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PPP pilot successful in rooftop solar PV development

Released at: 16:11, 27/08/2019

PPP pilot successful in rooftop solar PV development

Photo: GIZ

Pilot creates partnerships that transfer know-how from international experts to local companies.

by Minh Do

With support from GIZ Vietnam, Syntegra Solar and the Cat Tuong Corporation have developed a viable business model for the development and implementation of a pilot rooftop PV project since first beginning in 2017.

The public-private partnership (PPP) model is expected to be a best practice example of a good business model to increase the installed capacity of solar PV in Vietnam and to create more green jobs in installation, operations, and management. “Not only solar companies but also those from other industries, like Cat Tuong, are capable of investing in renewable energy to generate their own electricity and build green production operations,” said Mr. Rainer Brohm, International Coordinator/VEPG Secretariat at GIZ Vietnam’s Energy Support Programme. “We see this in Germany, as a lot of industries are investing in solar PV systems.”

Typical case

Cat Tuong, which has specialized in building insulation manufacturing and distribution for 17 years, targets selling green products and is committed to a long-term vision of a better and greener environment. Mr. Nguyen Hung, Manager of the Cat Tuong Corporation, told VET that the company took the initiative by installing a solar rooftop system on its own premises. However, finding the right partner to resolve financial and technical issues was an obstacle for its solar initiative. Mr. Hung then secured GIZ Vietnam’s support to connect with the right partner for the project, which was a program coordinated by GIZ for German investors and local business and individuals with roof space.

In December 2017, the Tona Syntegra Solar JSC (TSS) was established as a joint venture between Syntegra Solar and Tona, a local construction company and cooperator with Cat Tuong, to facilitate know-how transfer and capacity building in the solar sector. The pilot power plant generates 850 kWp, which needs approximately 2,750 PV modules (4,400 sq m of roof space). “We want to transfer knowledge that helps the project be of high quality and safety for workers working on rooftops,” Mr. Brohm said. “Quality is very important and makes the PV system deliver electricity for 25-30 years.”

Cat Tuong found good partners of international quality and with knowledge of Vietnam that could help it resolve its problems, he added. It can reduce electricity demand and produce products that help other companies cut their demand and have green products. “They are actually part of industry efficiency,” he said. “Cat Tuong’s customers work with other industrial companies and then helps others to follow. It’s an interesting application of solar PV in the industry and in Vietnam.”

The project will provide a best practice model for the development and implementation of a viable rooftop PV project. Lessons learned as well as technical and administrative guidelines can be used by other project developers to replicate the model, so PV technology can gradually grow in Vietnam, according to GIZ.

The only cost for the solar operations system is for maintenance and this is low, Mr. Brohm added. When a solar energy market is developed so quickly, investors only see the cheap price but pay less attention to quality. The pilot project will develop technical and administrative guidelines in Vietnamese and English for the development of rooftop solar PV systems.

Expansion expectations

With high irradiation rates and a fast-growing industrial sector with a high need for electricity, Vietnam has promising conditions for developing solar PV projects. It is estimated that an additional capacity of 4,000MW on average will be required each year in the short term to meet the increasing demand. The country has also witnessed the rapid increase of medium-sized factories at industrial parks around the largest Vietnamese cities, which contributes to the potential of a market for rooftop PV systems.

Vietnam’s solar market is only now developing. For rooftop development, demand is seen to provide power without having a lot of impacts on the grid and without creating investment in the transport grid, according to Mr. Brohm.

A great many solar energy projects have been installed in recent years but with limited capacity to the grid due to limitations with the transmission grid. This is a good solution for local investors in the industry. PV systems are a good map for producing electricity where demand is needed, and this is why the government is now providing support.

According to the Department of Electricity and Renewable Energy at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, by the end of 2025, 100,000 solar rooftop systems (or 1,000MWp) are expected to have been installed. The plan aims to implement a national strategy for renewable energy development through solutions to develop the solar PV market, encouraging individual organizations to invest in the electricity product. There are 9,314 rooftop solar power systems now installed with a capacity of 193MWp. In particular, there are 204 systems installed by EVN at its headquarters, and in the remaining 9,110 systems, the enterprise customer group installed 1,560 systems with a capacity of 145,9MWp and households installed 7,550 systems with 40,46MWp.

For Cat Tuong, this project is just the beginning as the company still has some spare roof space where solar panels can be installed. “We have learned a lot from this pilot project and will be very confident in our future projects,” Mr. Hung said. “In addition, we can contribute to the development of the solar industry by introducing customers to those who have used our products in the past and experienced energy/electricity savings. We will provide some consulting and expertise in roofing to those who need to understand the requirements of roof systems.”

Transparent policies from EVN are the first and foremost factor in the expansion of the solar industry in Vietnam, he added. Standards and building codes are the next factor in helping set good practices for the industry.

There are many companies working in this field but most were only established recently and are of dubious quality. Training programs from GIZ and similar organizations will help promote the solar industry and make certain that all parties involved work under appropriate standards. Private companies similar to Cat Tuong also need to commit to renewables not only for short-term benefits from PR and marketing but also for competitiveness and to fight climate change in the longer term.

The pilot project will develop Technical and Administrative Guidelines in Vietnamese and English for the development of rooftop solar PV systems. The guidelines will include important topics such as Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC), grid codes, international security and safety standards, and monitoring and evaluation. They will be made publicly available to Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), national and local government agencies, universities, technical institutes, and other companies in the sector.

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