The surging oil price has drawn much attention to the development of renewable energies, in particular, solar energy. According to Solarbuzz, worldwide solar photovoltaic (PV) market installations reached a record high of 18.2GW in 2010, representing a 139% growth on year. Growth will continue in 2011 when the market of related manufacturing equipment is expected to climb 41% from a year earlier to US$15.2 billion, said the market research firm.
TrendForce's statistics also suggests that the global solar cell production capacity is estimated at 20-25GW in 2011, and demand will continue to grow at 20-25% per year.
Digitimes recently had a chance to talk to Leon Wang, senior supervisor of Marketing Center for NS Micro Motor Technology, to discuss how the rising demand for solar energy worldwide could generate new growth opportunities for his company. Specializing in the manufacture of computer fans and blowers, NS Micro Motor has expanded its product lineup specifically designed for use in PV inverters and uninterrupted power systems (UPS), and has grown its client portfolio to include Motech Industries and other major solar cell companies.
The following is an excerpt of the conversation.
Cooling solutions for solar applications
NS Micro Motor has a complete portfolio of fan modules targeted at solar inverters and UPS. Similar to cooling solutions used for other different applications, those designed specifically for parts and components used in solar-powered devices require a certain degree of performance and stability. But the latter segment should also meet some special requirements such as the ability to resist weather of all kinds.
As solar power systems must be installed outdoors to receive direct sunlight, parts and components used to build the installations will require a higher level of weather resistance than those used for other applications. Different countries around the world have varying climate and weather conditions. For instance, weather patterns in Europe and the Middle East are very different.
Furthermore, in many countries, the difference between day and night time temperatures could be huge. For example, the desert regions of the Middle East have wide diurnal temperature ranges. Average temperatures are around 40 degrees Celsius during the day, but fall to minus 10 degrees Celsius at night time. Accordingly, components and parts used in solar installations may even comply with stringent military level specifications for temperature and humidity, waterproofing and dust resistance.
In addition, PV system parts and components have to be certified in accordance with different standards for electrical equipment around the world. Products exported to the US must meet the IP laboratory standards while those to Europe are required to be VDE-approved. NS Micro Motor's cooling modules for solar applications all conform to both standards, joining Japan's Sanyo Electric, and Taiwan-based Sunonwealth Electric Machine Industry and Delta Electronics.
Capability to meet stringent environmental requirements
As solar power stations are usually located in remote areas, they require a higher level of cooling solutions that achieve a life expectancy of 100,000 hours compared to the generally-required 70,000 hours. In order to meet these requirements, NS Micro Motor has been constantly improving its manufacturing process technology and the use of select parts and components has become more strict.
NS Micro Motor made inroad into the solar sector about six years ago, with Motech being its long-time partner. NS Micro Motor has steadily expanded its client base to include another major Taiwan-based solar cell supplier and a number of Japan-based companies. Meanwhile, NS Micro Motor's shipments for solar energy applications have enjoyed stable growth. The company now ships 30,000-50,000 fan modules monthly to the solar sector, and the proportion of sales generated from this new product segment is estimated at around 10%.
In the market for cooling fans specifically targeting the solar energy sector, NS Micro Motor used to face strong competition from its Japan-based cooling module firms. However, over the last couple of years, NS Micro Motor and other Taiwan-based players have significantly enhanced their production capability. NS Micro Motor now also views its domestic peers including Sunon and Delta as major competitors.
NS Micro Motor believes that the Japan nuclear crisis stemming from the March massive earthquake and tsunami has spurred demand for solar energy in many countries, and therefore the market outlook for 2011 is positive. The company is committed to satisfying all the demand with its existing PS and PE series of cooling modules.
Founded in 1989, NS Micro Motor has grown to boast a capital base of US$42 million. Around three years ago, NS Micro Motor took over an R&D center located in Kaohsiung, and received more than 20 additional employees for a total of 60 R&D staff in Taiwan. Another 20 R&D personnel are stationed at the company's production base in Shenzhen, southern China, where the total workforce tops 1,000.