Trina Solar has launched its fully-owned PV tracking business Trina Tracker in Australia, as it looks to capitalise on the next phase of the big solar market, when cutting costs will be at a higher premium than ever and sites will becoming increasingly challenging.
Trina announced the launch of its Tracker business last week, roughly two years after it took a majority stake in Spanish tracker company NClave, which it then bought outright and re-badged in September of last year.
This week, Trina Tracker marked its debut in the Australian market with the Trina Pro module and tracking solution used in the first 4.5MW stage of a 7MW solar farm being built for McCain Foods Australia in central western Victoria.
The move is part of the China giant’s plans to capitalise on the strong market in Australia, where between 80-90% of all utility-scale projects already use solar tracking systems.
Trina is hoping the integrated offer will set it apart from other solar majors in its ability to offer a single point of procurement and accountability as well as to cut costs in transport and construction as well as across operation and maintenance.
Then there is the increased energy yield delivered by trackers, which allow panels to follow the path of the sun rather than being stuck in one spot. To further maximise this, the trackers are compatible with the new, larger format bifacial modules above 500W, including Trina’s own Vertex series, which was just last week boosted to 670W per module.
Trina Solar’s head of utility solutions in Asia Pacific, Andrew Gilhooly says Australia’s relatively mature solar market has quickly discovered that it’s “pretty academic” that trackers help unlock the lowest cost of energy for big solar.
“And that’s only accentuated when you when you incorporate bifacial modules into that tracker package,” he told RenewEconomy on Tuesday.
“We see what we call a value stacking effect where you combine bifacial modules and single access trackers and then… one plus one equals more than two.”
And while Australia is already Trina’s largest Asia Pacific market, outside of China, for trackers, Gilhooly sees a new wealth of opportunity arising from the next phase of Australia’s renewable energy development pipeline.
“We’re very bullish and optimistic about the market moving forward,” Gilhooly said.
“You think of a typical site 10 years ago… it had a good solar resource, a good grid connection, [proximity to] high energy demand centres, good pancake-flat topography, and an unconstrained, large four-corner boundary,” he told RE.
“Now, what’s happened is a lot of that low hanging fruit has gone and been built upon. …The next wave of utility scale projects, sites [are] becoming increasingly challenging, and that’s why it’s important to partner with a tracker manufacturer who can mitigate construction risks.
“So sites will be really rocky or have really reactive soil… they will be highly variable in terms of the terrain and topography. We’re even getting some solar farms, now, on sites that are prone to flood inundation.
“And finally, with the mining sector getting on board with renewables, you’re talking about some incredibly remote sites that have an exorbitant costs to mobilise labor and extremely rigorous OH&S restrictions on site,” Gilhooly said.
“Engineering, procurement and construction companies are trying to navigate through all these challenges in Australia. Anything that can lower their risk, is a real value-add.
“Trina Tracker has fewer piles per megawatt and a high degree of slope tolerance. It has been designed for quick on-site assembly to help EPCs mitigate Australia’s generally high labour costs.”
Ultimately, however, Trina is hoping that the market will see its experience in both the module and the tracker market as a major plus.
“We’ve deployed over 7GW of trackers into all key markets. So the best part of the last decade, over that track record, and some of the largest projects… we’ve been able to refine the product design to facilitate a much simpler and easier construction and assembly process.
“So [on its own] the tracker pricing is extremely competitive, but then when we overlay the construction savings on top, the value proposition is it unlocks … potentially the lowest turnkey capex with the lowest construction risks.”
Trina Tracker will offer two types of tracking systems in Australia: the Vanguard 2P single row tracker, and the Agile 1P dual row tracker.