A popular goal for most, if not all, small solar companies is to scale up into the “Multi-Megawatt Club” of contractors and developers. And with demand for renewable energy capacity additions soaring, there have never been more opportunities to join this distinguished club.
However, the move from installing smaller rooftop PV systems to larger ground-mount solar farms can be a challenging endeavor with the potential for major missteps and consequential stumbles. Installers and contractors need to be agile and adaptable and ensure they have the right partners to support their growth.
Community Solar Ripe For Multi-MW Opportunities
Projected increases in renewable energy capacity additions and investments should undoubtedly help many solar companies make the jump from dealing in KWs to MWs.
Community solar offers one such pathway. Community solar is currently the fastest growing sector in the solar industry, and the U.S. Department of Energy has also set a goal to expand this sector through 2025 significantly. Additionally, while most community solar projects are centralized in four states, 21 states passed new legislation in 2021 to enable greater community solar adoption.
These local solar farms differ in size from a few hundred KWs up to 10 MW+, a range that provides a variety of promising routes for smaller solar companies trying to transition into the multi-MW club. While some community solar projects are sited on rooftops, most work best as ground-mounted installations with solar trackers.
For some smaller solar companies moving from rooftop systems into larger ground-mount installations, the total value of including solar trackers might not be immediately apparent. But the state-of-the-art TrinaTracker solution uses intelligent tracking and high-tech design that guarantees up to 15% greater energy yield while lowering a solar project’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE). The tracker’s sophisticated design allows for faster installations and better cable optimization, while additional savings arise from a significant decrease in balance-of-system (BOS) costs, particularly for electrical cables and transportation. TrinaTracker delivers the improved value that growing solar companies need to incorporate into their strategies for smoother sailing into the multi-MW club.
Common Obstacles for Scaling Solar Companies
Although several good routes exist to scale from small rooftop shops into multi-MW operations, these routes come fraught with obstacles that can potentially stifle growth, cause major setbacks, or even sink the company.
Rising Soft Costs - those for labor, overhead, permitting, etc. - consume a significant portion of any solar company’s budget and will only increase as the company moves from small rooftop systems to larger projects. Installers and contractors must account for regular soft-cost increases and incorporate them into growth projections.
Regulatory Volatility - The solar industry regularly faces no shortage of regulatory volatility, from tariffs and uncertainty around expiring tax incentives at the federal level to new rules and restrictions at the local level. Efficiently navigating this red tape requires having flexible short- and long-term strategies that allow the company to pivot in the face of unexpected changes to the status quo.
Grid interconnection delays - Installers and contractors moving into a larger scale of solar projects might be in for a shock when it’s time for grid interconnection. Currently, delays are piling up across the country since utilities cannot fully absorb the full scale of renewable energy growth. These bottlenecks are creating additional complications as companies try to deal with shifting timelines and significant delays.
Failing to optimize project value - Nobody likes leaving money on the table. Still, sometimes a company’s inexperience with operating at larger scales can lead to situations where it fails to realize a project’s total value. This scenario means lost revenue potential, fewer reinvestment opportunities, and missed deals.
Finding the Right Partners
No company operates in a vacuum, and building relationships with trusted partners is critical to success, a fact that’s especially true for solar businesses that need to contract with other companies for procurement, distribution, construction, engineering, etc.
At the same time, installers and contractors must understand the limitations of their current partners. It’s not uncommon for expanding solar shops to work with the same local partners they used when smaller. Sometimes, though, these smaller partners cannot scale their operations at the same pace or handle the complexity of larger multi-MW solar projects. If it takes too long to make this realization, the resulting misalignment can cause proposal delays, supply chain problems, and potentially lost customers.
The potential for that situation makes it essential to find partners who can support the solar company’s growth when it’s needed most. However, some solar companies can find it challenging to partner with more prominent companies that can provide the more comprehensive and robust support they need to scale into the multi-MW club.
And that’s where Trina Solar’s C&I Solutions can help. The C&I Solutions team has the experience and the expertise to deliver optimized value and smart solutions for growing solar companies. For instance, one option includes bundling the major PV system balance-of-system components into a simple, out-of-the-box solution to quickly and easily build a 5-10MW C&I project ideal for community solar projects. This one-stop shop for modules, inverters, and TrinaTracker also provides EPCs and developers with streamlined procurement and optimized interoperability, which help lower LCOE even more to boost project value.
Another option involves Trina Solar re-evaluating the company’s PV portfolio to identify missed opportunities and find ways to maximize future project value.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Reach out to us today to learn more about how Trina Solar’s C&I Solutions can make joining the multi-MW club easier.
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