1. Home
  2. Interviews
  3. Interview with Florian van Rijn, CEO of Eternal Sun Group, which represents both Eternal Sun and Spire Solar in India.
Interview with Florian van Rijn, CEO of Eternal Sun Group, which represents both Eternal Sun and Spire Solar in India.

Interview with Florian van Rijn, CEO of Eternal Sun Group, which represents both Eternal Sun and Spire Solar in India.


We recently spoke with Florian van Rijn, CEO of Eternal Sun Group, which represents both Eternal Sun and Spire Solar in India. Both brands are active in the solar simulation sector of the industry and are enjoying a strong H1 2017.

Could you update us on the current status of Eternal Sun & Spire Solar?

We believe that objective testing has a critical part to play in developing a mature, solar industry which can compete with the full range of energy sources in today’s demanding cost environment. In Jan 2016 we have taken over the solar testing division of Spire Corporation: Spire Solar. With this acquisition we are able to offer quality control, insight and confidence across the entire supply chain.

We are very proud to see the continued confidence customers have in this company. Proven technology, strong business relations and the ability to quickly respond to customer needs enabled us to hit the ground running.

Now you are able to offer your services to the entire value chain, did you re-arrange your company’s priorities?

One year after the acquisitionwe have streamlined operations, improving both our cost structure and our time to market. The improvement left sales and customer service unchanged but integrated both manufacturing facilities and brought them to the Netherlands. In this same process, non-critical parts of the supply chain are outsourced. The effect is a shift from fixed to variable cost and it raises the manufacturing peak capacity – and thus improves lead time – anticipating to the highly cyclic solar market. Furthermore, our combined R&D teams and our testing labs will bring our application knowledge and competencies to a higher level.

This enables the development of high-end technology, an expanded suite of applications and dedicated PV module testing advice. The improvements we already achieved during 2016 with respect to our operational improvements have been very encouraging, and we look forward to seeing the full impact of this improvement on the 2017 results.

Our long-term goal is to build a central knowledge centre, align service and sales presence with our customer footprint, and to contribute to the development and growth of the solar industry. We will do this by enabling the highest degree of measurement control and certainty by providing high-end solar testing advice, technology & services.

What’s your view on the Indian solar market?

The growth of the Indian solar market is certainly impressive! However, despite the growth, the steep fall of the global prices makes it harder for India’s domestic suppliers to compete with imports. Everyone in the industry feels the cost pressure and we strongly believe that to survive you have to keep innovating: both to keep the cost down, and to keep in the front of the industry. Luckily, there are numerous options available: PERC, HJT and bifacial are just three options to distinguish yourself successfully from the local and global competition.

Therefore we still see India as the global growth market, especially now the Chinese government is cutting their FIT drastically. Together with our local Indian agent we will continuously work on improving our local service to be able to support our Indian customers to the best of our abilities.

Do you see a rise in the local testing &certification industry as well?

Yes, we certainly see more attention to quality and therefore testing & certification in the industry. We distinguish a difference between performance testing and reliability testing, and both are on the rise. Performance testing is often used as a gateway test for large utility projects and to maintain a certain degree of quality. The other one, which is much more related to the Indian climate, is reliability testing. With Indian climates being so diverse (from hot & humid, to hot & dry and very cold in the high north) the failure mechanisms will be very different as well. Local accelerated testing for these mechanisms is on the rise as well, as we see a high degree of interest from local certification and R&D institutes like, UL, HiPhysix, CPRI and, of course, ITT Bombay. Take into account the previous mentioned cost pressure and the growth of the local market and testing &certification become paramount.

Chinese competition is the main theme running through the equipment supply business, how do you meet this challenge as a European provider?

We chose to focus on two separate areas, which are: reliability research, and accurate performance measurements. In both areas there is just one driver: innovation. If we do not supply our customers with the latest innovations, we might as well close the business. That is why we keep a strong research scene in Europe and the USA and try to develop this in India as well. Having leading universities and research institutes working with our equipment and providing us with feedback is very valuable.

 You mentioned you focus on reliability research, isn’t this a conservative part of the industry where innovation is not welcomed with open arms?

No, this is not something we see. Although most of the reliability related tests are based on research from the 1970s, most researchers are very open to new testing methods and equipment. If we take the earlier discussed trends (new PV technologies like PERC and bifacial, fast market growth and the cost pressure) into account and combine it with the fierce Indian climate you see why reliability research is an extremely important part of the industry. Issues like LID and PID need to be found and solved faster and cheaper than currently is the case. Working towards a testing solution together with our loyal customers is what we like to keep doing. Our new combined stress setup is an excellent example of this cooperation: we combine steady state illumination, with temperature, humidity, an electronic bias and continuous IV measurements. This enables us to combine several stresses at the same time and therefore accelerate known degradation mechanisms and find previously unknown ones as well. This setup is developed together with top-notch Dutch research institutes.

What do you think is driving the performance measurement in the coming years?

We see new technologies like PERC and HJT taking over the market much faster than anticipated.

Figure 3: Development of new PV technologies (Source: International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaic (ITRPV), Eight Edition, 2017)

These technologies have two things in common: They need a wider spectrum (300 to 1200nm) and a longer pulse (>100ms) for accurate testing compared to standard mono or poly PV modules. The older test technologies lack either or both, so they are not capable of testing the new module types. Alternative test technologies may have a wider spectrum but lack the longer pulse width and they compensate for this lack of pulse width by using correction methods. Unfortunately, correction methods are a common cause for errors and therefore they always allow room for discussion with your customers. We prefer a method with as less corrections as possible and therefore matched our irradiance spectrum with the EQE of these new materials and extended our single long pulse up to 230ms.

Figure 4: QE of PERC and BST cell, the difference is at 300-400nm and 1100-1200nm


Figure 5: Sweep time of PERC and HJT compared, 40 and 200ms are necessary for proper measurements

The industry also sees these challenges and therefore has initiated a new version of the IEC60904-9 (Edition 3.0), which introduces the need for a broader spectrum with different bins, an official class A+ and several methods to classify the newly introduced LED simulators in the market. Of course, we are ready for this new norm and will keep our A+A+A+ standard.

What’s next?

We see an increase in interest and knowledge level at the downstream side of the industry. Where previously PV modules were seen as a commodity, we currently see there is an increased awareness of the quality of PV modules and the suitability of a certain technology for a certain climate. This is triggered by the need to calculate a more accurate LCOE for large projects by project developers, and therefore being able to deliver a better offer than the competition.

We will actively work together with the industry to develop solutions for these challenges. Without spoiling too much I can already mention that one will be focused on the determination of temperature coefficients and irradiance coefficients, and the other one will be focused on finding a solution for LID.

 Last but not least: where can we find you on REI?

We will be waiting for you in Hall 5, booth 5.3.


Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network


Your email address will not be published.