The Solar Revolution Requires New Electronic Inventory Storage Strategies

By Logan Wamsley

The idea of clean, sustainable, renewable energy has been more than a pipe dream for decades. It is only recently, however, that its potential has moved from prototypes in science labs to being not just an environmentally safe alternative, but a commercially viable one.

Not only has the cost of solar energy continually declined as engineers have further honed the technology, but many government bodies have begun to offer rebates and tax credits to both consumers and manufactures who wish to adopt it. In the United States, for example, homeowners and businesses can quality for a federal tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of their solar panel system.

Another primary draw of solar panel adoption is their longevity. Today, a panel from microcrystalline silicon, assuming proper functionality, is capable of producing 92 percent of its original power after 20 years of continued use. As an added incentive for potential buyers, a typical panel comes with a 20-year warranty that guarantees 80 percent of the rated power during that time span.

But such potential longevity does not always translate to reality when environmental factors are accounted for. Silicon models, while efficient, are highly degradable when placed in extreme climates and subject to variables such as heavy wind, snow, and, in desert climates, high levels of UV exposure. To be considered viable in these climates, which cover a significant portion of the U.S., manufactures are required to stockpile enough replacement solar wafers to quickly replace the cells to fulfill their extended warranties. First-generation solar cells, already extremely expensive to produce, quickly can tie up significant portions of finite working capital and warehousing space when purchased in large quantities.

Manufacturers who have already adopted new iterations of solar cells made from materials such as cadmium telluride also have the additional burden of providing proper storage and handling procedures, which is highly toxic in the wrong environment. Pure cadmium separated from the cells in temperatures equivalent to a house fire, for example, has long been known to cause cancer in humans. Having the appropriate infrastructure to maintain such materials is not only expensive, but, especially for manufactures who do not specialize in such procedures, quite dangerous.

Such industry realities have given rise to a market need for independent storage specialists. These specialists are capable of safely and securely storing critical inventory to meet the demands of long-term production cycles and service agreements. A Critical Storage Solution through Partstat, for example, not only offers OEMs a full suite of storage options for even the most sensitive electronic components and semiconductors — including a custom storage vault capable of withstanding temperatures over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — but a full team of storage specialists who will properly warehouse and handle inventory in accordance to the most stringent specifications. When the inventory is needed, Partstat will securely pack and ship the inventory anywhere in the world.

For OEMs who struggle to acquire the needed quantities of cells made from materials such as cadmium telluride — which is as rare as it is toxic — Partstat also offers a Last Time Buy Solution that allows customers to purchase as much inventory as they require to secure their supply chain in the long term without any loss of upfront working capital. Through this solution, Partstat, in fact, will purchase the inventory upfront direct from the component manufacturer on the customer’s behalf, as well as store and fulfill it on a personalized delivery schedule. Not only does our solution open the door for potentially significant bulk purchase discounts, but it has been proven to save customers 42 percent in annual inventory carrying costs.

Many analysts expect the rapid incorporation of solar technology to be the next great evolutionary leap in the energy industry. Research firm BBC Research, for example, projects the solar power technology market could be valued at $286.3 billion by 2023, with an average annual growth rate of 14.9 percent. To maintain such impressive growth, however, supply chains will need the help of valuable partners with storage capabilities that can keep pace with an OEM’s desire to innovate.