Last week we spoke to Shayne Jaenisch, CEO of Tindo Solar, the only solar panel manufacturer in Australia. Despite being a “lone warrior” in the Chinese era of solar, Tindo appears to be doing well enough as it’s switching from a production line of 65 MW to 150 MW, and Jaenisch claims that the company has been able to eat the rising cell costs of the past 12 months without having to raise the price of its panels. The multiple 15% cost increases from battery suppliers are a serious concern, as well as inverter supply issues stemming from the global chip shortage.
Tindo sold its first panels in 2011, not long after BP solar closed its cell and module factory, and not long before SilexSolar’s end. Its founder Adrian Ferraretto came from Solar Shop, Australia’s biggest residential installer, which also failed not long after his departure as the government reduced solar subsidies. By the time Tindo had a team and a manufacturing line ready to go, its private equity backer went broke. Ferraretto spent the better part of a decade, from 2011 to 2017, trying a variety of approaches to keep the company afloat, including attempts to lobby the government to move against Chinese solar dumping, and a disastrously premature switch from DC to AC panels.
Come 2017 Tindo was acquired by Cool or Cosy, an insulation installation company which noticed Tindo Solar while working on a municipal rooftop solar contract in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia state, where both companies are located – the state is also the most developed rooftop solar region in the world, with 50% of residences having solar and a grid that reaches 100% solar power for a longer period each year. South Australia had a major blackout in 2017 which redoubled interest in domestic solar power, especially with storage.
Jaenisch became Tindo’s CEO with the Cool or Cosy acquisition at which point the company had just 10 MW annual sales. In a few years sales were scaled up to 20 MW, then 25 MW in 2021, with 2022 forecast for over 30 MW.
Tindo expected to be running on G1, 158.75 mm cells for a while – they were introduced only in 2018 – but not long after, Chinese suppliers had begun the switch to M10 182 mm and G12 210 mm, with coalitions of companies choosing each size, and some of the larger companies working with both. Since Tindo serves the residential segment, it went with the 182 mm faction, with eight weeks’ notice to switch its production line over. The 210 mm-based panels weigh over 40 kilograms, as compared to Tindo’s 21.5- and 29-kilogram 182mm products. Tindo is sticking with Mono PERC technology for the foreseeable, although Jaenisch mentioned having interviewed an engineer with a perovskite Phd for a job opening the day before.
Cells are where most of the solar supply chain’s high technology is to be found, but Tindo manages to produce a high-end product as a mere module maker. The company claims 1/200th the failure rate of competitors, which Jaenisch attributes to a strict testing and correction regimen – “We’ve always been a company that’s too small to throw anything away. We test every cell individually and cut out damaged areas, and we make panels one at a time. Our new line has string-level electroluminescence testing.” If the failure rate is still too low to be believed, then we can chalk it up to a reporting differential – whatever faults do occur with Tindo could be disproportionately less serious, therefore more likely to go overlooked and unreported. Tindo is able to offer a 25-year product warranty, …….