WiseEnergy opts for a ‘smart’ retrofit solution

With Covestro’s Anti-Reflective coating for solar glass

WiseEnergy is a leading fully integrated technical advisor and asset manager that oversees all aspects of more than 1,300 sites around the world valued at around €6 billion. To maximize the IRR of its assets the company turned to Covestro - and our retrofit Anti-Reflective (AR) coating for solar glass. Here, Innovation Manager Diego Molina explains how and why.

What challenges do you face in boosting IRR of your solar facilities?

We are spreading our geographic footprint very quickly. We manage a lot of solar assets – in Europe (Italy and the UK), and increasingly in India (plants with an installed capacity of 104 MW). Meanwhile this year we gained our first asset management contract in Africa (a 6 MW operating solar plant in Namibia). Our challenge is that in Europe especially, many of the solar facilities we manage are getting older. So the question is, how do we continue to get maximum performance from these assets for as long as possible, with the best IRR?

How did you hear about Covestro?

Before moving into solar I was a materials engineer so I knew all about Covestro and its reputation as a leader in materials science – so I was delighted to learn the company was now applying this to solar. We began a conversation with them about how to increase the production of our solar modules, and that’s when we learned about the retrofit AR coating.

What appealed to you about the retrofitted AR coating

The anti-reflective properties! Covestro told us we could yield a 2-3% power gain in our modules. However, at WiseEnergy we will never buy a technology based on a claim (even one from a well-known player like Covestro!). We need to see it works.

How did the retrofit take place and where is it being used?

We decided to run a pilot project at one of our managed solar plants in Italy. Covestro came in and applied their AR coating very fast and efficiently on the existing solar panels – which is key, because we need to balance the value of increased potential performance with the cost of installation. Since then we’ve been running many tests to evaluate its performance. Our industry is also about trying to understand the mass of ‘noisy data’ we collect – and again Covestro has been helpful in working with us weekly to maximize that understanding.

How has the AR coating performed so far at your pilot plant?

So far the results have been good, with a 2-3%-plus power gain in the field. With such a huge responsibility to our investors, I need to consider everything from materials, technology, logistics, operational and of course financial performance. Every detail is considered. Right now we’re assessing how we can scale this to other solar plants, especially the older ones, to secure their long-term performance. For now, we will continue to see how the data plays out!

What are your views on where solar is right now?

It’s exciting because we are still really at the beginning, just a few steps from the starting line! Every day we see new solar ideas and concepts emerging, and my job is to evaluate them – because every potential solution (like the retrofit AR coating) can potentially help us keep moving forward in some small way. At WiseEnergy our goal is that in 20 years’ time, ‘renewable energy’ won’t exist. We’ll just call it ‘energy’ – because there won’t be any other kind!

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