Huawei on digitalisation, subsidy-free solar and the future of the industry

It has been almost a year since SolarPower Europe launched its Digitalisation Task Force, and since then we have taken great strides in ensuring that digitalisation and solar are on everyone's radars. With the publication of the 7 Solar Industry Commitments to Digitalisation, the 10 Regulatory Asks for Digitalisation & Solar, and the world's first report on Digitalisation & Solar, this task force has been extremely active in its first year. Huawei, one of our sponsor members, has been a key driver of this task force and innovation of the solar industry through digitalisation technology. We sat down with Alison Finch, Chief Marketing Officer at Huawei Solar Europe and SolarPower Europe Board Member, to discuss how Huawei has embraced the digitalisation trend and what this means for the European solar industry.

SPE: Huawei has been at the cutting-edge of digitalisation and solar technology - what opportunities do these technologies offer to help boost solar in Europe and globally?

AF: Thank you! A product which clearly demonstrates our approach to digitalisation is Huawei's unique I-V Curve Diagnosis. This enables solar plant owners and operators to work remotely, whilst monitoring their solar PV plants in minute detail. Each string provides granular data about an array's performance which, when aggregated provides precise information about the performance of a whole plant. From the comfort of their laptop or smart phone, engineers can quickly identify faults and the root cause of issues. This real-time monitoring enables pre-emptive maintenance and removes the need for expensive ad-hoc, laborious on-site testing, ensuing owners and O&M operators are confident their solar plants are performing to maximum efficiency.

SPE: In September, Huawei SUN2000 60KTL inverters were installed for the first time in Europe as part of Anesco's innovative subsidy-free Clayhill solar park. What does the success of this project mean for the European solar industry? 

AF: The ambition of the solar industry is to be competitive with all forms of energy generation, not just other renewable technologies. In order to achieve this aim, the global solar industry must prepare for life in a post-subsidy era. The key to this is to continuously collaborate and innovate, explore and develop new ways to reliably increase yields whilst simultaneously driving down costs. With plant performance and reliability being key factors in determining the value and cost-effectiveness of each energy source, delivering exceptional plant uptime whilst minimizing the cost of operations and maintenance is a top priority for PV plant owner/operators. The case study of Anesco's subsidy-free Clayhill solar park greatly demonstrates the need to innovate and develop new ways of working - and the great accomplishments which can be achieved if this is done.

SPE: What trends does Huawei expect to see in the European solar industry for 2018?

AF: As a board member of SolarPower Europe, I was delighted to lead the taskforce on the solar industry's Seven Commitments on Digitalisation which sets out a series of top-level pledges to aid the transition to fully digitalized solar. I think these Seven Commitments depict what some of the trends are and what the industry can do to work towards them. If we take prosumer choice for example, we really need to promote transparency and choice for the prosumer so that they can switch from one product to another, and get the best option for themselves. In order for this to work, we need to ensure that the prosumer is able to have all the facts - and the best place for this is in the digitalised world of the Internet.  Another trend for 2018 is peer-to-peer exchange. We're very supportive of decentralized peer-to-peer exchanges and looking to build innovative solutions surrounding this topic. The current discussion is blockchain, and where this is likely to be in the next four years. Honestly, I don't know the answer to this, but it's important that the solar industry partners collaborate to explore the possibilities that new technologies such as this have to offer.  

(Photo Credit: Huawei Solar Europe)

Photo: Huawei inverter at Clayhill solar park