RE+, the most influential renewable energy event in the North America, was held from September 20 to 22 at the Anaheim Convention Center. This year, the RE+ event is a combination of Solar Power International (SPI), Energy Storage International (ESI), and Smart Energy Week. Solar-plus-storage system suppliers crowded the venue, as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) gives rise to another renewable energy boom.
As the U.S. passed the IRA, investing in local manufacturing receives heated discussion. Whilst displaying the uniqueness of their products, suppliers discussed the idea of building production plants in the U.S.
The U.S. saw robust demand in 2021, adding 23.9 GW of installed PV capacity, a 21% YoY increase. Compared with levels in 2020, utility-scale ground-mounted projects see greater growth, while distributed generation ones account for smaller, less than 30%, share of installed capacity. Factoring varying transportation schedules and lead time, the U.S. was estimated to have 26 GW of module demand.
US demand remains strong this year. But module shortage is left unresolved, for Southeast Asian modules, which make up half of the market share in the U.S., are still barred from the nation, as the UFLPA hurdles Chinese Tier-1 companies. Even the high season in Q4 is no remedy. Installations of many ground-mounted projects are delayed.
Deliveries are still unstable, as the U.S. Commerce postponed issuance of the preliminary determination for the anti- circumvention inquiry against Southeast Asian manufacturers until November 28. As a result, US demand will decline on last year’s level. InfoLink cuts its forecast to 22-24 GW.
The market expects to see the U.S. play down some UFLPA requirements. Even if restrictions loosen in 2023, short supply will have already affected annual US demand. Against this backdrop, InfoLink expects to see 26-30 GW of module demand for the U.S. next year, otherwise it will be another dismal year for U.S. PV demand.
In addition to the supply chain snarl, the passing of the IRA is close heeded by the market. Tier-1 manufacturers keep assessing expansions and have purportedly begun selecting construction sites. For now, most expansions are module lines. Wafer, cell, and polysilicon production expansions are relatively few, given higher construction costs and longer construction time.
Current concerns include raw material access, labor control, construction costs, and most importantly, unclear details of the act and allocation of the subsidy. What is deterring manufacturers the most is the instability of policy. Therefore, U.S. local supply will not increase significantly in the coming one to two years. This year, only some new production capacity of crystalline silicon modules will enter mass production.
The event this year saw many local module makers, all featuring U.S.-made products. Chinese Tier-1 module makers, bogged down by all the export limits, turn to solutions and solar-plus-storage systems instead. Some Tier-1 vertical integrated companies brought forward energy storage systems only, suggesting possibility for them to provide comprehensive solution in the future.
All manufacturers presented bifacial modules and black modules, as the former are preferred by U.S. ground-mounted projects, and the latter by distributed ones. Prices for locally made black modules come in at USD 0.5-0.6/W (DPP). Compared with regular modules, black modules have USD 0.03-0.05/W of average premium. Premium of black modules in the U.S. is greater than that in Europe.
RE+ saw less n-type products than Intersolar in Europe this year, for very few Southeast Asia-based manufacturers are capable of making them. Maxeon was the only one presenting IBC. REC exhibited the most HJT products. Chinese and India manufacturers have the most TOPCon products. Given slower line modification for old production capacity in Southeast Asia, most rooftop projects still deploy M6 modules. Yet, the market is expected to turn to M10, as module makers complete modification overseas.
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