Mastering Solar Power

The Essential Business Guide for Commercially-focused Stakeholders

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

A comprehensive, up-to-date and business-focused roadmap to success in delivering solar power growth, today and tomorrow.

Attendees will leave with a good understanding the key factors from an integrated, multidisciplinary and commercial viewpoint, including: target market analysis, economic competitiveness, channels-to-market, financing influences and risk, project development processes, best practices and emerging technologies.

The course schedule includes time to work in groups to apply the learning and illustrate key project development considerations, by discussing, developing and quantifying an initial business proposal for a solar PV power plant. To do so, attendees will utilise energy yield, financial and other simple calculations, along with the chance to debate key planning and market environment considerations.

In keeping with the business-focused theme of the course, these illustrative exercises are designed to provide time-efficient clarification of the key course takeaways, aimed at commercially-focused business developers and investors. They are therefore accessible to non-experts, not designed to replicate the complex or in-depth detailed planning undertaken – over much longer periods! – by engineers and technical teams.


* ‘Power Project Economics Explorer’ (cash flow) model *

* Project development process and risk review *

* Project planning group work exercise *

* Update and discussions on innovation in solar + storage *

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.

Interactive group-work activity provides 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 (numerous reports, whitepapers and other materials)
Agenda details

A full 4-day agenda is outlined below, focused on large (utility or commercial-scale) solar power; contact to discuss abridged options.


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

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

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)?


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)

Project Planning Group Work Exercise: Annual Energy Potential

  • Using simple tools to calculate expected output from a solar array
  • Exploring the impacts of orientation and tracking
  • Quantifying the energy (and revenue) available in contrasting locations
  • Seasonal output and cashflow considerations

Project Planning Group Work Exercise: System Components & Performance

  • Balance of system considerations and choices
  • System losses: their sources and impacts on performance
  • The inverter: considerations for sizing and output clipping
  • Summarising the options and choices to take forward to planning


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

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

Project Planning Group Work Exercise: Development Opportunities & Risks

  • Site selection: mapping the pros and cons
  • Planning and permitting risk analysis
  • Stakeholder mapping and engagement
  • System options compared from a planning and development timescale perspective


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)
  • A checklist for best practice when undertaking opportunity and risk analysis for solar power projects

Project Planning Group Work Exercise: Competitive Bidding

  • An operating cash flow and returns analysis for solar PV
  • System options compared from an IRR (rate of return) perspective
  • Identifying key financial risk considerations
  • Arriving at a bid price in a competitive auction
  • How project development can reduce financial risks

Project Planning Group Work Exercise: Summary Presentation

  • Summarising the group work: an integrated perspective on the options, opportunities and risks from system design to project development to business case analysis
  • Discussing the key findings and real-world implications

Closing Discussion: new solar value-chain opportunities & competition

  • Assessing the future prospects for solar power: high growth, low profits?
  • What are the key challenges that solar power (and other distributed generators) introduce into the power system?
  • 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)
Availability & inquiries

Training for your company:

  • The course can be delivered to small groups at your company premises or other preferred venue
  • 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 organise open/public courses itself, but instead partners with 3rd-party specialist event organisers. Contact or inquire below for the latest calendar dates.
  • If you are interested in remote one-to-one learning, inquire below.

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