Seasonal trends in the solar industry are similar year-over-year. Every Q4, developers, and EPCs rush to meet investors year-end deadlines. Deals must be placed-into-service by year-end so the tax credit can be taken in the same year.
While all that goes on in the background, let us examine the main trends to watch for in 2017.
1. Equipment prices continue to fall
In 2016, the industry saw module prices fall from the mid-60s (cents/Watt) to the low 40s. This trend will continue. Greentech Media Research predicts another 5-6 cent drop this year.
It seems that their 2013 prediction of 36-cents-per-watt modules in 2017 is quickly becoming true. With modules prices positioned to drop below 40 cents in 2017, along with an oversupply carrying over from last year, more financial pressure is being put on Tier 1 suppliers.
Price declines are not limited to modules. Tracker prices are also expected to see price declines of around 5-10 percent in the coming year. As yield grows in importance for financial thresholds in the utility-scale market, trackers should continue to increase their market share in that sector.
2. Software will push down the levelised cost of energy (LCOE)
New software launches or significant updates to existing software (i.e. PV system design programs), continue to simplify many processes for developers & EPCs. Programs like HelioScope can create an array blueprint, as well as expected energy output in a matter of minutes. Asset management software, such as 3Megawatt, Lens and Ra Power are continuing to gain popularity and are allowing asset owners one streamlined tool to reduce operation costs and increase integrity of data.
We see companies continuing to adopt these and other software tools this year. As hard costs decline and engineering comprises a larger part of all-in EPC costs, especially on small projects, software can help to control soft costs.
3. Bifacial modules: How will they fare?
Bifacial modules, which yield power from both sides using refracted light from the back side, were deployed occasionally in 2016. Yingli and Supreme both have models looking to compete in the market.
Bifacial modules, which can produce up to 30 percent more yield than traditional modules, still comprise a tiny fraction of the market share, but we predict that adoption may rise. In the continued effort to optimize space-constrained opportunities, such as commercial and industrial (C&I) projects limited by roof space, an increase in capacity or yield will enable improved economics that could grow mid-market project opportunities.