Juan Suarez, Senior Director of Engineering and Program Management, Unirac
“Grid parity,” “lowest levelized cost of energy,” and “PV < CE” are phrases that dominated the solar industry’s lexicon for the past few years. But for those tracking the financial performance of companies across solar, the more critical trend and phrase lately is, “the race to the bottom.” The ever-accelerating push to reduce costs in photovoltaics has put many companies on life support and has others facing margin compression and profitability evaporation. And oh by the way, compared to most industries, the growth is spectacular.
Profitable, sustainable growth is the solar industry's biggest challenge in North America. The race to the bottom creates an environment where short term decisions produce revenue growth, sometimes at the expense of long-term financial health. As all companies seek to avoid commoditization, investments in quality and innovation become more difficult. Who can worry about next year, while fighting for survival now? The answer is simple, the market winners.
Quality and reliability will become more evident as more solar is installed. Financiers are starting get real data from system performance that will affect how they influence purchasing decisions by developers and EPC’s.
Innovation is not just for manufacturers anymore. Installation contractors, EPC’s and developers are demanding and participating in the development of new installation process, new materials and sophisticated logistics such as pre-panelization, removing module frames and adhesives.
The companies that find the fortitude, and more importantly the dollars, to invest in quality and innovation are perfectly positioned to take share and realize profitable growth.
As Unirac’s senior director of engineering and program management, Juan Suarez tripled the company’s patent portfolio in less than two years, and led the engineering and product development process to achieve ISO 9001:2008 certification. Juan is a highly accomplished speaker and author on solar industry topics. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University, with a minor in math.