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.

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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...