to total system output. The data is then recorded and sent up to the web with AUO’s Data Recorder.
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