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Tindo Solar, small retailers, to win big from Tesla virtual power plant

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South Australia based solar manufacturer Tindo Solar looks to be the first big winner from South Australia’s newly announced virtual power plant.

The Labor state government says half of the 250MW of rooftop solar to be installed under the scheme must be sourced from Australia, and because Tindo is, at least for now, the only Australian-based solar module manufacturer, it looks best placed to bag half the mandate.

Glenn Morelli, the head of Tindo Solar (his Cool and Cosy company bought it last year), says the decision could enable Tindo to double output at its Adelaide-based manufacturing plant to near its capacity of 60MW a year.

Morelli told RenewEconomy that he had sought assurances from the government that the VPP plan would not cause a hiatus in the overall solar installer market as consumers waited for their “free solar”.

He said he had been assured that the first 25,000 installations would go to social housing, which would not otherwise be in the solar market, and the next would focus on private low-income housing and the private rental market.

“We will be expanding. It’s just a matter of employing and trading more operators, and increasing our logistics. We will be going to close to full capacity.

“Yes, there is an election, but you have got to admire forward thinking of the government for taking on these sorts of projects, and genuinely assist those battling with high electricity prices.

“For our business, it gives us a great deal of confidence that we can produce more panels, and that we can make plans to move forward at a bigger scale.

“It will also give us more exposure – to make South Australians aware that we do make world class solar panels right in their backyard.” (Check out his interview last year in RenewEconomy’s Solar Insiders podcast here).

Morelli is not the only one pleased. Smaller retailers are not looking at the South Australia market, which they previously saw as too difficult because of the lack of competition, and the difficulty in managing risk.

“I think it is a very good thing,” said Ed McManus, the CEO of Powershop, owned by New Zealand’s Meridian Energy in this week’s Energy Insiders podcast. “It will lead to more retail competition in south Australia.

McManus said Powershop will certainly look at the opportunity, and the government’s tender for a “new” retailer to manage the rollout of 5kW rooftop solar systems and a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery storage system to 50,000 homes over four years.

“One of the issues (with South Australia) has been its lack of capacity, and the lack of generation that allows retailer sto manage risk when prices get high,” McManus said.

“It’s not a liquid market for capacity in South Australia at the moment, it is risky for independent retailers to go there.

“This VPP has the potential to provide some of that capacity, and allow some other retailers into the market and bring prices down. We will certainly be having a look.

As will, one presumes, other smaller retailers like Alinta and Momentum. The market is dominated by AGL, but even it was sending its congratulations, despite the Tesla VPP being 50 times bigger than its own project.

  

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  • Jon

    Great news gets even better.
    Let that be a lesson to the other politicians in Aus of how you improve your economy.
    It will allow Trina to build capacity and compete better.

    • Joe

      I think you meant ‘Tindo’ instead of ‘Trina’.

      • Jon

        Thanks Joe, fixed.

        • Joe

          You’re welcome.

  • Patrick Comerford

    This developement highlights how politics should work. Embracing technology and ditching three word slogans.
    Compare Premier Jays actions of embracing technology with an open mind, taxpayer money and no slogans with the likes of Trump or Trumble “Make America great again” or “Innovation nation” or “Its all Labors fault” and throw a whole heap full of taxpayer money at multi national Corporations with tax cuts for tax they don’t pay anyway.

    • Alastair Leith

      And yet his polling isn’t looking good… the land of three word slogan appreciation.

      • neroden

        Yeah, it’s really unfortunate. Jay needs to advertise how the Big Battery prevented a price spike. Campaign heavily on it.

  • Andy Saunders

    60MW capacity is a pimple on the backside of the industry – given the *increase* in manufacturing capacity last year was something like 50,000 MW.

    • Steve159

      I believe Australia installed around 1GW of solar last year. So 60MW is 60/1000 which is 6% of the Australian market.

      • Andy Saunders

        More like 1.3GW in 2017, and more like 3.6GW expected in 2018. Which would make a market share of 1.7%.

        • Ian Franklin

          So what’s your point?

          • Andy Saunders

            That’s just Australia. The global share would be truly tiny.

            That Tindo is basically irrelevant. And that the proviso to have a proportion reserved essentially for them is protectionist and smacks of something awful.

          • Jon

            Tindo isn’t irrelevant if your one of the people that work for them, or for one of the companies that supplies or services them.
            At some stage we need to do some manufacturing and value adding in this country and stop relying on just exporting raw materials.
            We don’t know what is involved in the deal, it’s no more protectionist than 100% of the Batteries being Tesla…

          • Andy Saunders

            Look, I wish Tindo well, they are pretty brave being the only domestic manufacturer.

            But the reality is they are tiny (maybe 30 employees max, or about the same as my local supermarket). They are not a tier-one supplier. Their panels are pretty low efficiency (not really state of the art), have at best modest temperature coefficient. They are well-sealed, so if in coastal areas and getting the full life is paramount they might be your best option. But otherwise fairly unremarkable.

            And they’re not really a manufacturer, more a module assembler (buying imported cells). Whilst there’s some product differentiation, it looks pretty limited. They got bought out by an installer a few years ago, I doubt they have big plans to expand much or change the product.

            (Insisting batteries are Tesla is not protectionist as they are not domestically manufactured. Actually insisting on domestic manufacture is a bit futile as vastly more jobs are in installation than manufacture – as trump will likely find out later this year)

      • MaxG

        Well, you have start somewhere 😉

  • MaxG

    I love the whole story and its implications… “looking out for our own”… isn’t this great!

  • Alastair Leith

    Didn’t the USA take India to the World Trade Organisation over local content rules India tried to impose — and win? And it was a rule calling for an extremely modest 8 GW out of 100 GW of solar over five years according to this Reuters article.

    So how come it works here? What is the wording and interpretation on which these things hinge?

    • Guy Stewart

      I don’t see how 8GW is modest compared to 125MW.
      Scale matters, and I doubt it’s worth anyone’s lawyers to take this to the WTO.

  • Robert “Madteknician” Nitschke

    Stay away from Tindo solar they a re a bunch of pricks. I paid $363 for a panel and the will not reply to my emails. Rip off bastards