Canadian Solar expanding PV project pipeline in Japan, Brazil and UK

Major photovoltaic energy provider Canadian Solar has updated its ‘late-stage’ PV project pipeline heading into 2015.

Although its total project development pipeline remains static at 4.5GW as previously guided in November, 2014 its total contracted late-stage project pipeline has increased by 100MW to 1.4GW. The company’s total early-mid stage development pipeline now stands at 3.1GW in January, 2015, down from 3.2GW in March, 2014, according to investor relations presentations.

The key changes however are related to key countries. When comparing its March 2014 pipeline update, Canadian Solar had a total pipeline in Canada of 477MW, which in January, 2015 stands at 387MW.

The company said in an update to its pipeline of projects that it expected to complete and recognise in revenue 275MW in Canada this year. This includes the Glenarm power plant which was sold and would be recognised into revenue in the first quarter of 2015.

Canadian Solar noted that internally developed projects as well as EPC contracts in backlog in Canada provided a revenue opportunity in excess of C$900 million (US$715.7 million) in 2015.

Canada has been a key market for the company in respect to its own pipeline, which had been the largest. Its 500MW module assembly plant in Ontario has also supplied modules to other PV projects in the region as well as the US.

However, Canadian Solar’s project pipeline in the country has been depleted in the last couple of years and without new projects being added would stand at around 112MW at the end of the year.

Japan becomes key market 

Most significantly, Canadian Solar’s pipeline in Japan has been increased. The company said that its backlog of projects that are expected to be built and connected to the grid over the next three years currently stands at 606MW, up from 329MW in March, 2014 and 540MW at the beginning of January, 2015.

Late-stage projects in Japan stand at approximately 262MW and have full grid connection approval, a critical condition in Japan due to recent halts to connection approvals from many utility companies in the country.

The company said that around 100MW worth of projects in Japan were currently under construction or near ready to start construction. However, construction and grid connection in 2015 would only be attributed to approximately 80MW during 2015.

The lower than expected completions in Japan may be attributed to two projects totalling approximately 125MW in the Tohoku utility area having been impacted by grid connection curtailment rules by the utility, which has claimed of lack of grid capacity to handle the large number of projects having already been granted approval by Japanese government authorities.

Canadian Solar said it was still working with the local utility to evaluate the potential impact of the rule changes on these projects. Yet, this has not stopped the company from pursuing other project opportunities in Japan, which it said could expand its pipeline in the country by at least 140MW, which would take the total pipeline in the country to nearly 750MW.

China pipeline unchanged

In contrast to many rivals, Canadian Solar has preferred to channel pipeline growth outside its core manufacturing base of China. Its backlog of projects has only increased slightly since March, 2014 when its pipeline stood at 290MW.

The company said that 320MW of projects would be built and grid connected in 2015. The company actually started 90MW of projects in China in 2014 for completion in 2015 and around 30MW has already been grid connected.

Canadian Solar noted that it had around 70MW of utility-scale power plants and 30MW of roof-top solar systems in operation in China. The company is targeting to sell these assets.

US pipeline decline 

Although Canadian Solar has previously highlighted the importance of the US market, its actual pipeline has decreased from 184MW in March 2014 to only 84MW at the beginning of 2015. The company did not provide any updates to this specific pipeline in its update pipeline statement.

Brazil pipeline appears

Like with the US pipeline, Canadian Solar only mentioned in the statement that it had late-stage projects in Brazil, without providing any further details. However in its
January IR presentation, the company noted a Brazilian pipeline of 114MW, compared to no pipeline in the March 2014 presentation.

The same occurred with its UK pipeline, which was mentioned but no further details were provided. The UK was not highlighted in its January IR presentation.

“We have made enormous progress since entering the solar energy total solutions business in 2009, with over 400 MWp of solar projects and systems energized and delivered to customers in 2014,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Canadian Solar chairman and CEO. “In the background we have also been busy building our team and our expertise, which is evidenced by our ability to grow our pipeline in existing and new markets.”

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