Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Panasonic Will Invest $1 Billion in ‘Green Home’ Plan by 2012

Bloomberg/Tim Mullaney and Mariko Yasu

Panasonic Corp., the world’s biggest maker of plasma televisions, will invest $1 billion by 2012 in a plan to make outfitting environmentally friendly “green” homes and buildings its new core business, an executive said.

The plan focuses on solar-panel and energy-storage technology that Panasonic will acquire in its purchase of Sanyo Electric Co., coupled with home energy-management systems that Panasonic has invented, President Fumio Ohtsubo said yesterday in an interview in New York.

The technology will let consumers monitor their own electricity use and display the data on television sets, Ohtsubo said. The system will be able to connect and monitor all of the appliances in a house, and the solar panels may produce enough clean power to offset any carbon dioxide created from other power the appliances use, he said.

“Our products in consumer electronics and our appliances will benefit from the new core business” as people buy more energy-efficient gear, Ohtsubo, 64, said. “The future is not 20 to 30 years out. Within two to three years, Panasonic can realize this kind of concept.”

He said consumers can achieve energy savings of 30 percent to 50 percent with the new technology.

The company hasn’t determined how much the energy- management systems will cost or how they will be distributed, Ohtsubo said. The Osaka, Japan-based company also doesn’t know what percentage of its overall sales can come from the new business by the end of its current medium-term business plan in 2012, he said.

Sanyo Purchase

Panasonic is offering to buy control of Sanyo, the world’s largest maker of rechargeable batteries, for 403 billion yen ($4.6 billion) to boost its share of the battery market and gain access to Sanyo’s solar-cell technology. The purchase would increase sales of energy-related electronics at Panasonic, the maker of Viera televisions, as the audiovisual-equipment market becomes increasingly saturated.

The company also is entering the market for lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars, Ohtsubo said.

Both plans were prompted by difficulties in generating enough growth in its existing consumer-electronics and appliances businesses, where it competes with Samsung Electronics Co.

“Our growth is not enough compared to Samsung,” Ohtsubo said. “So we want to change our fighting ring from our current categories to a different field.”

FTC Approval

Last week, Panasonic obtained conditional approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to purchase Osaka-based Sanyo. Panasonic’s public offer of 131 yen per Sanyo share is scheduled to close on Dec. 9.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and two banks that bailed out Sanyo in 2006 hold about 70 percent of Sanyo’s shares and have agreed to sell at least a 50 percent stake to Panasonic.

Panasonic, which generated 47 percent of its revenue overseas in the past fiscal year, said last year that it aims to raise that share to 60 percent, mostly by boosting sales in emerging markets.

Panasonic is among Japanese companies that plan to start selling 3-D televisions next year. Sony Corp., the maker of Bravia TVs and PlayStation 3 game consoles, said last month that 3-D related products, excluding programming, will generate more than 1 trillion yen in sales in the year ending March 2013. Tokyo-based Toshiba Corp. also plans to introduce 3-D TVs as early as 2010. The Japanese companies will compete against South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc.

3-D Television

Sales of 3-D TVs will likely reach 50 million units in 2012, presenting Japanese manufacturers including Sony with an opportunity to boost earnings, Morgan Stanley said last month.

“That would be quite difficult,” Yoshi Yamada, chief executive officer of Panasonic Corp. of North America, said in yesterday’s interview.

Panasonic narrowed its full-year loss forecast in October by 28 percent to 140 billion yen, citing cost reductions. The company, which also raised its operating profit forecast for the year to 120 billion yen from 75 billion yen, posted a net loss of 379 billion yen in the year ended March 31.

Panasonic, which cut 29,155 jobs in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, probably will pare more than 300 billion yen in costs this fiscal year, compared with its original estimate of 260 billion yen, Chief Financial Officer Makoto Uenoyama said on Oct. 30.

Ohtsubo said today that Panasonic will cut costs at Sanyo after the transaction closes, though he didn’t say whether the moves would involve more job reductions.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Mullaney in New York at; Mariko Yasu in Tokyo at

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lotus leaf solar cells soak up more power...

New Scientist, Paul Marks

Solar cells have an unfortunate habit of reflecting back much of the light that hits them, rather than converting it into electricity. A technique that peppers the cells' surface with nanoscale domes could curb this tendency and improve efficiency by as much as 25 per cent.

Peppering the cell's surface with nanodomes increases efficiency by as much as 25 per cent

To ramp up the proportion of light solar cells converted into electricity, Yi Cui of Stanford University in California has focused on ensuring that more light gets through the layers of silicon.

Low-power solar cells in devices such as wristwatches and calculators are made of amorphous silicon, which converts light in the range of 400 to 800 nanometres into electricity. However, around 35 per cent of light is reflected back into the sky.

Cui's team cut this to a mere 6 per cent by depositing the solar cell's usual sandwich of layers onto a quartz base, studded with an array of 100 nm-wide cones set at 450-nm intervals (Nano Letters, DOI: 10.1021/nl9034237).

The first layer deposited is a silver reflector that ensures photons that would otherwise be wasted are bounced back up towards the active layer (see diagram). Then comes a transparent electrode, one made of an active semiconductor, and a final layer of transparent electrode.

Viewed under an electron microscope the surface of the solar cells is covered with dome shapes that look a little like ranks of eggs.

The lack of reflectivity is in fact pretty clear at a glance, says Cui: "The nanodome device looks black while the flat device looks reflective and red, as the red light does not get absorbed." In optical simulations, Cui's team found that the domes acted as waveguides, channelling light towards the active area, a bit like an optical fibre.

In lab tests the extra light made the nanodome solar cells 5.9 per cent efficient, compared with 4.7 per cent for traditional flat film amorphous cells. Cui expects that the efficiency of commercial thin film nanodome cells will be much higher.

The roughness of the new cells at nanoscales also mimics the fibrous bumps on the leaves of the lotus plant, which help it repel water. Water droplets landing on the leaf cannot achieve a contact angle that breaks their surface tension, so they form beads on the leaves rather than wetting them. In the same way water drops will roll off the surface of the nanodome solar panel taking any light-blocking dust with them.

Cui is confident the nanodome technique will also work for solar panels made from the widely used and more efficient polycrystalline silicon. The cells in these panels gather light at wavelengths up to 1500 nanometres.

Darren Bagnall, a solar cell engineer at the University of Southampton, UK, is impressed. "It's a beautiful device," he says. But he cautions that changing the geometry of the cells to achieve the higher efficiencies required of commercial versions could undermine their anti-reflective and self-cleaning properties.

Cui is undaunted. "The geometry of the nanodomes will need to be tuned slightly for different materials but it will work."

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SolarCity & US Bancorp Find New Ways to Finance Solar Projects

Renewable Energy World, Graham Jesmer

As the credit crunch was starting to loosen earlier this year, one of the first glimmers of hope came from the solar energy space. In June, SolarCity and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) formed a partnership to finance small- and medium-scale solar projects for homeowners and businesses across the U.S. The two companies created a new US $50 million tax-equity based fund to finance projects under SolarCity's SolarLease program.

The program, which was originally backed by Morgan Stanley, allows homeowners and businesses to purchase power from systems owned and installed by SolarCity through a power purchase agreement (PPA). SolarCity, the system owner, takes advantage of commercial tax credits that it then applies to customer financing.

The USBCDC fund was one of only two tax-equity funds closed in the U.S. during the first half of 2009 that applied to residential solar projects — and both of the funds were created with SolarCity to finance solar installations.

“Tax equity financing has been the primary constraint on the growth of the solar industry, so we’re obviously thrilled and very grateful to U.S. Bank,” said Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity when the fund was first announced. “This fund will allow us to increase our installation throughput and hire more installers to keep pace with strong demand from American businesses and homeowners for affordable, clean solar power.”

SolarCity believes that its business model was the foremost driver in the process of getting the deal with USBCDC closed.

The company said that despite the fact that virtually every solar company in the country was looking to U.S. Bank for financing, SolarCity was chosen for three key reasons: it top quality products, its committment to customer service and the equity that solar adds to residential and commercial real estate.

Rive said making sure these areas of a company's business are strong is the best strategy to be on the radar of financiers in the still difficult economy.

“Prove yourself, make sure you are profitable and execute. It's not about who you know, it's about what you've done. The companies with the best operational track record will be the first in line to get financing,” Rive said.

Earlier this fall, SolarCity and USBCDC doubled the size of the fund to $100 million.

“Following the pilot U.S. Bank fund earlier this year, both parties were interested in continuing and expanding the relationship — SolarCity's customer demand and operational capacity have been growing so quickly that we agreed to double the portfolio size just four months after we created the initial fund. Also, our U.S. Bank fund is unusually versatile in that it can finance both residential- and commercial-scale installations, whereas some investors are interested in one type of project or the other,” Rive said.

Since the expansion, SolarCity has announced the availability of its SolarLease program to customers of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the nation’s largest municipal utility. The company has also announced a new residential solar service in Oregon. SolarCity’s PurePower program allows homeonwers to pay the same rate they were previously paying for electricity from the utility company. PurePower pricing for a 3.5-kilowatt solar system in Oregon, appropriate for a typical three or four-bedroom home, starts at $30/month.

The expansion of the U.S. Bank fund has allowed the company to grow operations substantially to meet increasing demand. SolarCity has hired 140 people in the last 5 months and passed the 4,500-customer mark.

Rive said that SolarCity's growth is part of a wider trend in the PPA market that is taking place because of the market it serves.

“The market that we're addressing is the retail electricity market. So every rooftop out there is a potential for solar. The electricity industry is massive, so in our lifetimes, at least the next 20 or 30 years we are not going to come close to market saturation,” Rive said.

USBCDC, one of the nation's largest tax-credit investors, solely makes investments in tax-credit equity and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is an extension of the group’s long-time experience in the New Markets and Historic tax credit programs, according to Tina Lin of USDCDC's Historic, New Markets & Solar Tax Credit Investments group.

Lin also said that the group is not currently taking advantage of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and its primary focus for renewable energy technologies is on utility-scale solar and wind turbine projects.

“We started investing in the ITC at the beginning of 2008 and have closed 10 solar-based transactions, almost all over a 1 MW in size. Within solar, we've invested in commercial/industrial installations, residential programs as well as funds. Projects have used both crystalline panels and thin-film technology,” Lin said.

The structures of USBCDC's tax equity fund deals run the gamut from direct investment, partnership flip models, lease pass-through to sale lease-back structures. USBCDC's return on investment comes primarily from the tax credits themselves so most funds they create with solar companies have short investment horizons, generally just 5 years, however most transactions are entered into with the goal of doing more business in the future.

Lin said the group’s goal is to create a diverse portfolio of product types and structures while becoming an industry leader as an equity source.

Since the closing of this deal, major changes have taken place in the solar finance space. None larger than the cash grant in lieu of ITC provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act becoming an option for developers. As these funds continue to be released and as the economy in general recovers more players will be back in the solar financial picture, but Rive said that may not last unless the provision is extended.

“The conversion of the ITC to a cash grant has really improved the tax-equity market, and we are starting to see many new investors enter this space because of that. It's very important that the cash grants get extended through 2012. This will give new investors time to understand solar investments,” he said.

See the original article here

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Solar nanowires promise efficient, low-cost solar power

Fibre optics used to magnify sunlight onto dye-sensitised solar materials

Tom Young, BusinessGreen, 09 Nov 2009
See the original article here...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

U.S. and China Issue Joint Statement on Emissions Targets

November 17, 2009

At the invitation of President Hu Jintao of the People’s Republic of China, President Barack Obama of the United States of America is paying a state visit to China from November 15–18, 2009. The Presidents held in-depth, productive and candid discussions on U.S.-China relations and other issues of mutual interest. They highlighted the substantial progress in U.S.-China relations over the past 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, and they reached agreement to advance U.S.-China relations in the new era. President Obama will have separate meetings with Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and Premier Wen Jiabao. President Obama also spoke with and answered questions from Chinese youth.

I. The U.S.-China Relationship

The United States and China agreed that regular exchanges between leaders of the two countries are essential to the long-term, sound, and steady growth of U.S.-China relations. The two sides are of the view that the three meetings between the two presidents and other important bilateral exchanges this year have strengthened relations. President Obama invited President Hu to make a visit to the United States next year, and President Hu accepted the invitation with pleasure. Leaders of the two countries will continue to maintain close communication through mutual visits, meetings, telephone conversations and correspondence.

The United States and China spoke highly of the important role of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and recognized that the Dialogue offers a unique forum to promote understanding, expand common ground, reduce differences, and develop solutions to common problems. Both sides believed that the first round of the Dialogue held in Washington, D.C., in July this year was a fruitful one and agreed to honor in good faith the commitments made and hold the second round in Beijing in the summer of 2010. The two sides agreed that they will continue to use the direct communication links among senior leaders to maintain timely communication on major and sensitive issues, institutionalize the annual exchange of visits by the two foreign ministers and encourage senior officials of other departments of the two countries to exchange visits on a regular basis.

The United States and China commended the outcomes of the visit to the United States by General Xu Caihou, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, in October this year, and stated that they will take concrete steps to advance sustained and reliable military-to-military relations in the future. The two sides will prepare for the visit to the United States by General Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army, and the visits to China by Robert Gates, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two sides will actively implement various exchange and cooperation programs agreed between the two militaries, including by increasing the level and frequency of exchanges. The goal of these efforts is to improve their capabilities for practical cooperation and foster greater understanding of each other’s intentions and of the international security environment.

The United States and China agreed to deepen counter-terrorism consultation and cooperation on an equal and mutually beneficial basis and to strengthen law-enforcement cooperation. They agreed to exchange evidence and intelligence on law enforcement issues in a timely and reciprocal manner. The two countries will undertake joint investigations and provide investigative assistance on cases of mutual interest. The United States and China will strengthen cooperation on criminal investigations and deepen collaboration in combating embezzlement as well as in counter-narcotics and pre-cursor chemical control and in combating unlawful migration. They also will boost joint efforts to combat transnational crime and criminal organizations as well as money laundering and the financing of terrorism including counterfeiting and recovery of illicit funds. They will work to combat smuggling and human trafficking.

The United States reaffirmed its support for Expo 2010 Shanghai.

The United States and China applauded the rich achievements in scientific and technological cooperation and exchanges between the two countries over the past 30 years since the signing of the U.S.-China Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology and agreed to further upgrade the level of exchanges and cooperation in scientific and technological innovation through the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Science and Technology Cooperation.

The United States and China look forward to expanding discussions on space science cooperation and starting a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit. Both sides welcome reciprocal visits of the NASA Administrator and the appropriate Chinese counterpart in 2010.

The United States and China agreed to strengthen their cooperation on civil aviation, and confirmed their intent to expand the Memorandum of Agreement for Technical Cooperation in the field of Civil Aviation between the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States of America and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The two sides welcomed cooperation by public and private bodies on the development of high speed railway infrastructure.

The United States and China undertook to implement the newly signed Memorandum of Understanding Between the Department of Agriculture of the United States of America and the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation in Agriculture and Related Fields.

The two countries agreed to collaborate further in joint research in the health sector including on stem cells. They will deepen cooperation on global public health issues, including Influenza A (H1N1) prevention, surveillance, reporting and control, and on avian influenza, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. They will also enhance cooperation on food and product safety and quality.

The United States and China underlined that each country and its people have the right to choose their own path, and all countries should respect each other’s choice of a development model. Both sides recognized that the United States and China have differences on the issue of human rights. Addressing these differences in the spirit of equality and mutual respect, as well as promoting and protecting human rights consistent with international human rights instruments, the two sides agreed to hold the next round of the official human rights dialogue in Washington D.C. by the end of February 2010. The United States and China agreed that promoting cooperation in the field of law and exchanges on the rule of law serves the interests and needs of the citizens and governments of both countries. The United States and China decided to convene the U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue at an early date.

The two countries noted the importance of people-to-people and cultural exchanges in fostering closer U.S.-China bilateral relations and therefore agreed in principle to establish a new bilateral mechanism to facilitate these exchanges. The two sides are pleased to note the continued increase in the number of students studying in each other’s country in recent years. Nearly 100,000 Chinese are now studying in the United States, and the U.S. side will receive more Chinese students and facilitate visa issuance for them. The United States has approximately 20,000 students in China. The United States seeks to encourage more Americans to study in China by launching a new initiative to send 100,000 students to China over the coming four years. China welcomed this decision by the United States. The two sides agreed to expedite negotiations to renew in 2010 the Implementing Accord for Cultural Exchange for the Period Through 2010-2012 under the Cultural Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The United States and China agreed to jointly hold the Second U.S.-China Cultural Forum in the United States at an appropriate time.

II. Building and Deepening Bilateral Strategic Trust

The United States and China are of the view that in the 21st century, global challenges are growing, countries are more interdependent, and the need for peace, development, and cooperation is increasing. The United States and China have an increasingly broad base of cooperation and share increasingly important common responsibilities on many major issues concerning global stability and prosperity. The two countries should further strengthen coordination and cooperation, work together to tackle challenges, and promote world peace, security and prosperity.

The two countries believe that to nurture and deepen bilateral strategic trust is essential to U.S.-China relations in the new era. During their discussions, the Chinese side said that it resolutely follows the path of peaceful development and a win-win strategy of opening-up, and is committed to promoting the building of a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity. The United States reiterated that it welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs. The United States stated that it is committed to working with other countries in addressing the most difficult international problems they face. China welcomes the United States as an Asia-Pacific nation that contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the region. The two sides reiterated that they are committed to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for the 21st century, and will take concrete actions to steadily build a partnership to address common challenges.

The United States and China underscored the importance of the Taiwan issue in U.S.-China relations. China emphasized that the Taiwan issue concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and expressed the hope that the United States will honor its relevant commitments and appreciate and support the Chinese side’s position on this issue. The United States stated that it follows its one China policy and abides by the principles of the three U.S.-China joint communiqués. The United States welcomes the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait and looks forward to efforts by both sides to increase dialogues and interactions in economic, political, and other fields, and develop more positive and stable cross-Strait relations.

The two countries reiterated that the fundamental principle of respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is at the core of the three U.S.-China joint communiqués which guide U.S.-China relations. Neither side supports any attempts by any force to undermine this principle. The two sides agreed that respecting each other’s core interests is extremely important to ensure steady progress in U.S.-China relations.

The United States and China believe that bilateral cooperation on common global challenges will contribute to a more prosperous and secure world. They reaffirmed their commitment made on 27 June 1998 not to target at each other the strategic nuclear weapons under their respective control. The two sides believed that the two countries have common interests in promoting the peaceful use of outer space and agree to take steps to enhance security in outer space. The two sides agreed to discuss issues of strategic importance through such channels as the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and military-to-military exchanges.

The United States and China agreed to handle through existing channels of consultations and dialogue military security and maritime issues in keeping with norms of international law and on the basis of respecting each other’s jurisdiction and interests.

III. Economic Cooperation and Global Recovery

The two sides are determined to work together to achieve more sustainable and balanced global economic growth. To that end, the two sides noted that their forceful and timely policy responses helped stem the decline in global output and stabilized financial markets. The two sides agreed to sustain measures to ensure a strong and durable global economic recovery and financial system. The two sides reiterated that they will continue to strengthen dialogue and cooperation on macro-economic policies. The two sides pledge to honor all commitments made at the inaugural meeting of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the G-20 summits, and APEC in Singapore.

The two sides commended the important role of the three G-20 summits in tackling the global financial crisis, and committed to work with other members of the G-20 to enhance the G-20’s effectiveness as the premier forum for international economic cooperation. The two sides agreed to work together, including through a cooperative process on mutual assessment to make the G-20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth a success. The two sides welcomed recent agreements by the G-20 to ensure that the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have sufficient resources and to reform their governance structures in order to improve IFIs credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness. The two sides stressed the need to follow through on the quantified targets for the reform of quota and voting shares of IFIs as soon as possible, increasing the voice and representation of emerging markets and developing countries in these institutions consistent with the Pittsburgh Summit Leaders Statement. They also agreed to work together to strengthen the capacity of these institutions to prevent and respond to future crises.

The two sides will further enhance communication and the exchange of information regarding macro-economic policy, and work together to pursue policies of adjusting domestic demand and relative prices to lead to more sustainable and balanced trade and growth. China will continue to implement the policies to adjust economic structure, raise household incomes, expand domestic demand to increase contribution of consumption to GDP growth and reform its social security system. The United States will take measures to increase national saving as a share of GDP and promote sustainable non-inflationary growth. To achieve this, the United States is committed to returning the federal budget deficit to a sustainable path and pursuing measures to encourage private saving. Both sides will also pursue forward-looking monetary policies with due regard for the ramifications of those policies for the international economy.

The two sides recognize the importance of open trade and investment to their domestic economies and to the global economy, and are committed to jointly fight protectionism in all its manifestations. The two sides agreed to work proactively to resolve bilateral trade and investment disputes in a constructive, cooperative, and mutually beneficial manner. Both sides will expedite negotiation on a bilateral investment treaty. The two sides are committed to seeking a positive, ambitious, and balanced conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda in 2010.

The two sides spoke highly of the outcomes of the 20th Meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. The two sides reaffirmed the commitment at this JCCT meeting and look forward to their full implementation.

IV. Regional and Global Challenges

The two sides noted that, at a time when the international environment is undergoing complex and profound changes, the United States and China share a responsibility to cooperatively address regional and global security challenges. The two sides stressed that they share broad common interests in the Asia-Pacific region and support the development and improvement of an open and inclusive regional cooperation framework that is beneficial to all. The two sides will work to encourage APEC to play a more effective role in promoting regional trade and investment liberalization and economic and technical cooperation and for the ASEAN Regional Forum to play a more effective role in strengthening regional security cooperation.

The two sides agreed that respect for the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, IAEA mandates, and implementation of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions are essential for the success of our joint efforts to stem the spread of nuclear weapons. The two presidents recalled their participation at the September 24, 2009, UN Security Council Summit on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament. They welcomed the outcome of the Summit and expressed their strong support for UN Security Resolution 1887.

The two sides reaffirmed the importance of continuing the Six-Party Talks process and implementing the September 19, 2005, Joint Statement, including denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, normalization of relations and establishment of a permanent peace regime in Northeast Asia. The two sides stated that they will work together with other parties concerned to comprehensively achieve the purpose and overall goal of the Six-Party Talks through consultations and dialogues. The Chinese side welcomed the start of high-level contacts between the United States and the DPRK. The two sides expressed the hope that the multilateral mechanism of the Six Party Talks would convene at an early date.

The two sides noted with concern the latest developments with regard to the Iranian nuclear issue. The two sides agreed that Iran has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under the NPT and it should fulfill its due international obligations under that treaty. They welcomed the talks in Geneva on October 1st between the P5+1 and Iran as a promising start towards addressing international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, and expressed their readiness to continue that engagement as soon as possible. The two sides emphasized that all efforts should be made to take confidence building steps and called on Iran to respond positively to the proposal of the IAEA Director General. The two sides reaffirmed their strong support for a comprehensive and long-term solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations, and called on Iran to engage constructively with the P5+1 and to cooperate fully with the IAEA to facilitate a satisfactory outcome.

The two sides welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia. They support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan. The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region.

The two sides underlined their commitment to the eventual realization of a world free of nuclear weapons. They reiterated their opposition to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and will jointly uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. They agreed to enhance non-proliferation cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equality. They will work together to achieve a successful Review Conference of Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 2010. They committed to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as soon as possible, and will work together for the early entry into force of the CTBT. They support the launching of negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty at an early date in the Conference on Disarmament, and stand ready to strengthen communication and cooperation in nuclear safety and security and in combating nuclear terrorism. China attaches importance to the U.S. initiative to hold a nuclear security summit in April 2010 and will actively participate in the preparations for the summit.

The two sides also discussed the importance of UN peacekeeping operations in promoting international peace and security.

The two sides agreed to enhance dialogue on development issues to explore areas of cooperation and coordination and to ensure that both countries’ efforts are conducive to achieving sustainable outcomes.

V. Climate Change, Energy and Environment

The two sides held a constructive and productive dialogue on the issue of climate change. They underscored that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. The two sides maintain that a vigorous response is necessary and that international cooperation is indispensable in responding to this challenge. They are convinced of the need to address climate change in a manner that respects the priority of economic and social development in developing countries and are equally convinced that transitioning to a low-carbon economy is an opportunity to promote continued economic growth and sustainable development in all countries.

Regarding the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, both sides agree on the importance of actively furthering the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. The United States and China, consistent with their national circumstances, resolve to take significant mitigation actions and recognize the important role that their countries play in promoting a sustainable outcome that will strengthen the world’s ability to combat climate change. The two sides resolve to stand behind these commitments.

In this context both sides believe that, while striving for final legal agreement, an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. The outcome should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries, promote technology development, dissemination and transfer, pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, promote steps to preserve and enhance forests, and provide for full transparency with respect to the implementation of mitigation measures and provision of financial, technology and capacity building support.

The two sides are committed to working together and with other countries in the weeks ahead for a successful outcome at Copenhagen.

The two sides agreed that the transition to a green and low-carbon economy is essential and that the clean energy industry will provide vast opportunities for citizens of both countries in the years ahead and welcomed significant steps forward to advance policy dialogue and practical cooperation on climate change, energy and the environment, building on the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation on Climate Change, Energy and Environment announced at the first round of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue this July and formally signed during the Presidential visit.

The two sides recognized the importance of the Ten Year Framework on Energy and Environment Cooperation (TYF) and commit to strengthen cooperation in promoting clean air, water, transportation, electricity, and resource conservation. Through a new U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan under the TYF, the United States and China will work together to achieve cost-effective energy efficiency improvements in industry, buildings and consumer products through technical cooperation, demonstration and policy exchanges. Noting both countries significant investments in energy efficiency, the two Presidents underscored the enormous opportunities to create jobs and enhance economic growth through energy savings.

The two sides welcomed the signing of the Protocol Between the Department of Energy of the United States of America and the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Energy Administration of the People’s Republic of China on a Clean Energy Research Center. The Center will facilitate joint research and development on clean energy by teams of scientists and engineers from both countries, as well as serve as clearing house to help researchers in each country, with public and private funding of at least $150 million over five years split evenly between the two countries. The Center will have one headquarters in each country. Priority topics to be addressed will include energy efficiency in buildings, clean coal (including carbon capture and sequestration), and clean vehicles.

The two sides welcomed the launch of a U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative designed to put millions of electric vehicles on the roads of both countries in the years ahead. Building on significant investments in electric vehicles in both the United States and China, the two governments announced a program of joint demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, along with work to develop common technical standards to facilitate rapid scale-up of the industry. The two sides agreed that their countries share a strong common interest in the rapid deployment of clean vehicles.

The two sides strongly welcomed work in both countries to promote 21st century coal technologies. They agreed to promote cooperation on large-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) demonstration projects and to begin work immediately on the development, deployment, diffusion, and transfer of CCS technology. The two sides welcomed recent agreements between Chinese and U.S. companies, universities, and research institutions to cooperate on CCS and more efficient coal technologies.

The two sides welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States and the National Development and Reform Commission of China and to Build Capacity to Address Climate Change.

The two sides welcomed the launch of The U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership. Through this Partnership, the two countries will chart a pathway to wide-scale deployment of wind, solar, advanced bio-fuels, and a modern electric power grid in both countries and cooperate in designing and implementing the policy and technical tools necessary to make that vision possible. Given the combined market size of the two countries, accelerated deployment of renewable energy in The United States and China can significantly reduce the cost of these technologies globally.

The two sides welcomed the establishment of The U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP), a partnership between government and industry to enhance energy security and combat climate change. The ECP will leverage private sector resources and expertise to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technology.

The two sides commended the results of the recently-held Fourth U.S.-China Energy Policy Dialogue and Ninth U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum and welcomed the launch of a U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative to accelerate the development of unconventional natural gas resources in China. Drawing on recent experience in the United States, this initiative aims to improve energy security in both countries and help China transition to a low-carbon economy.

The two sides agreed to work together to advance global efforts to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. They welcomed the recently-concluded Third Executive Committee Meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, and the commitment of the partnership to explore ways to enhance the international framework for civil nuclear energy cooperation. They agreed to consult with one another in order to explore such approaches — including assurance of fuel supply and cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel management so that countries can access peaceful nuclear power while minimizing the risks of proliferation.

See the original article here

Monday, November 16, 2009

China Selects 294 PV Projects for Golden Sun Subsidy

China has chosen solar projects totalling 642 megawatts to benefit from its Golden Sun subsidy, first announced in July. Roughly half the generation capacity will come from utility-scale solar parks, while the other half will be attached to existing industrial sites.

The government has not provided the names or locations of the projects. But it appears that many of the Golden Sun programme’s potential shortfalls have been borne out.

One of the most burdensome restrictions the Chinese government placed on the scheme was that no more than 20 megawatts (MW) could be built in any one province, hampering developers’ ability to amass economies of scale.

Given China’s 34 provinces, the programme’s theoretical limit was 680MW. As it turns out, Golden Sun will subsidise projects totalling 642MW at a total estimated cost of 20bn yuan ($2.9bn).

Golden Sun will cover:

  • 232 projects -- totalling 290MW -- to be built at major industrial sites where carbon-heavy manufacturers will consume all of the electricity generated.
  • 35 projects -- totalling 306MW -- to be built as utility-scale solar parks, whose output will be flowed into China’s transmission grid.
  • 27 projects -- totalling 46MW -- to be built by independent producers in remote, powerless regions.

China's Ministry of Finance will foot half the bill – including any needed transmission and distribution infrastructure – for utility-scale projects and those going up at industrial sites. It will pay 70% of the cost of building off-grid projects in remote regions. All of the projects are expected to be operational within three years.

The Golden Sun programme was initially hailed by analysts as a way to ignite domestic demand at a time when many Chinese solar firms faced horrific inventory overhangs. Many of them, including JA Solar and Yingli Green Energy, have since seen strong rebounds as falling panel prices spur record-high sales.

But analysts have since taken a frostier attitude towards Golden Sun, concluding that it will do little to stoke permanent demand in the Chinese market without the addition of a feed-in tariff (FIT).

A number of Chinese executives, including SunTech chairman Zhengrong Shi, have gone on the record predicting a general solar FIT will be in place in China by the end of the year. Several major companies, including Yingli, Canadian Solar and LDK Solar, have announced large-scale solar projects that appear at least partially reliant on such a FIT.

However, reports now indicate that the Chinese government could eat up another two or more years hammering out the details of the FIT, and will attempt to plug the interim gap with a variety of smaller, more targeted subsidy programmes.

See the original article here

Friday, November 13, 2009

Suntech to Develop 20% of Approved Systems for China's Solar Rooftop Program

WUXI, China, Nov. 13 /PRNewswire-Asia

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), the world's leading manufacturer of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) modules, today announced that it expects to develop approximately 20% of the 91MW of solar projects that were approved under China's Solar Rooftop Program.

China's Solar Rooftop Program, which was launched in March this year by the Ministry of Finance, is designed to increase the energy efficiency of buildings through the installation of building-attached and building- integrated PV solar systems. The first set of applications was submitted in April, and recently 111 solar projects totaling 91MW across China were approved to receive funds through the program. The system owners are expected to receive a 13-17RMB per watt rebate for all projects approved through the program. Suntech targets to develop approximately 20% of the successful applications and will also participate as the system owner or partial investor in some projects. Suntech has completed 4MW of its approved projects and plans to develop the remainder by mid-2010. Specific project agreements will be signed prior to implementation.

"Building energy use accounts for roughly 28% of total energy consumption in China and is a critical front in the drive to achieve higher energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions," said Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech's Chairman and CEO. "The Ministry of Finance Solar Building Program recognizes the huge opportunity to offset building energy consumption with integrated solar energy generation. We are very pleased to demonstrate the capability of this technology and we hope to see this valuable solar program expanded in 2010 and beyond."

The Solar Rooftop Program places particular emphasis on technologically advanced, building-integrated solar systems. Suntech has one of the industry's broadest portfolios of BIPV products and a highly experienced system design and integration team that can implement complex turnkey solar projects. Suntech's new Green Energy Headquarters in Wuxi that incorporates a 1MW BIPV solar facade and rooftop system was designed and constructed by Suntech's in- house team and is one of the projects approved to receive the rebate.

"Solar is an ideal solution to improve energy efficiency as it can be built into the skin of a building and serves the dual function of a building material and an energy generating system. We should view the countless rooftops across China as an underutilized resource that can easily support clean, distributed energy generation," added Dr. Shi.

See the original article here...

Monday, November 9, 2009

SolarCity Teams up to Fund Solar Systems in Arizona

Phoenix Business Journal, Patrick O'Grady

National Bank of Arizona, SolarCity and Arizona Public Service Co. are teaming on a $25 million effort to land more solar systems on the city’s residential rooftops, with a backup to potential leases provided by the city of Phoenix.

The plan, to be announced Tuesday, calls for National Bank of Arizona to supply funding for what could be about 1,000 solar systems for Phoenix residents. It’s a move officials say could knock down the high entry cost for distributed solar and provide jobs in the city.“It will be a major program in its scale within the country,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

National Bank of Arizona would own the systems and lease them to what officials said would be homeowners with good credit. SolarCity, the Foster City, Calif.-based solar installer, will handle the work from collecting financing applications to installations.

Phoenix will backup leases with $250,000 from the Industrial Development Authority to cover what industry officials said is a typical 1 percent to 2 percent default.

NBAZ, which has partnered with SolarCity on panels for its own facility in the Biltmore area as well as one of the largest ground mount systems in the state slated to serve residences at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, sees a strong demand for the systems.

“The demand is there. It has been,” said Craig Robb, executive vice president for finance and administration for NBAZ. “The problem has been for some period of time the capital has not.”

The program will earmark about $5 million of the total to help low-income homeowners get solar systems, Robb said.

Lease programs are a relatively new offering for SolarCity, which has relied on a power-purchase agreement with customers in other states. Those programs allow SolarCity to own the systems and then sell power to the homeowner. Arizona’s constitution, however, has classified that arrangement as being regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The deal with NBAZ will allow the company to take what had been a plan for homeowners requiring $1,000 down to one with no down payment. Leases will run for 15 years, at which time homeowners will be given the opportunity to either upgrade, pay off the remaining balance, or have the system removed.

Lyndon Rive, founder and CEO of SolarCity, said having a local partner with financing will provide a quicker way to get solar on rooftops.

“Very rarely will banks go through the amount of brain damage required to understand all the federal tax laws, the rules and regulations,” he said.

Distributed solar projects on residences have been increasing since a federal tax credit was changed earlier this year. That increased demand still has a tough hurdle because even with the tax credits and utility-supplied incentives it costs homeowners thousands of dollars to put in a solar system.

Gordon said the plan was developed primarily by the private sector. The city’s economic analysts believe it will create about 150 jobs and create about $39 million in economic impact.

“The good news is the market is untapped with people using solar,” he said. “The barrier, we believe, has been the up-front costs and the multiple phases you have to go through to get the rebates.”

The lease plan would allow NBAZ to recoup both the rebates from utilities as well as the federal tax credit as the owner of the system, but those savings would be passed on to the homeowner, Robb said.

APS, which will provide incentives for the solar systems in its territory, sees the measure as a way to help it hit goals required in the state’s renewable energy standards. The utility is required to have 30 percent of its renewable power supplied by distributed systems and half of that from residential units. That has proved difficult with the high cost of entry. This year, APS will shift about $20 million from its residential pool to cover schools for solar because there hasn’t been as much demand as the company has collected funds.

APS expects the plan will result in $10 million to $15 million in rebates to customers in 2010, said Pat Dinkel, general manager for resource acquisition and strategic planning for APS.

“There’s no question this is a significant part of our distributed program next year,” he said.

Rive said SolarCity has installed about 400 systems on Arizona residential rooftops since it entered the market last year, but the company expects withe NBAZ program that it will do the 1,000 systems within 2010. Robb also said the bank believes the interest in solar will deplete the fund within a year.

Although the program could last only through next year, both Rive and Robb said it has the potential to be rolled out to other cities. Currently, only Phoenix residents will be eligible.

For more:

See the original article here...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cost of solar panels drops - but tax breaks dip too...

Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2009

The average cost of solar photovoltaic power systems in the U.S. plunged more than 30% from 1998 to 2008, with a 4% drop between 2007 and 2008, according to a new report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

But a simultaneous drop in total after-tax incentives for photovoltaics from 2007 to 2008 resulted in a slight rise in net installed cost, according to the lab, which is run by the Department of Energy.

Overall net costs for residential solar systems were up 1% in 2008 compared with the previous year, averaging $5.40 per watt. Costs for commercial photovoltaics averaged $4.20 per watt, a 5% increase from 2007.

After-tax incentives for residential systems were at a historic low of $2.90 per watt in 2008, while incentives for commercial photovoltaics were at $4 per watt, down slightly from the 2006 peak.

But excluding the incentives, installation costs dropped recently after a multi-year plateau due to the solar industry’s expanded manufacturing capacity and the pressures of the financial crisis.

The early end of the decline, from 1998 through 2007, was caused by shrinking costs of labor, marketing, overhead, etc.

The Berkeley Lab study considered 52,000 photovoltaic systems in 16 states. The average cost of installation dropped from $10.80 per watt in 1998 to $7.50 per watt in 2008, or a reduction of 3.6% per year.

Small residential solar systems completed in 2008, producing less than 2 kilowatts, cost an average of $9.20 per watt, while large commercial photovoltaics producing between 500 to 700 kilowatts averaged $6.50 per watt.

The cost of going solar varies widely across states. For systems producing less than 10 kilowatts that were completed in 2008, costs range from a low of $7.30 per watt in Arizona, to a high of $9.90 per watt in Pennsylvania and Ohio. California’s average is $8.20 per watt.

But the report suggests that costs could be driven even lower through large-scale implementation.

See the original article here...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Building the Largest Solar Community in the U.S.

Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to Become Largest Solar-Powered Community in the Continental U.S. to Date

Solar power will provide an estimated 75 percent of the total energy needed to power Davis-Monthan’s Soaring Heights Communities

TUCSON, Ariz., Oct. 26, 2009—Housing developer Actus Lend Lease, SolarCity®, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and financing parties National Bank of Arizona and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) are working to create one of the nation’s largest distributed, community-wide solar power systems at Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Upon completion, the community is expected to be the largest solar-powered community in the continental U.S. The solar systems are expected to produce more than 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually—sufficient to provide an estimated 75 percent of the residents’ energy use next year—and could eventually offset 100 percent of Soaring Heights Communities’ electricity use.

Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan will also be Arizona’s largest solar-powered community. The complete installation is expected to include six megawatts of total solar capacity in a combination of a ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) system and rooftop solar systems that will be installed on approximately 900 residences. National Bank of Arizona will own the 45,000 panel ground-mounted system, which accounts for more than 3.3 megawatts of solar capacity. The balance of the system is expected to consist of 36,000 more panels in the rooftop arrays. The rooftop systems are being financed within an existing SolarCity fund, which was financed by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) earlier this year.

The solar systems will be designed and installed by SolarCity and will be interconnected by TEP. The entire project is estimated to represent an increase of more than 15 percent over Arizona’s current grid-tied solar capacity. Collectively, the installation is expected to offset more than 570 million pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, the equivalent of taking approximately 50,000 cars off the road for a year, or planting more than 300,000 trees.

Soaring Heights Communities will also be one of the first solar-powered communities on an Air Force Base in the U.S. Actus Lend Lease is currently developing one of the world’s largest solar powered communities at its Army Hawaii Family Housing complex. Upon completion, the Army Hawaii Family Housing project will be the largest solar-powered community in the U.S. Through its partnership with the U.S. Air Force, Actus Lend Lease leases Soaring Heights Communities homes to military families.

“We are very excited about the Soaring Heights Communities project because it allows us to leverage our background and expertise in renewable energy initiatives as they relate to community development,” said Dale Connor, Actus Lend Lease managing director. “We look forward to working closely with our partners and the Department of Defense to set a standard for sustainable living here in Arizona and throughout the country.”

Starting earlier this month, SolarCity began installing 1,000 PV modules per day on previously vacant land near Soaring Heights Communities. Homes in the community have been selected for solar installations based on their specific location and suitability for solar panels. Most of the homes selected for solar system installations are new dwellings built to the rigorous energy efficiency standards of TEP’s Guarantee Home Program, while some are existing homes.

“As Arizona’s largest community bank, and driver in the growth of our state’s economy, National Bank of Arizona is making a sound investment in Arizona’s renewable energy future by funding the ground-mounted solar array. We’re pleased to finance what will generate positive economic and environmental impact in Arizona,” said Craig Robb, National Bank of Arizona executive vice president and chief financial officer.

TEP will provide incentives through its customer-funded SunShare program to reduce the long-term cost of Soaring Heights Communities’ photovoltaic installation. Both systems’ output will help TEP work toward the renewable energy goals established by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC).

“Through the SunShare incentives that make this project possible, every TEP customer will be invested in the success of this remarkable new solar-powered community,” said David Hutchens, vice president of energy efficiency and resource planning for TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corporation (NYSE: UNS). “This project will help shrink the carbon footprint of Tucson’s largest military base while setting a new standard for distributed solar power systems.”

SolarCity will be outfitting the solar systems with SolarGuard® monitoring systems to measure solar electricity production, and to measure the performance of the ground-mounted arrays against the rooftop arrays. The monitors will ensure that the system performs as predicted and inform both SolarCity and TEP about how such arrays might interact with the smart grid of the future.

“Soaring Heights Communities is truly a solar city, and our largest installation to date,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. “We expect this project to be a springboard for additional clean power development in Arizona, one of the best locations for solar in the world.”

About Actus Lend Lease

Actus Lend Lease is the nation’s leader in public/private community development. With a focus on creating sustainable value, Actus Lend Lease communities are unrivaled in their attention to design, technology and environmental sensitivity. Known for its innovative initiatives Actus Lend Lease has developed some of the most sustainable communities throughout the military including: one of the world’s largest solar powered communities at Army Hawaii, New York State’s largest energy efficient community development at Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes and the largest LEED-Silver certified community in the state of Texas at Fort Hood (Saddlestone Ranch). Actus is also constructing the first Zero Energy Home on a military installation and was chosen as the Department of Energy’s partner to launch Operation Change Out, an initiative geared at replacing all incandescent light bulbs with the more energy efficient CFLs on all military installations. Actus has garnered many national awards for its sustainable initiatives including the 2009 Department of Energy, Excellence in Energy Star Promotions Award. For more information, visit

About National Bank of Arizona

Founded in Tucson, Ariz., in 1984, National Bank of Arizona is a community bank serving professionals and meeting the needs of small and mid-sized Arizona businesses. Arizona’s fourth-largest bank with more than $4.8 billion in assets, National Bank has over 75 offices throughout the state. For more information, visit

About Tucson Electric Power

Tucson Electric Power, a subsidiary of UniSource Energy, provides safe, reliable power and a variety of green energy options to more than 400,000 customers in the Tucson metropolitan area. For more information, visit For more information about UniSource Energy, visit

About U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation

With assets of over $6 billion, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation

(USBCDC) finances community development and affordable housing projects through the use of New Markets Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and Investment Tax Credits in Renewable Energy. USBCDC is a subsidiary of U.S. Bank and U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB). Through U.S. Bank, U.S. Bancorp, and other subsidiaries, the company operates 2,850 banking offices and over 5,000 ATMs in 24 states, and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at

About SolarCity

SolarCity—a national leader in solar power system design, financing, installation, monitoring and related services—was founded with the mission to help millions of homeowners and businesses adopt clean power, protect themselves from rising electricity costs, and protect their environment from polluting power sources. The company’s SolarLease™, PurePower™ and Commercial Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) options can make it possible for homeowners and businesses to switch to clean, solar power for less money than they currently pay for electricity. SolarCity currently serves 500 communities in California, Arizona and Oregon. Additional information about the company is available on the Web at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SolarCity Raises $100 Million for 2009

New York Times/Tom Woody

The credit crunch has walloped the residential solar industry, making it hard for installers like SolarCity to tap investor funds to finance rooftop arrays for their customers.

But in a sign that the recessionary clouds are parting a bit, SolarCity on Tuesday said that U.S. Bancorp has agreed to finance $100 million worth of solar installations in 2009.

That’s double the money the bank committed to provide SolarCity in June when the original deal – but not the financial details – was announced.

SolarCity, based in the Silicon Valley suburb of Foster City, offers customers the option of leasing their rooftop panels and thus avoiding the five-figure cost of buying a solar system.

The company retains ownership of the solar array and thus qualifies for a 30 percent federal tax credit against its cost. Since most startups have no use for such tax credits, they give them to investors in exchange for financing installations.

Still, most such tax equity partnerships have collapsed along with the Wall Street banks that often funded them. In fact, U.S. Bancorp stepped in after Morgan Stanley pulled the plug on a financing arrangement with SolarCity earlier this year.

“For all of this year, tax equity has been the No. 1 constraint in financing for the entire solar industry,” said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s chief executive. “In the third quarter of last year, there were about 20 active banks and insurance companies making tax equity investments. They all fell off a cliff and now there’s three or four.”

Despite the $100 million infusion, Mr. Rive said raising money for tax equity partnerships remains difficult. “The investors have been more selective and strict and they’re doing a tremendous amount of due diligence,” he said.

Mr. Rive noted, however, that the federal stimulus package has helped lure back some investors by giving them the option of receiving a government cash grant in lieu of the tax credit.

Mr. Rive said the the influx of financing has helped the company to hire 112 people — mainly solar panel installers — over the past four months, and the company now has a workforce of about 450 employees.

Other solar installers have found investors in recent months as well. San Francisco’s SunRun raised $18 million in a round of funding in July, and last week, Sungevity, based in Berkeley, Calif., announced that it had secured $6 million in its latest round of financing.

With solar panel prices plummeting this year due to over-production and more attractive federal incentives available to homeowners, financing remains the key hurdle for many customers, said Danny Kennedy, Sungevity’s president.

Mr. Kennedy has recently hired SolarCity’s former chief financial officer to develop a financing program for his company.

See the original article here

Thursday, September 24, 2009

LDK Solar's Plant Reaches First Production Run

World’s Largest Polysilicon Facility Boasts High Purity, Low Energy Consumption and First-Rate Environmental Controls

Fluor Corporation announced today that it has helped LDK Solar’s polysilicon plant in Xinyu City, China, to its first successful production run. As the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contractor, Fluor helped bring the facility from groundbreaking to first production in just 20 months. LDK Solar initiated production ramp-up of operations for its first 5,000 metric-ton (MT) train of its eventual 15,000 MT (annualized capacity) polysilicon plant in Xinyu earlier this month.

"This is an amazing project milestone due to the incredible size of the facility and the unprecedented speed of the construction schedule to meet first production,” said Peter Oosterveer, president of Fluor’s Energy & Chemicals Group. “With the numerous unique design and construction challenges of this megaproject and the accelerated timetable we achieved together with LDK Solar, this is truly an unprecedented accomplishment.”

Nick Sarno, LDK Solar’s senior vice president of manufacturing and polysilicon plant project manager, confirmed Oosterveer’s insights. “The project team, skillfully led by Fluor, has done an incredible job helping to make the impossible possible,” Sarno said. “In just 20 months, we have achieved what many said to be impossible. We literally moved mountains so that we could build the largest polysilicon plant in the world.”

LDK’s Xinyu plant is producing high purity polysilicon. Other features of the plant include a closed-loop process, state-of-the-art plant control systems and a world-class environmental protection system that further exemplify the quality standards of this unique facility.

A ceremony with more than 2,000 attendees was held earlier this month to mark the occasion. Special dignitaries included Su Ron, secretary of the Jiangxi Communist Party, Wu Xinxiong, governor of Jiangxi Province and other notable government officials.

See the original article here

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nanosolar Unveils New 640MW Factory

PV-Tech, Tom Cheney

After staying relatively quiet for much of the past year, thin-film PV manufacturer Nanosolar has come out with a full docket of announcements: the completion of its 640MW panel-assembly factory near Berlin celebrated during an event attended by the German Minister of the Environment and other dignitaries; the start of serial roll-to-roll production of its flexible copper-indium-gallium-(di)selenide cells in the company’s San Jose facility; $4.1 billion in panel purchases from customers--including some of the world’s largest utility companies; NREL-verified cell efficiencies up to 16.4%; and new technical details of both its printed CIGS cell technology and utility-scale panels.

nansolar_panel_assemblyThe panel-making facility, located in Luckenwalde (about 60 kilometers south of Berlin), can operate at a production rate of one panel every 10 seconds and is capable of reaching a peak capacity of 640MW when operated around the clock, according to Nanosolar. Called by TUV Rheinland inspectors “a factory unlike any we've ever seen,” the plant incorporates a fully automated, robotic line (pictured at left) integrated with a sophisticated in-line quality control measurement system to string and assemble the individually sorted and tested cells into panels. One innovative part of the production line is a high-throughput stack lamination technique developed with a "leading provider of lamination equipment."

The German panel factory is supplied with flexible aluminum-foil cells produced at the venture-backed company’s fab in San Jose. Nanosolar, which prints its cells using a proprietary CIGS ink in a mostly nonvacuum, low-cost process sequence, says it began serial production on its R2R processing line earlier this year.

"Getting to the point of serial production with the unusual extent of innovation and leapfrog cost reduction involved in our technology and delivering a product that out of the gate meets and exceeds the high bar set by the industry's existing volume manufacturers on performance and reliability is an accomplishment due to the incredibly hard work and perseverance of our team," says Nanosolar president/CEO Martin Roscheisen.

Although the facility is calibrated for rapid growth, current production is running at a subcapacity baseload rate of about 1MW per month, according to Nanosolar. Web widths run up to 1500mm on the cell line, while certain process steps can attain throughputs as high as 40m/min, he told PV Tech. A full roll of processed, unsingulated PV foil is equivalent to 100KW.

The San Jose plant will be ramped in sync with the company's market-introduction plan, which it says focuses on achieving “product bankability” with commercial banks and delivering on the company's $4.1 billion in contractual customer commitments.

nanosolar_roscheisen2"With almost all large solar installations credit financed, broad-based product bankability is our key next commercial goal,” states the company CEO (pictured at left). “We have long prepared for this, including through the technology choices we have made, the strong balance sheet we have maintained, the quality of customers we have secured, and the local production we have built."

The product coming off those automated assembly lines is Nanosolar’s first offering, the Utility Panel—what it calls the industry’s first solar electricity module specifically designed as well as electrically and mechanically optimized for utility-scale solar power systems.

Featuring an innovative design scheme, the company says the IEC 61646-certified panel effectively eliminates the “balance-of-system penalty” that medium-efficient thin panels from First Solar and others have conventionally carried relative to higher-efficiency, more-expensive crystalline-silicon panels.

The Utility Panel is the industry’s highest-current thin module, by up to a factor of six, according to Nanosolar, and is also the first PV module certified by TUV for a system voltage of 1500V--about 50% higher than the next highest certified device. The combination of enhanced current and voltage enables utility-scale panel array lengths and results in a host of substantial balance-of-system cost savings, the company says.

On the mechanical side, the panel package employs a dual-tempered glass/glass design housing the flex cells, which is distinctly stronger than that of conventional thin-film-on-glass modules, achieving about 70% greater mounting span, thus facilitating substantially lower mounting costs, the company says.

The full panels as well as their components and materials have been put through a wide range of rigorous indoor and outdoor reliability and performance testing, done internally and with third-party firms, in a variety of geographic and climate conditions, and are certified under various IEC, UL, and other standards, according to Nanosolar.

“We have a huge effort on testing and are in fact expanding this even further,” Roscheisen told PV Tech. “We believe the standard tests are limited in some ways. We are interested in looking at combinations of stresses as well as various forms of dynamic behavior.”

nanosolar_cell_line1On the cell side, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has independently verified that the company’s metal-wrap-through back-contact, printed-CIGS-on-metal-foil devices produced on its Gen 3 line have reached active-area conversion efficiencies as high as 16.4% during tests conducted earlier this year. “Our lab and production teams have managed to make more progress on efficiency than we had planned on in any of our business plans,” says Roscheisen.

Noting that “we print CIGS onto inexpensive metal foil, something that some have been skeptical can work while others have been wondering whether it can deliver cells better than 6% efficient,” he explains that the latest efficiency numbers for the foil cells actually “represent two world records in one: It's the most efficient printed solar cell of any kind (all semiconductor and device technologies) as well as the most efficient cell on a truly low-cost metal foil (with a material cost of only a cent or two per square foot and mil thickness).”

Going beyond the champion cell results, Roscheisen reveals that “in terms of our current baseline production process, our best production rolls now achieve higher than 11% median efficiency measured as equivalent to panel efficiency, with very tight cross- and down-web uniformity.”

NREL’s Miguel Contreras, the senior scientist who supervises the CIGS group at the national lab, told PV Tech that his team has supported Nanosolar “with official measurements, characterization, transferring the know-how we have in making 20% solar cells in the labs. We showed them what the [film] structures look like, what they should shoot for, to improve their own processes and materials—that was our strongest contribution to them.”

But he gives full credit to Nanosolar, saying “truly, it’s to their merit on most or all of the work that’s been done. We just helped a little bit in their success, and I’m proud and honored to be part of that effort.”

(More info on Nanosolar's cell technology and the design and innovation behind its Utility Scale panel can be found in white papers and elsewhere on the company's relaunched website. Also check out the Chip Shots blog for an exclusive unfiltered interview with Nanosolar chairman/CEO, Martin Roscheisen.)

See the original article here