Canadian Solar aims to capture 10% of the US’ battery storage market in 2021

By Andy Colthorpe
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PV projects including Mustang Solar, where the company is now retrofitting large-scale battery storage, were developed by its US subsidiary Recurrent Energy. Image: Recurrent Energy.

Vertically-integrated solar PV company Canadian Solar won nearly 1GWh of battery storage contracts in 2020 and CEO Shawn Qu has said it expects to “capture around 10% of the battery storage market in the US alone” during this year.

In comments accompanying Canadian Solar’s 2020 financial results, CEO Qu said that there is nearly 9GWh of battery storage in the company’s project pipeline, along with over 20GWp of solar PV projects, with Canadian Solar “positioned to benefit from robust growth in both areas”.

Our sister site PV Tech reported yesterday that full-year revenues for the company were in line with guidance of US$3.5 billion, which was an increase of 9% over the previous year. It has forecasted that 2021 revenues will be higher by as much as 70%, driven in part by its energy storage activities. Canadian Solar is in PV Tech’s ‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) rankings of top module manufacturers globally, expecting to ship between 18GW and 20GW of modules in 2021, while it also expects to sell 1.8GW to 2.3GW of solar projects.

From this current quarter onwards, the company will start reporting revenues from its energy storage business. It has found exponential market opportunities in the sector, driven by cost declines in battery storage and ongoing technology improvements, coupled with the rising penetration of renewables and the retirement of fossil fuel plants worldwide.

Canadian Solar said that it is well-positioned to capitalise on these opportunities, in standalone energy storage as well as in the solar-plus-storage market. CEO Shawn Qu said that storage “will contribute to both topline and earnings this year as we complete key delivery milestones and build long-term sustainable returns for shareholders”.

There are two business divisions through which it aims to deliver on this promise: its Global Energy division and CSI Solar, which is a China-based subsidiary. CSI Solar delivers turnkey battery storage system solutions backed with performance guarantees. As of the end of January, it had 861MWh of energy storage contracted or in construction, 1,400MWh of forecasted capacity as high probability for award (termed as 75% probability of winning contracts in the next 12 months) and a pipeline of 3,646MWh further ahead.

The Global Energy Business division develops utility-scale standalone and solar-plus-storage projects, including retrofitting battery storage to existing PV plants. It has 3MWh of storage already in operation, with 913MWh in construction and a backlog of 1,388MWh. There is a further pipeline of 6,467MWh of projects further ahead. In an earlier quarterly financial results presentation in August last year, the company had talked up the potential of the solar-plus-storage market in particular and also revealed that it intended to start retaining partial ownership of more of its solar and storage projects rather than selling outright, a strategy it has already implemented in Japan.  

Energy-Storage.news reported on several of those Global Energy Business projects during 2020, including the announcement in October that Canadian Solar will retrofit 75MW / 300MWh of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery storage at Mustang Solar, a 100MW / 134MWp PV plant in Kings County, California owned by Goldman Sachs. Another project, called Slate, also in Kings County and also owned by Goldman Sachs’ renewable energy subsidiary will be a new-build 300MWac solar plant with 140.25MW / 561MWh of battery storage.

Analysis firm Wood Mackenzie has said that the US industry deployed around 1,464MW / 3,487MWh of new energy storage during 2020 and the company’s head of energy storage research Dan Finn-Foley similarly said that the market is beginning to “accelerate exponentially,” rising to an annual market of much as 7.5GW / 26.5GWh by 2025. 

Additional reporting by Mark Osborne. 

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