Trina Solar, one of several Chinese solar power manufacturers listed in the west, is trumpeting a clutch of recent customer wins in Europe for its photovoltaic modules.
The orders, for an aggregate of output of 99MW, will see Trina supplying customers in Italy and Germany. As well as these two countries, Trina is making inroads into the Spanish market.
It is revealing and somewhat alarming to see how China's PV manufacturers are rapidly making progress in Europe — a market which until now European manufacturers like Germany's SolarTec or Spain's Isofotón though they could call their own.
For example, in the first five months of 2006, China's Suntech Power, the world's third largest maker, sold around $300m of solar panels for projects in Spain. It is supplier to two of the biggest PV power projects in Spain. One is a 23MW installation in Trujillo, in the province of Caceres with an investment approaching €150m, while the other is a 20MW installation in Jumilla, Murcia region.
Shi Zhengrong, chairman and CEO of Suntech Power, in a recent interview (Spanish) with Expansión newspaper, said that Spain had “all the conditions to become the world leader in solar energy”. As well as knowing a lot about PV technology — he is an acknowledged expert in this field — Zhengrong also knows how to sweet-talk his customers.
Zhengrong praises the favourable regulatory regime in Spain for renewable energies, which provides producers with a guarantee that all the electricity they produce will be purchased by distribution companies at a premium to the market price.
Suntech has three factories in China and a fourth in Japan. It is currently scouting for a location for an additional plant and Spain is a “serious candidate”.
Currently only 10% of Suntech's sales come from China while 80% is produced by Europe, particularly Germany and Spain.
Suntech also recently demonstrated a roof-mounted photovoltaic system in the UK. Suntech's technology could help new homes meet the “zero carbon” requirements of the new building code that will be obligatory for new homes built in the UK in 2016.
Elsewhere on the solar front:
China's solar cell manufacturers are not only cornering the market but also advancing the technology. Nasdaq-listed China Sunegy claims that using its new “selective emitter” cell technology it can achieve average conversion efficiency rates above 17% — the industry average with existing technology is around 15%. Full-scale commercial production of the selective emitter cells will start later this year. China Sunergy has just received a patent from the Chinese patent office for its innovative technology. More on China Sunegy here.