Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Stronger, More Efficient Photovoltaic Industry

Semiconductor International, April 17, 2009

The economic turmoil of the PV market in 2009 could actually turn into a more mature and orderly supply chain for the worldwide solar industry when growth returns, iSuppli predicts.

What does not kill me makes me stronger. Although 19th century German philosopher Nietzsche probably did not have our global photovoltaics (PV) market in mind when he penned those words, they are nonetheless applicable, according to the latest report from iSuppli Corp. (El Segundo, Calif.). The economic turmoil of the PV market in 2009 could actually turn into a more mature and orderly supply chain for the worldwide solar industry when growth returns, the market researcher said today.

Worldwide installations of PV systems are expected to drop 32% this year, down to 3.5 GW from 5.2 GW in 2008. With the average price per solar watt declining by 12% in 2009, global revenue generated by PV system installations will plunge 40.2% -- from $30.5B in 2008 to $18.2B in 2009.

“For years, the PV industry enjoyed vigorous double-digit annual growth in the 40% range, spurring a Wild West mentality among market participants,” said Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst for iSuppli. “An ever-rising flood of market participants attempted to capitalize on this growth, all hoping to claim a 10% share of market revenue by throwing more production capacity into the market. This overproduction situation, along with a decline in demand, will lead to the sharp, unprecedented fall in PV industry revenue in 2009.”

However, the 2009 PV downturn, like the PC shakeout of the mid-1980s, is likely to change the current market paradigm, cutting down on industry excesses and leading to a more mature market in 2010 and beyond, according to iSuppli’s analysis. “The number of new suppliers entering and competing in the PV supply chain will decelerate and the rate of new capacity additions will slow, bringing a better balance between supply and demand in the future,” Wicht said.

The Spain effect

Perhaps the most significant factor in PV’s slowdown this year was the government-imposed cap on feed-in tariffs in Spain, leading directly to a sharp decline in expected PV installations. Spain accounted for 50% of the world’s PV installations in 2008, caused in part by an artificial demand surge as Spain’s government prepared to lower the cap for feed-in tariffs to 500 MW. This set a well-defined deadline for growth in the Spanish market in 2009 and 2010.

Although the Spanish situation is spurring a surge in excess inventory and falling prices for solar cells and systems, this will not stimulate sufficient demand to compensate for the lost sales in 2009. Even new and upgraded incentives for solar installations from the United States and Japan — and attractive investment conditions in France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece and other countries — cannot compensate for the fall-out in Spain this year, iSuppli reported. The Spanish impact will continue into 2010, restraining global revenue growth to 29.2% for the year.

Of course, the PV market has not been immune to the economic woes and credit crunch faced on a global scale. “Power production investors and commercial entities are at least partially dependent upon debt financing,” Wicht noted. “Starting in the first quarter of 2009, many large and medium solar-installation projects went on hold as they awaited a thaw in bank credit flows.”

The market turnaround

The PV market is expected to turn back around after 2010, when the fundamental drivers of PV demand will reassert themselves, iSuppli said. Revenues are forecast to increase 57.8% in 2011, with similar growth rates in 2012 and 2013.

“PV remains attractive because it continues to demonstrate a favorable return on investment,” Wicht said. “Furthermore, government incentives in the form of above-market feed-in tariffs and tax breaks will remain in place, making the ROI equations viable through 2012. Cost reductions will lead to attractive ROI and payback periods even without governmental help after 2012.”

See the original article here

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bright Future for China's Solar Power Sector

Shanghai Daily, Fu Chenghao, April 19, 2009

China's aim to become a major global player in solar power has been boosted by a new subsidy program that will help cut the cost of attaching cells to rooftops and fill a manufacturing gap from declining demand from abroad.

The government announced last month that solar power attached to buildings in projects involving more than 50 kilowatts would be eligible for a subsidy of 20 yuan (US$2.90) per watt.

China is the world leader in the manufacture of photovoltaic (PV) cells, or panels that covert sunlight into electricity. The surging cost of polysilicon, a key ingredient, in recent years had forced Chinese manufacturers to rely on demand from countries that offered subsidies for solar use.

But now, with a substantial increase in supply, the price of polysilicon has plummeted.

"With the bursting of the price bubble for polysilicon, the timing is right to subsidize solar power development," said Wei Qidong, secretary general of the PV industry association in Jiangsu Province. "That will encourage domestic use, create a stronger market for Chinese manufacturers and advance the nation's efforts to promote alternative, clean energy sources."

Jiangsu is China's major solar-cell manufacturing base, home to such big names such as Suntech Power Holdings Co and Canadian Solar Inc.

The 20-yuan subsidy, which equates to what's offered in California and is three times that of Japan, will cover nearly half the cost of solar power conversion, including equipment and installation, the government said.

The subsidy translates to a drop in power generation cost to about 1 yuan per kilowatt hour, only a quarter of some domestic pilot solar projects though still more than double the domestic grid prices for conventional coal-fired power.

Gao Jifan, chairman and chief executive of Trina Solar Ltd, called the subsidy plan, jointly unveiled by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, a "precursor" of longer-term state support. He believes that the rooftop plan is a good starting point before subsidies are extended to larger utility-scale projects, which will require a tariff regime to make solar electricity commercially viable.

Germany, for example, passed a law in 2000 obligating grid operators to pay set prices, or feed-in tariffs, for renewable electricity sources. As a result, Germany has become one of the world's largest PV markets.

Tariff system

China does have a renewable energy law requiring distributors to buy renewable energy from generators, but it lacks a tariff system to boost the viability of solar power. At present, pricing is at the discretion of the National Development Reform Commission, based on the principle of reasonable cost plus reasonable return.

"If we are to have a feed-in tariff system like Europe's, it has to win approval from the National People's Congress, and that may take more time," Gao said. "So the government has decided to start up the domestic market as soon as possible by going after the rooftop market first," he said from his office in Changzhou, Jiangsu. Gao said China could account for 10 percent of the global PV market in three years to five years, up from less than 1 percent now.

The new subsidy comes as Chinese solar companies are struggling with reduced access to credit and a drop-off in demand from countries such as Spain because of the recession.

In addition to fighting climate change and boosting energy conservation, China's subsidy program is aimed at helping domestic PV makers by activating a largely untapped home market, the ministries said.

"The financial crisis is benefiting domestic PV makers because it has brought down polysilicon prices and drawn government attention to the needs of an increasingly mature industry," Wei said.

Sha Xiaolin, chairman of Qiangsheng Photovoltaic Technology Co (QS Solar), said he was optimistic about the large-scale use of solar power, saying "an energy crisis would be much more frightening than the financial crisis."

QS Solar, unlike most solar cell makers that rely on polysilicon, is developing the emerging technology of thin film. Although it has a lower conversion efficiency, thin film is cheaper and can be manufactured with higher throughput.

Investors have welcomed the government's subsidy plan, with solar stocks surging in China and the United States, where many Chinese solar companies are listed.

Shares in Hebei Province-based Tianwei Baobian Electric Co have soared 44.5 percent in Shanghai trading since the subsidy announcement. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 9.3 percent in the same period.

Analysts said the subsidy program won't necessarily have a big impact this year because it will take time to get up and running.

Based on the central government's subsidy budget of 400 million yuan on renewable energy this year, at most 20 megawatts of solar capacity could be subsidized in 2009, the China Securities Journal reported, citing Ping An Securities analyst Wang Fan.

That amount is a fifth of China's total installed solar capacity in 2007, or 5 percent of Trina Solar's planned shipment of 400MW this year.

But the domestic industry is on the verge of a big leap forward.

"I believe there will be an explosive growth in the domestic PV market, not just double-digit growth," Sha said.

See the original article here

Thursday, April 16, 2009

China Takes Steps To Rebalance Its Solar Industry

Renewable Energy World, Lou Schwartz, China Strategies LLC

As Jin Baofang, the Chairman of the Board of the Jinglong Group, a Chinese solar energy company and a delegate to the National People's Congress, recently said of the relationship between the Chinese economy and the economies of large consuming nations: "when nations that are large consumers sneeze, our manufacturers immediately catch a cold."

The worldwide financial crisis has laid bare the unhealthy symbiotic relationship between the Chinese and Western economies. The unsustainable economic model that had Western countries (most notably the U.S.) buying cheap, labor-intensive exports from China with funds borrowed from the Chinese has collapsed. Consequently the West (and particularly the U.S.) will have to reorient its economies to produce and save more and consume less while China will have to restructure its economy so that it relies less on exports and increases domestic consumption to maintain its impressive GDP growth.

The Chinese solar power industry is a case in point, reflecting (no pun intended) China's unhealthy dependence on exports and the prospects for renewed growth as the Chinese government adjusts its model for economic growth.

In the words of Shi Dinghuan, an advisor to the State Council and Chairman of the Board of the China Renewable Energy Society, the new energy industry in China that has suffered the most from the worldwide financial crisis is China's solar industry. Through the end of 2008, China had become the world's largest producer of photovoltaic cells, but because approximately 98% of sales of PV products were exports, when financing became tight worldwide, orders for PV products from China were widely cancelled, particularly from the three largest consumers of Chinese solar power products: Spain, Germany and Japan.

The contraction and/or cancellation of orders from the West has been widely deleterious to China's solar power industry. For example, before the financial crisis of late 2008, in previous years, Wuxi's Suntech had operated at 60% capacity utilization during the winter months; since the worldwide financial crisis, Suntech has operated at capacity utilization rates one-half normal levels. The sudden drop-off in manufacturing activity in turn has forced Suntech to lay off approximately 10% of its existing workforce and not follow through on its plans to increase the company's workforce by an additional 20% or so.

Smaller PV manufacturers with fewer resources than Suntech, have been forced out of business. One need only look at the current stock prices of publicly traded Chinese solar companies and compare them to what those stocks were selling for a year or more ago, to appreciate the body blow that the Chinese solar power industry has taken of late due to its excessive dependence on foreign trade. Suntech's 52-week high was in excess of $50/share; as of March 27, 2009 a share of Suntech sold for less than $11/share.

Jin Baofang rightly points out that the root of the imbalance in the market for Chinese PV products that has come back to haunt Chinese solar manufacturers is the excessively low targets for development of China's domestic solar industry: the {Mid to Long Term Plan for Renewable Energy} sets the objective of China having a cumulative total of only 300 megawatts (MW) of installed PV power by 2010, increasing to just 1800 MW by 2020. These objectives for domestic growth of installed solar power in China are seriously out of balance with the output capacity of China's PV manufacturing industry.

Shi Dinghuan has stated that what China's solar power manufacturing industry needs is a more active set of government policies to support and subsidize the adoption of solar power domestically, along the lines of the industrial policies that have created significant growth in the Chinese wind industry (see recent article). Because the use of solar power in China has been insignificant, the potential for growth is outstanding.

Very recently the framework of such policies intended to jumpstart domestic solar power demand and turn around China's overly export-oriented PV industry has begun to emerge. In late March, the Chinese Ministry of Finance promulgated its {Interim Measures for the Administration of Government Subsidies of Building Uses of Solar Energy Photovoltaic Power} (called "Interim Measures") and the accompanying {Implementing Opinion Concerning Speeding Up the Promotion of the Use of Solar Energy PV Power in Buildings} (called "Solar-Powered Buildings Promotion Opinion"), which together provide a framework for the implementation of China's "Solar-Powered Rooftops Plan."

Initially the Solar-Powered Rooftops Plan will be a demonstration project in selected towns and counties, a formula that has been successfully used by Chinese policy-makers over the years with respect to countless initiatives. The Solar-Powered Rooftops Plan seeks to develop demonstration projects for building integrated solar power (including solar power rooftop units and PV curtain walls) in large and mid-sized cities that are relatively well developed economically. The plan also supports the development of PV systems in villages and remote areas that are outside the reach of the power grid.

The central feature of the Interim Measures is a financial stimulus for the Chinese solar power industry: the Ministry of Finance has earmarked a special fund to provide subsidies for PV systems that are at least 50 kilowatts (kW) in size and have 16% efficiency for mono-crystalline PV products, 14% efficiency for multi-crystalline PV products and 6% efficiency for thin-film applications; for 2009 the subsidy is now set at up to 20 Yuan/watt [US $2.93/watt]. It is estimated that the new subsidy will cover the approximate cost of the equipment or perhaps one-half to 60% of the total cost of an installed system.

With the exception of the solar power systems subsidies set out in the Interim Measures, the plan is, for the most part, merely suggestive of what needs to be done to develop a thriving solar industry in China. Though the Chinese usually do a good job in filling in the interstices of plans as time goes on, at present this plan appears improvised to address the dire condition of the Chinese PV industry.

In this sector as in countless others, the Chinese have much work ahead to reorient their industries from an excessively large reliance on foreign trade to one that is more balanced, but in order to accomplish that objective, the Chinese must create and deploy a domestic technology development, legal, marketing, administrative and human infrastructure to match the manufacturing and export prowess of the Chinese solar industry. The Interim Measures are one important, though tentative, step in that direction.

See the original article here

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Solar & Sempra to Build 48MW PV Plant

First Solar, Inc. announced yesterday the execution of an agreement to construct a 48 megawatt ground-mounted solar panel based solar farm for Sempra Generation near Boulder City, Nevada; around 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) will design, engineer and construct the facility and expects to begin construction in 2009.

Once completed in 2010, the Copper Mountain Solar project will likely be the largest PV based solar farm in North America, with a solar power generation capacity of 48 MW - enough to supply more than 30,000 homes. Together with the existing 167,000 photovoltaic panels at Sempra's 10 MW facility completed late last year, the power plant will incorporate nearly 1 million solar panels.

The solar farm is largest renewable energy project so far for Sempra Generation, part of Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE); moving the company closer to their goal of becoming the first U.S. firm to own 500 MW of solar power.

First Solar is the largest producer of solar panels in the USA, with manufacturing capacity growing more than 2,500 percent from 2004 to more than 500 megawatts in 2008. First Solar's 2009's annual production capacity is expect to exceed 1 gigawatt, the equivalent of an average-sized nuclear power plant. The company also recently announced it reduced its manufacturing cost for solar modules in the fourth quarter to USD 98 cents per watt, breaking the USD $1 per watt price barrier.

See the original article here

Friday, April 10, 2009

China's Jiangsu to Detail Solar Power Subsidy Policy

Jiangsu Province in East China is drawing up specific provisions for the implementation of national subsidy policy for solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, said Wei Qidong, secretary-general of Energy Research Association of Jiangsu Province.

This is seemed as an encouraging action to materialize China's newly issued subsidy policy on solar PV power projects, which provides 20 yuan for each watt-peak of installed solar PV power capacity.

The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development jointly released China's version of solar roof program earlier.

The subsidy policy is aimed to build a number of demonstrative solar PV projects, mainly solar PV roof projects and PV curtains in large and midsize cities as well as off-grid solar PV power stations in rural and remote areas.

Still, industry insiders have expressed their concern on the available amount of subsidy each year given the lack of exact number of subsidy to be provided.

Wang Sicheng, an expert with solar PV industry, said that the government has to provide at least 10 billion yuan of subsidy for 500 MW of China-made solar products each year, accounting for 25 percent of national overall output in 2008.

It's hard to evaluate the impact of solar PV roof program on solar PV industry when the total subsidy amount number isn't available.

Wei said that solar product manufacturers are unlikely to enjoy subsidy on solar PV power projects and on solar PV electricity for the same time.

Overshadowing concerns on China's solar PV industry also include the sustainability of subsidy policy and possible over-crowded investment and speculation spurred by the subsidy policy.

See the original article here

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Q-Cells & LDK Solar Announce Joint Venture

Editors note: This announcement from the world's largest cell producer and the world's largest wafer manufacturer is, to my knowledge, the first joint venture between any two such heavyweights in the photovoltaic industry. It represents a new approach for both firms and is further evidence that LDK Solar is committed to becoming a vertically integrated company.

Q-Cells SE and LDK Solar Co., Ltd., today announced the formation of a joint venture focusing on large PV systems and market development in Europe and China. Given their complementary core business models and regional market expertise, the two companies intend to take advantage of value chain optimization and integrated cost reduction.

A joint project pipeline is already in place and the first 40MW project has commenced. The projects of the joint venture will utilize 100% solar wafers from LDK Solar and 100% solar cells from Q-Cells. The joint venture is already in discussions with potential buyers of the first turn-key project, which will be in Europe, and is in the planning stages for future joint projects in the emerging Chinese market.

The partnership between the two companies in the area of PV systems is not intended to be exclusive, but rather to focus on developing specific projects of mutual benefit, with the shared goal of accelerating the move to grid parity.

“We are very pleased to announce this joint venture and further expand our relationship with LDK Solar.” commented Anton Milner, CEO of Q-Cells SE. “This joint venture will strengthen our position in the crucial business area of large-scale PV power plants.”

"We look forward to the many new opportunities that will emerge as a result of our partnership with Q-Cells," stated Xiaofeng Peng, Chairman and CEO of LDK Solar. “As leaders of the solar industry, we are excited to announce this joint venture for exploring and developing new business.”

See the press release here

Albuquerque's Mayor Details New Energy Projects

New Mexico Business Weekly/Megan Kamerick/April 7, 2009

The city of Albuquerque is getting $5.1 million in energy efficiency block grants, much more than the $3.2 million officials originally anticipated.

The funds, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, will be used for solar installations at city-owned parking facilities, the purchase of 20 to 25 hybrid vehicles, such as Honda Civic Hybrids and Ford Escape Hybrids, and new “cool roofs” for city buildings that will allow the installation of photovoltaic systems.

The list of projects came from an energy task force of business and government leaders convened to prioritize the spending of the ARRA funds. At a news conference, Mayor Martin Chávez referred to the team good-naturedly as a collection of “geeks and nerds, but very attractive ones.”

Chávez made the announcement beneath one of the oldest solar arrays in the city, installed by Sacred Power Co. for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in 1999. Sacred Power’s founders were part of the task force.

Of the funds, $2.75 million will go toward solar installations on four city multi-level parking structures that are good candidates for solar systems. The average structure has a monthly energy bill in excess of $3,000, said John Soladay, director of environmental health for the city. A 10-kilowatt photovoltaic system, the minimum design size for such a structure, would bring cost savings of about $4,788 annually. Initial estimates suggest the city can install 150kW on the structures, which could save between $75,000 and $100,000 annually in energy costs.

The parking structures also would have sites to allow people to charge electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles, including the general public and city officials, who will be driving new hybrid vehicles that will be purchased with $750,000 of the block grant funds.

About $1.5 million will be used to re-roof a number of city facilities that currently are not engineered to hold new photovoltaic systems. This will prepare the buildings for the installation of thin-film PV systems.

Soladay said between 30 and 50 structures could be re-roofed, representing between 125,000 and 150,000 square feet. Bids are out now to find qualifying vendors, he said, who should be selected within the next 90 days.

The next step would be to get funding for the PV systems, and the city could pursue the many competitive grants in the ARRA funds for that purpose. It could also use Clean Renewable Energy Bonds or seek a partnership agreement with a power services company to achieve that next step.

More than 500kW of installation is possible in the next 18 to 24 months, according to city officials, with an annual energy cost savings of between $350,000 and $500,000.

Chávez said the city will try to buy the solar technology locally, but that will be dependent on federal regulations. There are at least four companies up and running or opening soon here that manufacture solar components: Advent Solar, Emcore, SkyFuel and Schott Solar (which is building a plant at Mesa del Sol).

The $5.1 million is formula-based funding under ARRA. There is a whole wave of competitive grant funds that the city plans to pursue, Chávez said, and it will look for partnerships in the private sector to land that money.

See the original article here

Coming Soon to the Sunshine State: The Sunshine City

Time/Michael Grunwald/April 9, 2009

An NFL lineman turned visionary developer today is unveiling startlingly ambitious plans for a solar-powered city of tomorrow in southwest Florida's outback, featuring the world's largest photovoltaic solar plant, a truly smart power grid, recharging stations for electric vehicles and a variety of other green innovations. The community of Babcock Ranch is designed to break new frontiers in sustainable development, quite a shift for a state that has never been sustainable, and lately hasn't had much development. (Read "Is Florida the Sunset State?")

"Some people think I got hit in the head a few too many times," quips developer Syd Kitson, who spent six years in the trenches for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys before entering the real estate business in the mid-1980s. "But I still believe deeply in Florida. And the time has come for something completely different." (See the top 10 green stories of 2008.)

To anyone familiar with southern Florida's planning-nightmare sprawl of golf courses, strip malls and cookie-cutter subdivisions named after the plants and animals they replaced, Kitson's vision for his solar-powered, smart-growth, live-where-you-work city of 45,000 people east of Fort Myers is breathtakingly different. That's why the press conference held today revealing his development plans for the historic Babcock Ranch property will feature representatives from the Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club.

The history of Florida is littered with spectacular, landscape-changing proposals that never made it past the drawing board. The watery wisp of Everglades National Park known as Flamingo, population zero, was once touted as the next Chicago. Kitson's financial partner, Morgan Stanley, has had a rough time lately, and some locals remain skeptical that he can turn his $2 billion green vision into reality. "We've been hearing a lot of very exciting ideas, but we have no idea how this is actually going to happen," says Conservancy of Southwest Florida CEO Andrew McElwaine.

Then again, Kitson has already cleared two of his most difficult hurdles: getting the land and the right to build on it. In 2006, he engineered a deal with then-Governor Jeb Bush and the previous owners of the 91,000-acre ranch in which the state spent $350 million to purchase 73,000 of the most environmentally sensitive acres — the largest preservation buy in Florida history. Kitson paid about about the same amount for the remaining 18,000 acres, and he says half of that will remain green space within the new community.

Kitson has been promising unprecedented sustainability all along, but today's shocker was the announcement of Florida Power & Light's plan to provide electricity for Babcock Ranch with a 75-megawatt photovoltaic plant nearly twice as big as the current record-holder in Germany. Solar power has been slow to catch on in the gas-powered Sunshine State, but FPL hopes to start construction on the 400-acre, $300 million plant by year's end. The utility expects it will provide enough power for Babcock Ranch and beyond. At $4 million per megawatt — FPL estimates the costs to its customers at about 31 cents per month over the life of the project — it should be more than four times as cost-effective as the nuclear reactors FPL is trying to build near the Florida Keys.

Kitson's slick website also promises "groundbreaking" strategies to promote energy efficiency for all Babcock Ranch buildings. And that's not all: "Ultra-modern electric vehicles will glide along avenues beneath the glow of solar-powered street lamps, plugging in to recharge at convenient community-wide recharging stations. Revolutionary Smart Grid technologies will monitor and manage energy use, while Smart Home technology will allow residents to operate their homes at maximum efficiency." Kitson's goal is to reduce carbon emissions, oil dependence and energy bills, while turning Babcock Ranch into a mecca for clean-energy research and development, attracting high-tech companies that will provide high-wage jobs.

The idea is to create a self-contained community where people can live and shop and work and go to school and have fun without long car trips. Kitson's construction plans start with a walkable and bikable downtown that will include a magnet school, a wellness facility and sustainable retail as well as 8,000 homes — including affordable homes for local workers. "In Florida, everyone has to drive everywhere they want to go," Kitson says. "And everyone thinks the solution to congestion is to build more roads. I think the solution is to design communities so you don't need more cars on the roads."

Of course, talk is cheap. It's no secret that growth has been Florida's primary economic engine for decades. Yet Fortune 500 companies haven't flocked to its sprawling bedroom communities with lousy schools and overpriced houses, and the paving of paradise has left the state with overtapped aquifers, overcrowded hospitals, overstretched services, traffic jams, a dying Everglades and a vanishing sense of place.

Kitson promises to avoid the mistakes of the past. "We're impressed with their commitments," says Wayne Daltry, Lee County's director of smart growth. "Now we have to pound them to keep their commitments. No plan survives contact with reality — and in this case the reality is called the bottom line."

Given the dismal state of the economy in Florida and the dismal environmental track record of developers, it's easy to be skeptical. Kitson already had to lay off some of his southwest Florida staff. But unless the sun stops shining, the current housing collapse won't last forever. Florida is always going to be nicer than Brooklyn or Cleveland in the winter. It's about time someone tried to make growth environmentally and economically sustainable. And it's about time someone tried to use that sunshine for something other than getting a tan.

See the original article here

First Solar Completes Acquisition of OptiSolar's Pipeline

First Solar has announced that it has completed its acquisition of OptiSolar’s photovoltaic project pipeline. First Solar expects to construct the solar power plants developed under the pipeline over the next several years and sell them to a combination of regulated utilities, diversified energy companies and other independent power producers.

In addition, the core development team responsible for assembling and executing on the solar project pipeline has joined the First Solar development team. First Solar acquired all of OptiSolar’s project development business in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $400 million. As a result of the closing today, First Solar will issue approximately 3 million shares of common stock representing a dilution of about 3.5 percent. This is less than the approximate 5 percent dilution expected when the acquisition was announced, due to recent appreciation in the price of shares of the Company’s common stock.

Chicago Unveils Solar Powered EV Charging Stations

Examiner/Matt Kelly/April 9, 2009

Coulomb Technologies, the Silicon Valley-based developer of the Smartlet, an individually controlled charging station located in public and private parking areas, just announced the unveiling of the nation's first solar-powered electric vehicle charging station in the city of Chicago.

The announcement is a joint statement with Carbon Day Automotive, the US midwest distributor of the Coulomb Technologies ChargePoint™ Networked Charging Stations and a division of Carbon Day, an organization dedicated to increasing environmental awareness by encouraging people to play a part in saving the planet.

But Chicago? Really?

On average Chicago boasts maybe 84 sunny days per year, while Los Angeles by contrast has 300+, more than most American cities, except perhaps some desert southwest locales. The City of Angels also has one of the most dedicated EV communities, a utility company, Southern California Edison, that is passionate about smart-grid technology which they are investing millions of dollars in, and a public-transportation system that when compared to smaller, less car-focused cities, like Chicago, is sorely lacking.

And remember LA in the '70's? You could hardly breathe due to the smog here, and it was this city that showed the world how progressive policies can clean up the air. Because of this, I find it hard to believe that any community will embrace this public-charging technology more so that Angelenos.

Richard Lowenthal, Coulomb founder and CEO, agrees. "Coulomb is anxious to bring clean cars and clean fueling to Los Angeles. Our partner in Southern California, Clean Fuel Connection, has the people, the skills, and the technology to make LA a leader in the transformation to vehicles that don’t rely on imported oil and keep our air clean.

He adds, "Los Angeles showed the world in the 70’s that it could clean up its air, and now it could be a leader in the revolution to electric vehicles. We just await a signal from Los Angeles that they’re ready to welcome back electric vehicles."

Coulomb also recently announced a deployment of its technology in a partnership between the city of Walnut Creek, CA and 511 Contra Costa, a transportation demand management program, which promotes green transportation alternatives, installing three electric vehicle charging stations in city-owned downtown parking garages, serving 150-volt and 220-volt plug-in electric and hybrid cars. Coulomb also is in negotiations with the cities of Seattle, WA and Portland, OR, and there are unconfirmed rumors Santa Monica and Pasadena, CA will also be deploying their technology.

What's obvious is that LA needs leadership on this issue from the Mayor's office and City Hall in the form of clear policy decisions, which would create jobs and would cost almost nothing to install thanks to $400 million in Federal stimulus funding available through the Clean Cities organization. Then, once again LA can show the world that we can lead the way in clean air and clean transportation.

See the original article here

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Romag Launches Solar Powered EV Charging Stations in UK

Romag Holdings plc, the specialist manufacturer of glass and plastic composites for
renewable energy applications, announces today the development of an innovative new
product that will provide solar generated power for electric vehicles.

Romag’s ‘PowerPark’ is a solar car parking canopy made of PowerGlaz PV panels that will be
targeted for car parks at airports, stations, supermarkets, shopping centres, offices and
public buildings including sports and leisure facilities.. The canopy generates electricity which
can be sold into the national grid as well as charging electric vehicles. This initiative has been
spurred by Government encouragement to demonstrate that the infrastructure is being put in
place to support the manufacture of electric cars and will furthermore be beneficial to
commercial organisations when the feed in tariff is introduced in 2010.

Romag has already secured a contract with OneNE, the regional development agency, to
build two prototype ‘PowerPark’ canopies: one at its own facility in County Durham and the
other at Tegrel Engineering in Blaydon on Tyne, the manufacturers of the steel structure
utilised in the PowerPark product. Once testing is approved, PowerPark can be rolled out
initially as part of the pilot programme in the North East and then throughout the UK.

Romag also announces today that it is establishing the UK’s first Solar PV Training and
Business Centre. With financial support from OneNE, Romag will develop a facility at its
headquarters featuring both standard photovoltaic and building integrated photovoltaic
products. The Training and Business Centre will be available for hire to organisations that
wish to train people across the manufacturing industry from roofers to electricians, installers,
architects, developers and planners.

Commenting on the initiatives, Lyn Miles, Romag CEO said:

“We are extremely excited about these two projects and are positive about the benefits they
will present for the future of UK manufacturing and climate change, particularly in the North
East. Both the PowerPark and the training centre are being developed to ensure that the
infrastructure and expertise is in place to allow UK companies to readily respond to the
potential increase in demand for solar powered microgeneration within the UK market which
will be accelerated by the feed-in tariff.”

Visit Romag's website here

Friday, April 3, 2009

3rd International Conference on Solar Photovoltaic Investments

April 7-8, 2009 in Frankfurt, Germany

Following on the success of the two previous conferences, the EPIA is organising its 3rd International Conference on Solar Photovoltaic Investments in privileged partnership with the Deutsche Börse group.

This intensive conference in Frankfurt is addressed to both the photovoltaic (PV) industry and the financial sector with aims of further improving the cooperation between both communities.

Read more about the upcoming conference here

Concentrator Photovoltaic Cell Efficiency to Reach 50% by 2015

Recently, a metamorphic triple-junction solar cell of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems achieved a record efficiency of 41.1% at 454 suns. Making multi-junction CPV cells the most efficient photovoltaic devices.

The importance of this high capacity to convert sunlight into electricity is magnified by the fact that multi-junction cell efficiency tends to increase with the concentration factor. This is because the performance of multi-junction cells is particularly resilient to increases in cell temperature. The only photovoltaic tecnology with a better temperature coefficient is a-Si thin film but this technology has a much lower efficiency.

Currently, the useful range of concentration ranges from 2 to 1,000 suns. However, as methods of cooling cells are improved and new materials are employed in building multi-junction the concentration factor could be increased to take full advantage of high efficiency cells.

The report further explains factors which affect the efficiency of CPV cells. It also discusses in detail materials employed in CPV cells. Currently, two types of cells are being used in concentration systems: high efficiency silicon cells and multi-junction cells. At present, multi-junction cells have not achieved the same level of marketing development and industrialization as those made of silicon.

CPV Today shared that its prediction is based on an analysis of the state of the art, on the historical evolution of systems and on the objectives depicted by manufacturers as well as on the analysis of the public institutions involved in the promotion of technology.

'Commercial cells will reach efficiency levels up to 45%, modules up to 35% and systems up to 30%, which will imply a substantial reduction of costs,' according to an extract from the report.

The report also elaborates on historical efficiencies of CPV cells and forecast for efficiency improvement.

The CPV Challenge (Part I) is the most comprehensive report on the technological challenges facing CPV.

Request your free summary of the report here

Thursday, April 2, 2009


World solar photovoltaic (PV) market installations reached a record high of 5.95 gigawatts (GW) in 2008, representing growth of 110% over the previous year.

Europe accounted for 82% of world demand in 2008. Spain's 285% growth pushed Germany into second place in the market ranking, while the US advanced to number three. Rapid growth in Korea allowed it to become the fourth largest market, closely followed by Italy and Japan.

In the assessment of PV demand in 2008, 81 countries contributed to the 5.95GW world market total.

On the supply side, world solar cell production reached a consolidated* figure of 6.85 GW in 2008, up from 3.44 GW a year earlier. Overall capacity utilization rose to 67% in 2008 from 64% a year earlier.

Meanwhile, thin film production also recorded solid growth, up 123% in 2008 to reach 0.89 GW.

China and Taiwan continued to increase their share of global solar cell production, rising to 44% in 2008 from 35% in 2007.

Polysilicon supply to the solar industry grew by 127% in megawatt terms, sufficient to substantially ease supply limitations in 2008. United States polysilicon production accounted for 43% of the world's supplies. Average global wafering capacity grew to 8.30 GW (up 81%).

In dollar terms, the weighted 2008 average global factory gate crystalline module price increased by a modest 3% over 2007, notwithstanding the significant fall in fourth quarter 2008. Preliminary first quarter 2009 data shows a decrease of 24% compared to the 2008 global weighted average. The new report quantifies the global inventory build during first quarter 2009.

The PV industry generated $37.1 billion in global revenues in 2008, while successfully raising over $12.5bn in equity and debt, up 11% on the prior year.

The PV industry's principal annual report, Marketbuzz™ 2009 provides in-depth and insightful analysis of global market demand, supply capacity and production, pricing through the PV chain, manufacturing costs and gross margins, capital expenditure together with a focus on the key industry, corporate and policy challenges.

A full one third of the report focuses on PV demand by country, including the status updates on key policies and programs for the major markets. In addition, over 130 product polysilicon, wafer and cell supply contracts during are highlighted, together with 87 capital and debt raising deals for corporations in the PV chain during the year.

The forecast data employs three scenarios** to capture the fundamental variables affecting market development over the period. Twelve months ago, this scenario analysis provided the early notice of the impending change in the global supply/demand balance, which then took place in fourth quarter 2008.

In Marketbuzz™ 2009, the updated scenarios for 2009 - 2013 address market demand, supply capacity, production, industry pricing, manufacturing cost and margins. This data sets the framework for a discussion of the key industry issues over the next 5 years.

See the original article here

Spain Leads Global Market with 2.51 GW in 2008

Spain led the global market for solar in 2008, with 2.51 gigawatts installed that year alone, according to a report from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

About 5.5 GW was installed globally in 2008, reaching a total of 15 GW at the end of the year. Just 2.4 GW was installed in 2007.

After Spain, the countries with the most solar installation in 2008 were:

  • Germany with 1.5 GW
  • United States with 342 MW
  • South Korea with 274 MW
  • Italy with 258 MW
  • Japan with 230 MW
  • Czech Republic with 51 MW
  • Portugal with 50 MW
  • Belgium with 48 MW
  • France with 46 MW

The dominance of European countries on the list cemented the EU’s leading role in the solar PV sector, the EPIA said. But whether that remains is dependent on the success of government incentives, the group said.

The EPIA forecast 7 GW of installed capacity to be added in 2009 but noted high uncertainties. In September, Spain scaled back its feed-in tariff and set a 500 MW cap on its solar incentives, which could severely limit demand there (see Extra solar panels in Spain driving down prices).

However, the governments of the U.S., Germany, France and Italy have established favorable policies that is expected to accelerate PV deployment, the EPIA said. Late in 2008, the U.S. extended tax incentives for renewable energy (see Solar takes stock after tax-credit battle). Italy recently established a 20-year feed-in tariff of €0.44 to €0.49 per kilowatt hour (see ET Solar to sell modules to Italy).

The EPIA said feed-in tariffs could bump installed capacity to 22 GW by 2013.

A JP Morgan report last year said South Korea is going to be one of the fastest growing solar markets during the next four years, potentially growing power generating capacity 89 percent to nearly 1 gigawatt from solar (see S. Korea plans $72M for renewable energy).

See the original article here

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Suntech's Breakthrough Technology Achieves Higher Efficiencies

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), the world's largest photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer, today announced that it is routinely utilizing the Pluto technology to produce PV cells with conversion efficiencies of approximately 19% on mono-crystalline PV cells and 17% on multi-crystalline PV cells.

Suntech recently sent a number of Pluto PV cells to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany for third party verification. The Fraunhofer Institute test results included a mono-crystalline Pluto PV cell with a conversion efficiency of 18.8% and a multi-crystalline Pluto PV cell with a conversion efficiency of 17.2%. Both PV cells were produced on Suntech's 34MW Pluto production line utilizing solar grade silicon wafers.

Dr. Stuart Wenham, Suntech's Chief Technology Officer said, "We are very excited about the performance of the Pluto technology. We are consistently achieving around 19% conversion efficiency on Pluto mono-crystalline PV cells and around 17% on Pluto multi-crystalline PV cells in large scale production, compared to 16.5% and 15.5% respectively using conventional screen-printed technology."

Dr. Wenham added, "The ability of the Pluto technology to significantly improve the conversion efficiency of both mono and multi-crystalline silicon PV cells is one of its unique characteristics. This will give Suntech the flexibility to offer a complete range of high efficiency solar products. In particular, we believe that Suntech's multi-crystalline Pluto modules will be one of the most efficient multi-crystalline silicon PV modules in commercial scale production world-wide."

Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech's Chairman and CEO said, "Pluto delivers on the key requirements of the solar industry -- high efficiency, high stability, and high power output -- without utilizing higher grades of silicon. With Pluto-enabled Suntech products, our customers will realize improvements in space utilization and reduced balance of system costs, without increasing the cost of production, making Pluto well suited to commercial scale production and roof top applications."

The patent-pending Pluto technology is based on the PERL technology, developed by the University of NSW in Australia, which has achieved a world record efficiency of 25% in the laboratory. Pluto should improve power output by approximately 12% above conventional screen-printed PV cells. Unique texturing technology, with lower reflectivity, ensures more sunlight can be absorbed throughout the day even without direct solar radiation, and thinner metal lines on the top surface reduces shading loss. Suntech's Pluto technology can be applied to a variety of grades of silicon to suit multiple applications and product types.

Dr. Shi added, "The commercialization of the Pluto technology is the result of years of world-class research and development and is a milestone achievement for Suntech. With over 350 professionals in our R&D team spanning three countries, technology is a central element of our strategy to drive the cost of solar towards grid parity without incentives. Aside from developing high conversion efficiency PV cells, our R&D team is also engaged in the development of new solar applications and building integrated products, material and component optimization, encapsulation technology, and power output optimization and stabilization."

Suntech anticipates ongoing enhancement of the Pluto technology and targets to achieve 20% conversion efficiency on mono-crystalline PV cells and 18% on multi-crystalline PV cells within the next two years. Suntech currently has a fully operational 34MW Pluto PV cell line and targets to have a total of 100MW installed Pluto capacity within the next two months. Suntech expects to receive industry certification for Pluto PV modules in the second quarter of 2009 and targets to ship more than 50MW of Pluto modules in 2009. "Pluto" is a trademark of Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd.

About Suntech

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP) is the world's leading solar energy company as measured by production output of solar modules. Suntech designs, develops, manufactures, and markets premium-quality, high-output, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solar products for electric power applications in the residential, commercial, industrial, and public utility sectors. Suntech's patent-pending Pluto technology for crystalline silicon solar cells improves power output by up to 12% compared to conventional production methods.

Suntech also offers one of the broadest ranges of building-integrated solar products under the MSK Solar Design Line(TM). Suntech designs and delivers commercial and utility scale solar power systems through its wholly owned subsidiaries Suntech Energy Solutions and Suntech Energy Engineering and will own and operate projects greater than 10 megawatts in the United States through Gemini Solar Development Company, a joint venture with MMA Renewable Ventures. With regional headquarters in China, Switzerland and the United States and sales offices worldwide, Suntech is passionate about improving the environment we live in and dedicated to developing advanced solar solutions that enable sustainable development. For more information, please visit

Akeena Solar & Morgan Stanley Form Partnership

Akeena Solar said Tuesday that it had signed a contract with a Morgan Stanley subsidiary to supply solar panels for low-income homes.

Los Gatos-based Akeena will be the exclusive solar-panel supplier for two years to MS Solar Solutions, part of the global financial services company.

No financial terms of the deal were released. Akeena CEO Barry Cinnamon said he anticipated selling panels for "at least 200 installations."

The deal represents an expansion of Akeena's business strategy. Primarily an installer of solar systems on residential and commercial rooftops, Akeena will now put more emphasis on selling its proprietary panels.

"We see tremendous growth potential for that part of the business," Cinnamon said.

MS Solar Solutions will use Akeena's Andalay AC panels on projects. The company also has the option of selling Akeena panels to large-tract homebuilders. Akeena also granted a royalty-bearing license to MS Solar that allows it to manufacture Andalay panels.

Unlike most solar panels that produce DC power that must be transformed to AC in a wall-mounted inverter, the Andalay AC panels contain an integrated inverter, "turning them into plug-and-play AC appliances," Cinnamon said. "Put a bunch together, and you can easily power a house."

As a result, they can be installed by workers who can be trained quickly.

The first shipments of Andalay AC panels to MS Solar Solutions will take place this week, with the first job starting in an unidentified location in California in April.

Akeena's shares were up 17 percent to $1.12 in Tuesday's trading.

In testifying before Colorado legislators earlier this year, Martin Mobley, MS Solar Solutions' vice president, said the company intends to buy panels, install them and monitor and maintain them afterward for low-income citizens. The company's business plan, he said, includes taking advantage of solar rebates and tax credits, participating in government contracts as well as selling renewable energy credits, known as RECs.

See the original article here