ENACT had the opportunity to interview Rick Lewandowski, CECET’s Executive Director, for our new Industry Influencer blog series to talk about key trends in solar and clean tech today. With over 30 years of experience in the solar and renewable energies industry, Rick has the expertise and perspective we are hoping to tap into and learn from his insights.
What types of projects does CECET get involved in? We get involved in anything that has to do with clean tech. CECET is a subsidiary of Intertek. As an Edison Testing Laboratory (ETL), Intertek tests and certifies all types of products and manufactured goods. CECET is a relatively new arm of Intertek with a technology focus primarily in photovoltaic & wind energy, but also Microgrid & HVAC technology. We get involved with early stage companies, as well as those that are well established – the GE’s of the world.
What distributed energy technologies are you working on? Currently we are involved in optics, new modules tech, PV test laboratories, and test modules. We perform quality assurance checks, so we could for example…test a module that is made in China as they arrive in California, and then test [them] again as they arrive NY. Allowing us to check the quality for potential transport issues of imports at each point.
What projects are you working on? We are involved in several partnership projects with Universities. For example, Syracuse’s Center of Excellence and Clarkson, which has a blade testing facility that has a $1 million lab setup. These universities are working on everything from the interactions between power electronics to battery storage, to organic and di-sensitized tech, bi-facial PV cell tech. These technologies are really going to shake up the industry.
What do you see as key trends for the US Solar industry today? There is a sleeping giant – and it is in the form of HVAC contractors, currently around 72,000 in the US and a very small number are involved in clean energy, but that will not be the case for much longer. This means that solar contractors should be looking to formalize plans to reach out and secure as many of those companies as possible as partners, because once they get involved in clean energy they will be a strong competitor. Together they will have a very strong opportunity, each have specialties and experience that the other will need. It would be good timing – say over the next 5 years –for this kind of partnering to occur. Also, there’s the trend away from leasing and towards lending to residential customers. This, when coupled with battery storage, will have a great impact on the future of solar.
What do you see as key trends for commercial building energy retrofits in the US? A few actually – owner education about system maturation, such as the new quality issues and end-of-life issues that pop up. Trends [are moving] away from leasing towards loans, financing, and new competition. The utilities aren’t going to give this up without a fight, but I’d be very surprised if the way that energy is produced, distributed, and used will not change dramatically. Besides the tech advances that we have been seeing [in crystalline] – and everyone is used to saying that crystalline is here and staying – we are actually seeing new and very credible technologies that are game changers in optic tech and cell tech that really push the envelope in PV. We’re in a really good place right now, and even if no new tech entered the market the industry would see growth.
In the next 5 years, what types of change, growth, or development would you forecast within the industry? One of the biggest hurdles we need to overcome involves quality assurance and quality standardization. We saw the industry go from only 20 manufacturers worldwide to over 500 in a short matter of time, many of the companies who own large energy producing plants are now selling those assets, and the people who are buying them are largely financial groups. These groups are less tech savvy, and we can see a higher failure rate in the field with certain modules. I’ve heard that in 2013 perhaps as much as a gigawatt of failed modules were seen in the field. Today we’re launching the first mobile US Photovoltaic test lab. We can actually do electro luminescence, infrared imaging, and measure IV-curves in the field to verify module performance and identify damaged or underperforming modules.
This can address quality checks; utilizing systems like these mitigate the losses associated with snail tails and micro cracks. We can now test a 5, 10, or 20 year-old system against what it was supposed to be. And we test modules being unloaded right off the truck as they’re being installed. This will greatly improve the ROI and minimize risk for commercial and industrial systems.
As Rick points out, it is a very exciting time for the solar and renewables industries. New technologies, implementation and standardization of best practices and quality assurance are shaking things up. For more information about CECET’s projects, including their new mobile PV test lab you can visit www.cecet.com. ENACT would like to thank Rick Lewandowski for his time and sharing his insights. Stay tuned for our next Industry Influencer series post! Learn more about the CECET Mobile PV Testing Lab here.