Tristan Erion Lorico, VP of sales and marketing for PV Evolution Labs, joined Episode 36 of the Factor This! podcast to break down an evolving market for solar manufacturing. Subscribe whereever you get your podcasts.
When Tristan Erion-Lorico started out in the solar industry, a 16.5 MW module order warranted a press release.
A lot can change in a decade.
Today, such PR fanfare is reserved for the multi-gigawatt factory announcements, which seem to come at a weekly clip. That's due in part to an overwhelming demand for modules in the U.S. and new federal incentives that are encouraging domestic manufacturing.
Moreover, trade disputes have throttled global module supply, and gigawatts of panels are tied up in ports due to links to human rights abuses.
These conditions have created "a total mess" in the market for solar modules, as Erion-Lorico puts it, and have led to a flood of new, largely unknown manufacturers hoping to pounce on the demand opportunity. Buyers have little choice but to import modules as the U.S. works to ramp up domestic production over the next several years.
Solar module manufacturers turn to third-party testing firms like PV Evolution Labs, where Erion-Lorico is vice president of sales and marketing, to prove that their products are up to snuff for the U.S. market.
Erion-Lorico joined Episode 36 of the Factor This! podcast to provide insights into who is trying to enter the market and what to expect as the industry evolves.
"Everyone wants manufacturing in the U.S. but we've seen time and again that it takes longer to get these factories online and being able to produce defect-free modules," Erion-Lorico said. "I think that's going to lead to a lot of orders not being filled and some painful times to ramp up this domestic production."
PVEL's Product Qualification Program (PQP) tests a module's long-term performance and reliability beyond standard certifications that check for front-end quality. The firm tests for factors such as light induced degradation, thermal cycling, damp heat, backsheet durability, mechanical stress, hail stress, and field exposure.
PQP results have become a prerequisite of sorts for foreign module manufacturers to sell into the U.S., as tax and debt equity investors typically require developers to procure modules that have undergone the firm's tests.
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