Mastering Solar Power

The Essential Business Guide for Commercially-focused Stakeholders

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Do you need a comprehensive view of how the business of solar power works?

Solar PV is the fastest-growing source of new power capacity globally, driven by reduced costs, evolving technology, application at multiple scales, growing investor confidence and optimised construction and operations experience. It is therefore vital for anyone in the energy sector to have a clear and up-to-the-minute business understanding of solar PV: how it is deployed, how it is changing and where it is going – including an integrated knowledge of how technology, markets, policy and finance align in order to sustain growth to achieve the goals of both industry and external stakeholders. 

You will leave with a comprehensive, up-to-date and business-focused roadmap to success in delivering solar power growth, today and tomorrow. You’ll understand the key factors from an integrated and commercial viewpoint, including: target market analysis, economic competitiveness, channels-to-market, financing influences and risk, project development best practices and emerging technologies.

Summary & key features

The course is designed to provide a clear, independent, business-focused introduction to the subject in language suited to non-engineers; particularly senior, commercial executives, investors and policymakers. No prior knowledge is assumed or required. Along with presented core information, you’ll examine examples from around the world, discuss market analysis variables and quantify key issues using simple numerical calculations and Excel-based tools.

The course can be delivered with or without a full day’s interactive group-work activity. During the latter, you will have extended time to get hands-on with financial analysis and other practical tools in order to better understand and discuss the business of solar project development.

Top Learning Outcomes:

  • Speak the language of solar energy: terminology and concepts explained with clarity and relevance
  • Understand the key variables determining the economics of solar PV projects
  • Review current and emerging market opportunities for solar PV
  • Learn and discuss how financial returns and risks arise in PV projects
  • Be better able to converse with project partners, suppliers, investors, policymakers and other stakeholders
  • Know what to look for when evaluating PV project opportunities
  • Be better able to identify key investment and project performance risks
  • Learn how to analyse and critique current and emerging business models

Who should attend?

This course is ideal for you if:

  1. You are working within the power sector in a commercial or business development role. You need a clearly-explained, multi-faceted understanding of how PV projects are developed and why and how they succeed (or fail), including how market and technology changes are driving new innovation opportunities along with new competitive risks.
  1. You are from the investment, policy or professional services community. You need to embrace the inevitable growth of solar energy, and want to gain an independent perspective on the economic environment in which these projects operate, including the development, operational and business risks that most matter to them.

Course Takeaways

  • Presentation slides (pdf provided – hard copy at cost, on request)
  • Certificate of attendance (pdf provided – hard copy at cost, on request)
  • Copies of all examples, models and numerical calculations used during the course
  • Further reading list
Agenda details


The essential elements of a successful solar power project

  • Reviewing the phases and steps in a solar project development process, from market opportunity analysis to project delivery
  • Key policy and subsidy drivers and trends (including the differences between ‘subsidy’ and ‘support’)
  • Identifying socioeconomic considerations and key stakeholders
  • Understanding market drivers for growth, including energy mix fit and competitiveness

Valuing solar power in wholesale electricity markets and the energy mix

  • Levelised costs, marginal costs, long-term costs and the merit order
  • Curtailment, negative prices and the myth of “free solar electricity”
  • Peak prices, price volatility and the increasing value of reliable peak capacity
  • The importance of understanding cost and price dynamics, even in markets without traded electricity markets

Selling utility-scale solar electricity: the growing channel-to-market options

  • Auctions and tenders
  • Direct sales: corporate buyers and PPAs
  • Electricity markets
  • Policy, pricing, risk and the business case

Markets and opportunities for distributed and captive solar power

  • Wholesale vs retail (end-use) electricity prices: why they differ and why it matters – to everyone.
  • The economics of distributed vs centralised power generation
  • The business case for solar power to large (commercial & industrial) customers: who, why and how?
  • Drivers and barriers to residential rooftop solar: where and why is it growing (and where and why is it not)?


Solar power project development and delivery

  • Project timescales, milestones and key risk factors
  • Essential site selection, permitting and planning processes, including key reports and contracts
  • The key aspects of planning and contracting issues around the grid connection
  • Best practices and new innovations in construction and project delivery, including the role of national and local policy supports

Technology and performance trends in solar power

  • An up-to-date review of PV technologies and performance
  • New and emerging designs, from module to balance of system components
  • Solutions and systems to optimise performance, operations and maintenance
  • Identifying key areas of project underperformance and output risk

Understanding weather risk for solar energy

  • A business person’s guide to the solar resource: data gathering, terminology and variability
  • The practical impacts of weather patterns on solar project and portfolio performance and financial risk
  • Options for mitigating solar resource risk
  • Who does (and should) bear the financial cost of weather risk within the wider power system? (Plus regulatory trends which change this)

Financing solar power projects

  • Reviewing the cash flow and risk/return variables behind a successful solar power project business case
  • The sources and costs of finance (and their impact on energy price competitiveness); including current trends and innovations
  • New technology, project flexibility… and bankability (how to achieve it)
  • Quantifying the key financial variables (costs, revenues, risks and returns)


Dispatchable solar power projects (and the value of storage)

  • Why and where dispatchability is becoming an essential requirement for solar power projects, not just an option
  • The economics of integrated solar+storage: the balance of cost, time and revenue – and the potential values of guaranteed capacity and grid services
  • Project planning for solar+storage, either to integrate now or add in the future
  • Current and emerging storage options: a competitive review

Integrated solar power projects, including microgrids

  • The pros and cons of combining solar with other generating assets, such as wind farms
  • Land use and planning considerations
  • Market drivers for microgrids
  • Not just for off-grid: the growth of urban microgrids and local electricity trading

New value-chain opportunities in solar power generation

  • What are the key challenges that solar power (and other distributed generators) introduce into the power system?
  • Why aggregation and virtual power plants (VPPs) are so important to both the future of power systems and the future of solar
  • From consumers to prosumers: creating value from ‘smart’ homes and engaged customers
  • New entrants into the distributed solar power business, from technology companies to car companies (and understanding why they are there)

Summary: analysing the business landscape for solar power growth

  • Assessing the future prospects for solar power: high growth, low profits?
  • Discussing the changing business opportunities for solar power projects, including added values and revenue stacking opportunities
  • A checklist for best practice when undertaking opportunity and risk analysis for solar power projects

4-day extended version

For audiences most interested in utility-scale solar, this course can be extended by a day to include a solar project planning exercise: participants will have the chance to work in small groups to discuss and apply the various learning points in the context of a simulated project development and competitive bidding (auction) process.

Availability & inquiries

Training for your company:

  • The course can be delivered at your company premises or preferred venue, for small groups
  • Pricing is on a transparent day-rate basis, according to location (inquire below)
  • The agenda above is the recommended “off-the-shelf” agenda, but limited customisation is possible (inquire below)

Training for individuals:

  • Grey Cells Energy does not currently organise open/public courses, but does work as an “associate trainer”, via larger 3rd-party event organisers. Contact or inquire below for the latest calendar dates.
  • If you are interested in coaching – covering some or all of the topics on a one-to-one basis – inquire below. This can be delivered in person or remotely via the Internet (Skype or similar).

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