Australia solar module stockpiles could be exhausted soon, due to coronavirus

rooftop solar system panels up close renters

Australia’s rooftop solar market is being warned to brace for a months-long impact from the devastating coronavirus outbreak in China, as disrupted panel production and supply takes its toll on the local market.

Solar Juice co-founder and head of supply, Rami Fedda said in a video message on LinkedIn on Tuesday that the word from key solar panel manufacturers was that China was not expected to return to anything like business-as-usual on PV panel exports until early March.

“Manufacturers are running under capacity because their employees have to be quarantined for at least the next 14 days,” Fedda said.

“Also other parts of the supply chain are affected, such as trucking and ports,” he added. “Many containers are on the wharf, waiting to get on the vessel.”

For installers in Australia, Fedda said, this meant current Australian stockpiles of China-made panels could run out within the month, leaving installers and consumers in the lurch. China-made modules account for 90 per cent of Australia’s rooftop solar market.

“We strongly believe that the stock currently available in Australia will not get us through to mid-March, let alone late March,” he warned.

But Fedda also stressed that there were ways to help bridge the supply gap.

“Please look at alternate products such as non-Chinese brands, like REC, LG … QCells,” he said.

“We want everybody to start planning by the month, not just by the day, and this will reduce the chance of getting disappointed due to not having panels – because if there’s no panels there’s no solar installations.”

Warnings of the ripple effect of the coronavirus outbreak in China on solar panel manufacturing and supply have ranged from delayed deliveries to project delays and price spikes – and spread well beyond the solar industry.

At the time of publication, the latest data suggested the outbreak had infected more than 43,100 people worldwide and killed 1,018, with the impacts of an enormous quarantine effort being felt economy-wide.

A report on Wednesday by Forbes said that experts were forecasting global economic growth in 2020 would be reduced by 0.2% to 0.3% as a direct result of the coronavirus.

In the solar sector, PV Magazine reported last week that investment banking company Roth Capital Partners predicted prices including the cost of PV modules could rise in the near term as a result of in shortages of solar wafers and module glass.

Last week, Todae Solar COO Tyrone Kahn said his company had received notifications from suppliers across the board about potential product delivery delays.

“It’s likely to have some impact on the Australian market,” Kahn told RenewEconomy. “If the manufacturing plants stay closed for another couple of weeks then that will have a big impact … and if the Australian government decides to stop letting in (cargo) ships, that will have a massive impact,” he said.

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