Trina Solar Sets ‘Leading Energy IoT’ as New Strategy

Trina Solar Ltd, a major solar panel manufacturer in China, held an event commemorating its 20th anniversary in Changzhou City, Jiangsu Province, where its headquarters is located.

The cumulative output of the solar panels sold by the company in the past 20 years reached about 32GW, which indicates that the company is the world’s top solar panel manufacturer, according to Gao. The company sells its products to more than 100 countries and regions throughout the world.

Jifan Gao, chairman and CEO (chief executive officer) of the company, announced plans to strengthen businesses in downstream fields and start the sale of systems and comprehensive control of microgrids while continuously setting the production and sale of solar panels as its core business.

In the background is the fact that the solar panel business and related technologies are entering the period of maturity. Chairman Gao estimates that the cost reduction margin is limited although the company will continue its efforts to reduce solar panel prices. Because of this situation, he intends to contribute to the improvement of the feasibility of the solar power generation business in the future by further improving the efficiency, reliability and service life of solar panels.

He also intends to ensure profit from a wide range of fields related to solar panels, in addition to the profit from solar panels, by offering a set of systems needed by on-ground and offshore solar power plants and introducing an integrated system that can optimize the control of storage batteries and solar power as well as a system that can optimize power generation, power storage and demand of each microgrid of the entire power grid, for example.

The company has long had a policy to strengthen such strategies (Trina Solar CEO Discusses ‘Change From Panel Manufacturer to Solutions Company’). Recently, the company disclosed the framework of the business would cover a wider range.

Of late, major solar panel manufacturers have been incorporating the earnings structure in which the panel production/distribution business that faces severe cost competition and requires continuous investment in the equipment is supported by downstream businesses including the power generation business, thus ensuring long-term and stable income and the development/sale of power plants.

Trina Solar is also actively developing solar power generation projects. As of January 2018, the solar power plants that the company developed and connected to grids in various regions of the world reached roughly 2GW. The majority of the plants are in China, the UK and the US.

In the future, the company will also cover major devices, materials and IT (information technology) that constitute power generation systems, in addition to solar panels. When the plan is realized, power producers and EPC (engineering, planning, construction) service companies can introduce power generation systems that optimize the solar panel performance while reducing the burden and cost of design. The O&M (operation and maintenance) load will also be reduced by IT systems and remote monitoring systems that minimize the power generation loss, according to the explanation.

In the field of microgrids utilizing solar power plants, the company has also been planning to offer IoT that improves collaboration with solar power systems, storage batteries, electric vehicles (EVs), and so on, as well as power supply/demand balance.

However, the range where Trina Solar itself has an advantage is limited, in respect to the technologies needed to promote the strategies. Therefore, the company will promote development and commercialization through collaboration with companies and research institutes in a wide range of fields.

As for “Trina IoT,” an integrated system infrastructure that can optimize power generation, power storage and demand from an entire power grid down to a microgrid unit, for example, the company will start validation of the technologies and development of the businesses in cooperation with IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) of the US, Accenture LLP of the US, Siemens AG of Germany as well as Chinese IT companies Alibaba Group Holding Limited and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and research institutes of power systems and IT systems

The development of microgrid control systems was led by major IT companies and power companies of the US. Trina Solar will collaborate with companies that have proven results in these fields, aiming to take the initiative and establish the market in China earlier than others. Collaboration with the company is also attractive for major companies in Europe and the US, because they can establish a foothold in the giant Chinese market.

According to the concept of Trina Solar, the microgrid system will store and process the data of power supply/demand including the operating situation of scattered power sources such as solar power plants, power storage systems, weather and demand for integrated management in the cloud.

The company will collaborate with leading companies in respect to elemental technologies of “cloud computing,” “power storage systems,” “remote monitoring/control systems” and “solar power generation systems for industrial and residential use” that are needed to realize the system and develop related technologies and systems at the same time, according to the announcement.

“We decided to establish the technology to combine multiple solar power plants and operate them as a virtual power plant (VPP) utilizing a block chain in five cities including Beijing,” Chairman Gao said.

He also disclosed a plan to install solar power generation equipment and storage batteries on one million facilities and houses in China and operate them integrally using cloud computing. They will be installed on 100,000 facilities and houses by the end of 2018, he said.

Trina Solar incorporates the “light asset” strategy and minimizes the equipment and assets that it owns. In carrying out operations in new fields, it seems that the company also clearly distinguishes the fields that it handles from the fields handled by business partners.

The company manages power storage systems directly, utilizing storage batteries manufactured by an OEM (original equipment manufacturer). The power storage systems are intended for industrial use and for residential use in Japan; the systems intended for residential use are already being sold.

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