Evolving Solar PV Market

The solar photovoltaic market has evolved over the past 5 years, from a condition of shortage of supply, low efficiency levels and relatively high prices, to its current state of proliferation of producers, over capacity and a drive to differentiate similar panel products through aesthetics and “nice to have” add-on features.

Of course, the dilemma for consumers in a market with oversupply and reducing prices is what level of confidence exists in “low cost” suppliers?  The related question: is “low cost” is really a pseudonym for “low quality?” – as a drive to save on cost can sometimes compromise excellence in production. Furthermore, with a profusion of panel models available, it can be a complex decision to know which features should be incorporated into a PV array. With a wide range of panel types available and no end of “advice” from manufacturers, (each claiming competitive advantage), installers and government sponsored agencies, the selection choice can be baffling.

Constantly changing tariff feed-in rates is another factor to consider, as the calculation on the investment “pay back” period can vary according to changing legislation. In fact, the only reason that tariffs exist is to encourage consumer take-up and perhaps artificially create a market demand for product. As “grid parity” (the level where cost of production of fossil based fuels matches cost of solar power generation) approaches, then tariffs will be completely removed. This will then take much of the financial justification out of the equation, leaving the consumer to make a decision purely based on a drive to avail of renewable “green” energy supply.

Molex SolarSpec™ Junction Box with DC connectors

To make certain that Molex is best placed to cover market diversification; we have developed a portfolio of SolarSpec™ connectors suitable for a variety of PV related applications. These products serve both the general “consumer” style PV installation project, where return on investment is critical, and also evolving technological applications in “smart” grid and performance enhancement systems.

As well as generic industry DC connector and cabling solutions for panel and inverter connections, Molex has developed innovative box solutions that allow “western” based PV producers to compete with Asian based manufacturing sources. As our products are capable of being automatically picked and placed, they reduce the need for manual intervention and thus save on labour and associated additional costs linked to process variation and quality PPM levels.

Conversely, Molex is providing solutions for emerging markets where automatic assembly is not such a key factor in panel production. The manual attach, overmolded version of the junction box will initially be produced in Asia, but later adaptations could be manufactured in other locations as customer demand evolves.

To ensure that Molex stays at the forefront of technological advances, we have also developed concepts on a modular “platform” box solution, that offers options on bypass protection, safety shut off (in the event of arcing, or over heating), system performance monitoring (for tracking of output and efficiency levels, with remote diagnostics), security features (for equipment matching) and DC/DC power optimisation (to ensure that performance is not compromised if the panel array is partly shaded or covered in debris.)

As photovoltaic technology permeates new realms, Molex intends to be in the forefront of developments. New connector solutions will build on our experience in the solar market to date, but will also tap in to the vast reservoir of knowledge acquired in other industries. Partnering with key industry leaders to understand future requirements and capture specifications is a major factor in ensuring we have the right products at the right time.  It is therefore critical that Molex continues to have key personal available to capture and communicate market drivers.

Visit Molex at booth #6854 during Solar Power International October 17th through the 20th in Dallas Texas to learn more about the SolarSpec™ Junction Box and Cable Assemblies along with other technologies that Molex has to offer the renewable energy market.