Key ABB solar wins highlight a shift in the world’s energy mix

2015-09-04 - Major solar orders in India, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas highlight the vast potential being unlocked by one of the industry’s most comprehensive offerings.

ABB continues to benefit from accelerated growth in solar – driven by a shift in the global energy mix and the strength of the company’s comprehensive offering and global footprint.

In its formative years solar was largely dependent on national renewable energy targets and subsidies to bring costs down the experience curve and create ‘grid parity,’ where solar prices were competitive with traditional power generation. Now the market has matured and over the past five years the price of solar has declined by more than 70 percent – making it increasingly competitive without subsidies, even through a shale gas boom and historically low oil prices.

During this time, global solar capacity increased tenfold, going from 15 GW in 2008 to over 170 GW at the end of 2014. ABB expects that global solar capacity could double again in the next few years.

“Today we see unprecedented growth in many markets where ‘solar’ would not have been discussed even a year ago,” said Pekka Tiitinen, President of ABB’s Discrete Automation and Motion division. “It is happening in countries without government subsidies, and it is happening from residential and commercial rooftops to utility scale plants. It is clear that solar can now stand on its own two feet and that is leading to a significant shift in our power mix.”

Tiitinen added “ABB’s Next Level strategy is designed to capitalize on this shift in power, with opportunities for expansion into the many new solar markets opening up today and continued innovation in better technologies.” These new markets complement ABB’s strong position in some of the world’s largest solar markets such as the US and China.

ABB has doubled the size of its solar inverter business in India in around five months. ABB announced in March 2015 the milestone of 1 GW solar inverter capacity installed base - a country first. Today ABB is the first company in India to surpass 2 GW of solar inverter capacity installed base, which is around half of the nation’s total inverter capacity.

In Honduras ABB installed an integrated power and automation solution for the country’s largest solar plant, a 100 MW PV site near Nacome. This solution was delivered as pre-assembled and factory-tested modules to reduce installation time and integration risks, and includes an ABB Symphony Plus SCADA system that monitors and controls the plant’s production and ensures a code-compliant connection to Honduras’s national grid. The power conversion modules contain inverters, medium voltage switchgear and transformers – all the equipment necessary to convert and feed the generated power into the grid.

Not every solar milestone happens on the utility-scale however and as solar matures, innovative new business models are also driving expansion. In Singapore ABB is supplying more than 800 of its TRIO solar inverters to equip public housing flats with renewable energy. The panels will be leased to the homeowners with no upfront costs, and will lower electricity bills and generate around 2.4 GW hours of clean electricity - the equivalent of the monthly energy consumption more than 6,400 homes.

Declining costs and innovative new business models are also creating a new generation of solar applications that allow businesses to generate their own electricity at a lower cost than they could buy from the grid while lowering environmental impact. ABB recently installed solar inverters and a plant management system in a mini solar field for Emirates Global Aluminum in Dubai, the UAE’s primary aluminum manufacturer. The field, which is the first of its kind in the UAE, generates enough power to meet daily electricity demand of the industrial site’s residential offices including its substantial air conditioning needs.

And in Costa Rica, ABB TRIO inverters are part of a solar solution being used for the first time on the rooftop of the country’s iconic Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto football stadium. The system will meet 100 percent of the stadium’s energy needs during normal operations and the peak demand conditions of game day, and will generate around 400,000 kWh annually resulting in an expected annual savings of $148,000 at current electricity prices.

ABB’s comprehensive offering uniquely positions the company to benefit from these industry growth drivers, covering everything in the value chain from design, conversion, collection, grid connection and optimization of solar installations of all sizes – literally ‘from the sun to the socket.’

In the Philippines ABB has been awarded a breakthrough order to supply a 200 MW solar plant with a turnkey electrical balance of plant solution that includes integrated combiner boxes, inverters, medium voltage transformers and switchgear, and a high voltage transformer including all substation equipment. Such comprehensive solutions from a company with global reach allows solar plant operators to take a systems approach rather than purchasing and then integrating individual components. At the same time, ABB can help ensure they are compliant with local grid regulations and tailored to each site’s unique challenges.

In September ABB announced an order to supply some 5,000 of its PVmax combiner boxes for a new 231 MW plant in Japan’s Seouchi region – one of the country’s largest solar projects. The combiner boxes, which collect the power output of multiple strings of PV panels for connection to an inverter, were especially designed for the demanding conditions of a Japanese costal community. They feature a unique resin coating which can last 20 years without repainting near with corrosive sea salt and their light weight speeds installation time and reduces construction cost.

In a recent interview for ABB’s corporate journal ABB review, Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board and founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the world’s leading provider of information on clean energy to investors, energy companies and governments said “ABB has extraordinary strength in engineering at both the product and system levels. Whether we are looking at next generation inverters or grid integration challenges, ABB has huge technological competence in creating successful solutions”

ABB provides the most comprehensive portfolio of products, systems, solutions and services along the solar PV value chain that enable the generation, transmission and distribution of solar power for grid-connected and microgrid applications. ABB’s offering includes inverters, low-voltage products, monitoring and control systems, grid connection, stabilization and integration products, as well as complete electrical balance of plant solutions. ABB also offers a wide range of support and maintenance services, including remote operations and diagnostics, helping ensure solar installations deliver optimal performance.

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