Trina Solar

Founded in 1997 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006, solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer Trina Solar is in its third decade of operations. Headquartered in Changzhou, China, the company has established a firm foothold in the global solar power market. With its accumulated shipments exceeding 32 GW as of January 2018, Trina Solar has emerged as one of the largest suppliers of solar PV modules in the world in a span of over 20 years. On the occasion of the company’s twentieth anniversary, Gaurav Mathur, head of sales for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, remarked, “The company has sustained itself for 20 years and we have a plan of action in place for the next 20 years, with new products and strategies to help us maintain our stand as global leaders in PV technology.”

Global coverage

Trina Solar holds a 10 per cent market share in the global module supply market, having shipped about 9.1 GW of modules in 2017. The company’s PV products and services are distributed to more than 100 countries and regions around the world. Its manufacturing facilities are spread across China, Singapore and Malaysia. Apart from manufacturing modules, the company manufactures ingots, wafers and solar cells. It is also involved in downstream activities such as solar PV project development, financing, design, construction, operations, management and system integration. In terms of project development, Trina Solar works on the vertical integration model of concept-to-commissioning, building complete solar projects and then selling them to interested parties. The company designs, constructs, operates and sells solar power projects in China, the US, the UK, and other European and Asian countries. Trina Solar’s downstream activities were responsible for connecting around 2 GW to the global power grid by end 2017.

In line with China’s One Belt One Road Initiative, which focuses on cooperation and connectivity for the enhanced development of all Eurasian countries, Trina Solar has expanded its businesses in the participating countries. In fact, it became the largest solar PV manufacturer in Vietnam with the launch of a 1 GW solar PV cell manufacturing plant in the country in 2017.

Meanwhile, Trina Solar’s foray into the rooftop solar space has been quite successful mainly in the commercial and industrial segments. To gain a foothold in the residential rooftop segment as well, the company launched its first residential PV kit, TrinaHome, in August 2017. Over the next five years, it plans to implement the “One-Million Rooftop Plan” in China. Notably, around 20,000 rooftop kits have already been installed in Chinese households as per the data provided by Mathur.

India operations

In India, Trina Solar held a 16 per cent market share during October 2016 to September 2017, as per BRIDGE TO INDIA’s solar map. It shipped about 1.3 GW of solar modules to India in 2017 and became one of the first companies to cross the 3.4 GW mark in India. In fact, modules supplied to India contribute roughly 10 per cent to the company’s total revenue. “The key to the success of global players in India is the superior quality and efficiency of modules provided by them as compared to their more expensive Indian counterparts. In addition to this, the huge manufacturing capacities of these companies give them an edge over Indian manufacturers in terms of better procuring power and resource management, and larger economic gains,” says Mathur.

To establish its local presence more firmly and to tap into the growing solar market in the country, Trina Solar had acquired around 90 acres of land in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, to set up a solar cell and module manufacturing plant. However, at present, the company has put on hold its plans of setting up a manufacturing facility in India owing to financial uncertainties. Elaborating on the company’s expansion strategy in India, Mathur says, “Due diligence is being carried out by us in terms of investments, manufacturing costs and government incentives, to ascertain the financial feasibility of setting up a manufacturing unit in India as part of the recent government proposal for manufacturing 20 GW of solar modules in India. We also believe that levying any duties would be detrimental to the growth of the solar sector in India due to the limited domestic manufacturing capacity, which is not enough to cater to the massive capacity addition targets.”

Trina Solar supplied modules to a 455 MWp solar power plant in Andhra Pradesh, developed by SB Energy, which commenced operations in June 2017. Apart from the utility-scale and commercial segments, the company is planning to foray into the Indian residential market in a big way with its plug-and-play TrinaHome rooftop kits. This is quite similar to the company’s Chinese rooftop programme, as the former requires channel partners in addition to dealers owing to manpower constraints in India. To this end, 200 solar rooftop installers have been trained and certified by the company in New Delhi and Chennai, and a similar process is being adopted in other cities as well.

The way forward

Trina Solar is rapidly expanding its portfolio in the solar space. It has recently launched Trina Pro, as part of its smart PV energy and energy internet solutions, which is essentially a combination of trackers, inverters and modules provided with engineering, procurement and construction, and operations and maintenance as one utility-scale integrated PV system. To this end, the company acquired a Spanish tracker company called Nclave and partnered with several inverter manufacturers for the procurement of customised products that worked best with Trina Solar’s modules. Trina Pro uses cutting-edge technologies for optimised system integration that enhances energy generation and system stability, ultimately reducing the levellised cost of energy generated from the system and increasing returns on investment for customers.

The company aims to reverse the trend of shrinking margins for module manufacturers and increase its revenue gains by providing complete solutions for customers. With respect to the company’s future plans, Mathur says, “Apart from the Trina Pro programme, the company is venturing into internet of things as data management holds huge prospects for the future. About 10 stakeholders have already joined hands with it in this direction, including the likes of Siemens, IBM and Accenture. This is in line with Trina Solar’s strategy of slowly transitioning from a module manufacturer to an end-to-end PV solutions provider.”

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