news Published on May 2, 2019

The right choice at the right price


The lack of standard regulations on the quality of solar rooftop products, intense competition, and the absence of requisite awareness may disturb the market as investors and developers are racing to develop their solar rooftop projects in Vietnam to capitalise on feed-in tariff incentives.

In the present solar-rooftop era, engineering procurement and construction (EPC) or system installation partners are essential. “Who should I contract to install my systems and what criteria should I use to choose the right installation partner?” This is often the billion-dollar question for rooftop solar system developers.

The increasingly fierce competition in the solar industry has also resulted in low prices among rooftop installers who are now offering extremely aggressive tariffs – and often use poor-quality materials to push down the price.

Mai Van Trung, business development director at SolarBK, Vietnam’s leading provider of economical, efficient, and safe solar energy solutions and solar PV rooftop systems, pointed out that some customers still choose providers and EPC contractors based on price, creating opportunities for less experienced companies to offer low quality products.

“This is the very same issue that giant solar markets like India and Bangladesh encountered before,” Trung stressed.

The compromise in quality can be seen in installations. The price pressure means that little attention is paid to quality of photovoltaics (PV) modules, inverter or service after installation. For instance, the supplier may provide a low quality PV panel or unit of unknown origin at half the price, but the system will begin to show issues after 3-5 years.

When considering return on investment, it is necessary to take into account performance and amortisation that can reduce the system’s life cycle.

Lower-cost solar panels or inverters will mean lower upfront costs and may perform well for many years, but over time (usually three or five years) most high-quality panels will still be operating closer to the maximum power rating, which means higher energy yields and greater returns.

“Besides, the design and the load bearing capacity of the roof and structural stability should be considered carefully. The service and support is another aspect, which you cannot ignore.

For a solar system with a life-span of 20 years, it is important to check whether your installer offers service and maintenance support over the life period of the system,” Trung suggested.

Thus, customers should select businesses that can guarantee the power output of the system, and it is better if there is an independent third unit to guarantee the power output and service solutions.

For its solar rooftop systems, SolarBK set the same EPC criteria as for its solar farms, committing that the rooftop systems output will reach 90% of its designed capacity in the first year.

Besides, thanks to SolarBK’s ESCO solution, which will be implemented by SolarESCO, a member of SolarBK’s integrated vertical chain, businesses can save on the initial investment cost and they can own the solar power system after the contract ends.

SolarESCO is a financial solution for businesses wishing to use solar power with flexible payment methods.

As long as certain criteria are met, the enterprise will be invested wholly or partly depending on the terms of the agreement with customers, including installation, operation, infrastructure, and risk management activities.