Wednesday, November 3, 2010

U.S. Voters Deliver Mixed Message to Renewable Energy

Sarah McBride/Reuters

LOS ANGELES, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Tuesday's U.S. election results sent a mixed message on alternative energy, with Republican victories in Congress likely to curb national alternative-energy policy while California results look set to help the sector.

Shares reflected the confusion, with solar stocks mostly down in the morning but recovering in late afternoon. First Solar (FSLR.O) finished flat while SunPower Corp (SPWRA.O) rose 1.3 percent, Suntech Power (STP.N) rose 2.5 percent and JA Solar (JASO.O) firmed 3.5 percent.

Big Republican wins in the U.S. House of Representatives make it unlikely that a bill to curb emissions from fossil fuels or establish renewable-energy goals will make it through Congress.

But in California, clean-energy policies apparently struck a chord with voters, who handed the governorship to Democrat Jerry Brown, a strong proponent of cutting emissions and boosting alternative-energy industries.

California voters also trounced a ballot initiative that would have suspended clean-energy goals until unemployment fell sharply. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, 61 percent of voters had rejected the measure, known as Proposition 23.

The victory in California, the nation's most populous state and by far its biggest market for renewable energy, helped compensate for disappointments at a national level.

The results ensure "that California and the entire United States will continue to grow the clean industries and reclaim leadership in the world," said Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

"I would expect in the next two years that you will see the U.S. becoming the largest solar market in the world, surpassing Germany, China and other countries," he added.

The U.S. renewables sector employs about 93,000 people, a figure that SEIA has predicted would grow by at least 26 percent next year. Resch said the number of jobs could double thanks to growth in California.


The threat of California's Proposition 23 had cast a shadow over the clean-energy sector, throwing into jeopardy a policy that the state's public utilities draw 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Passage of the measure could have allowed utilities to slow plans to ink contracts with solar and wind developers.

With the mandate for the 33 percent clean-energy goal now clear, it could trigger more business for solar-power developers as utilities gear up to meet it. The clarity will also help developers win financial backers.

"When you have a clear policy environment, it makes it a lot easier to find investors," said Arno Harris, chief executive officer of Recurrent Energy, a developer of solar plants that has agreed to be taken over by Sharp Corp (6753.T).

"What we've seen time and time again is that investors and lenders really want to see from a firm policy standard."

New agreements could be announced in the next few months, industry veterans say.

The wide margin of defeat gives lawmakers and regulators something of a mandate to go further, according to John Cheney, chief executive of Silverado Power LLC, a solar power developer.

"What this does is put immediate pressure on increasing the renewable energy standard," he said. "It will eventually go much higher than 33 percent."

A potential hiccup lies in California's Proposition 26, which was approved by voters and requires a two-thirds majority to pass various fees, levies and charges that would be declared taxes. But it is unclear how big an impact the proposition will have on clean energy.

Critics say the measure could affect the carbon cap-and-trade plan that the state's Air Resource Board released last week, by forcing the state to set up the trading of carbon permits under the plan in a way that wouldn't count as a tax under Proposition 26.

But Mary D. Nichols, who heads the board, said in a statement that the proposition doesn't impair the state's 2008 plan for reducing greenhouse gases or any regulations developed under the plan. Those regulations include the proposed cap-and-trade plan.

California is part of a group of 11 states and Canadian provinces known as the Western Climate Initiative. Members are supposed to start regional carbon trading in 2012.

New Mexico's participation in the carbon-trading plan is being thrown into question after the victory of Republican Susana Martinez in the governor's race. She opposes the cap-and-trade plan.

In California, an area where developers are seeking clarification is on how much renewable energy California utilities will be able to purchase from out-of-state plants, like those planned for just over the border in Arizona and Nevada, where costs are cheaper.

That issue will likely be hammered out by legislators in coming months, industry analysts say. (Additional reporting by Matt Daily in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler, Gary Hill)

See the original article here

Sunday, July 18, 2010

China's Polysilicon Price Rallying on Expanding Demand

BEIJING, Jul 16, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) --

China's polysilicon price is rallying drastically as the demand on the downstream PV market has expanded rapidly this year.

An industry insider told Xinhua-run Shanghai Securities News that due to higher production cost and a shorter term of product delivery, the price of home-made polysilicon is about 450 yuan per kilogram or 66 US dollars per kilogram, which is much higher than the imported price of 60 US dollars/kilogram, though the home-made product is inferior to imported one.

The suspension of production at Mitsubishi, the largest producer of silicon in the world, and the suspension of supply by OTC, another large-scale silicon producer in Japan, has aggravated the shortage of raw-material supply of silicon on the global market.

On the current market, both solar cell producers and silicon wafer producers are worrying that the inventory of polysilicon to ensure a normal production is in a badly low level, and the inventory of some companies can only meet the demand for one-week production.

China has a big polysilicon production capacity, which is estimated at 100,000 tonnes a year by the end of this year, but only 57,000 tonnes of production capacity has been constructed and actual production was 20,230 tonnes at the end of 2009.

Market watchers are predicting that the price of polysilicon will reach a high of 70 to 80 US dollars or 476 to 544 yuan and the price rally is to kick off a new round of development in the PV market.

In these circumstances, those PV solar power companies with an integrated industrial chain, especially those with polysilicon production capacity like LDK Solar (LDK.NYSE), are more likely to find favor in the market.

LDK Solar, a solar wafer and PV product manufacturer in China, is building a polysilicon plant with an annual production capacity of 15,000 tonnes, and has put the first phase project with a capacity of 5,000 tonnes into trial operation. With the capacity of ensuring polysilicon supply and lowering production costs, such solar power companies may seize a bigger market share on the burgeoning PV market. (Edited by Han Bing)

See original article here

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mayfield Fund Invests $21.5 Million in SolarCity Inc...

Mayfield Fund is a veteran venture firm that typically makes early-stage, technology-focused investments. But it has taken a different route with its first investment in the solar space.

Its lead role in a new $21.5 million round for SolarCity Inc., which installs and leases solar systems for homes and businesses, is a growth-stage deal in a company with a services-oriented business model.

“There’s so much innovation happening in solar cell technology, you just don’t know who will win,” said Navin Chaddha, a managing director at Mayfield who’s taking an observer seat on SolarCity’s board. “It’s best to go with a technology-agnostic company that owns the residential and commercial customers.”

The venture firm provided the majority of the Series E-1 round, according to Chaddha. He called the deal a growth investment, since SolarCity is already profitable. It came out of Mayfield’s $400 million 13th fund, of which about 30% is dedicated to growth-stage deals, while the rest is for early-stage, he said. The deal closed in June, according to Chaddha.

SolarCity was valued at $250 million when solar panel maker First Solar Inc. bought a 10% stake for $25 million in 2008. Since then SolarCity’s revenue has grown five-fold, Chaddha said, and the valuation is higher as well. He declined to give specifics but said the valuation is not five times what it was a year and a half ago.

Other participants in the latest round were existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DBL Investors and Generation Capital.

SolarCity, based in Foster City, Calif., will use the funding to make select acquisitions, expand to new states in the U.S. and hire personnel, according to Chaddha. The company recently bought the assets of an energy efficiency projects company called Building Solutions.

SolarCity’s solar installations now cover thousands of roofs but can go on a million more, Chaddha said, adding that the company has done more residential and commercial installations in California than any other company.

Mayfield has made several other clean technology-focused investments, including demand response company CPower Inc. and Lattice Power Corp., a maker of materials for the manufacturing of light emitting diodes.

“We want to bring IT to the energy business,” said Chaddha of the firm’s clean-tech focus. Within this space, it’s looking at lighting, smart control systems, software for energy management, networking technology for smart grid, and other sub-sectors.

See the original article here

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Clean-Tech Investments Hit a High, With Solar Shining Brightest

The solar energy sector has re-emerged as a favorite among green-tech investors, who also lined up behind biofuel companies at a time when crude oil began to gush from a BP well in the Gulf and carmakers were getting ready to launch cars partly or completely run on electricity.

Clean-tech venture investments for these two sectors stood out among the deals announced during the second quarter, in which $2.02 billion -- a 43% jump from the same period last year -- went to 140 private companies worldwide, according to a preliminary report from the Cleantech Group and Deloitte released Thursday. In all, green-tech companies raised $4.04 billion for the first half of this year, beating the record of $4.02 billion set during the first half of 2008.

Although investors were more bullish during the second quarter than they were a year ago, they clocked slightly less than the $2.04 billion (among 192 deals) recorded for this year's first quarter.

Corporate investors are playing a bigger role in green tech. Some of them needed to pony up to meet government mandates, while others sought to enter or expand their reach in various emerging green-tech sectors. Corporate giants, such as Shell (RDS.A) and Alstom (ALSMY), took part in about 15% of the second-quarter deals.

"Public Markets Are Pretty Much Closed"

Raising money from going public remains difficult for many startups. Eight companies have postponed or ditched their initial public offerings so far this year, including the high-profile cancellation by Solyndra, a California-based maker of solar panels that decided to sell $175 million in convertible notes instead of going public.

The lackluster IPO market likely led to some of the large private equity and debt deals that exceeded $100 million during the second quarter, says Richard Youngman, the Cleantech Group's vice president of global research. Some startups also were able to raise good money after they had received federal stimulus funds.

"We have companies that are much more mature, and the need for capital is much greater. Public markets are pretty much closed," says Youngman. "If you look at some of the mega deals, you'll see a strong correlation between those who had received funding from government programs within the last year."

Shiny Deals in Solar, Smart Grid

The solar sector was a big winner in the second quarter. It garnered $811 million among 26 deals, including the debt financing by Solyndra. California's BrightSource Energy raised $150 million in equity and counted French industrial giant Alstom as a new investor. Another California company, Amonix, raised $129.4 million in equity.

Solar power has gotten a lot of love from American utilities, particularly because many states now require their electricity retailers to increase the amount of renewable energy they sell. Many utilities are both building their own solar farms as well as buying solar electricity from producers. They signed 1,539 megawatts of power purchase agreements for the first half of this year, a 148% hike from 621 megawatts in the second half of 2009, the Cleantech Group says.

Meanwhile, companies that are figuring out various steps for making fuels from plants, agricultural wastes or other types of biomass collectively raised $302 million in 13 deals during the second quarter. High-profile deals include the $61 million in equity from California-based Amyris Biotechnologies, which also raised an additional $47.8 million from Singapore's Temasek Holdings. Virent Energy Systems in Wisconsin received $46 million from Shell and Cargill Ventures, while Kior in Texas grabbed $40 million.

Smart-grid and energy-efficiency technology developers also pocketed substantial investments. The term "smart grid" refers to a wide range of software and equipment to help utilities and their customers better monitor and manage energy distribution and use. The sector raised $256 million in 11 deals during the second quarter. Landis+Gyr, a Swiss maker of meters with advanced communication technology, raised $165 million. Florida-based OpenPeak, which creates home energy management devices, bagged $52 million.

China's Clean-Tech Push

Overall, the second quarter saw 19 IPOs totaling $2.31 million, and 12 of the offerings totaling $1.73 billion came from the Chinese market. California-based Tesla Motors (TSLA) was among the three companies that went public in North America and collectively raised $304 million.

"Right now, data suggest that if there's appetite for clean-tech IPOs, then that appetite is stronger in the East than the West," Youngman says. Some of the largest Chinese IPOs over the past year: China Longyuan Electric Power raised $2.2 billion, while Chongqing Water raised $511 million.

Although Tesla Motors' $226 million IPO this week met with an enthusiastic investor response, it was an exception. When Solyndra filed to go public last December, it was looking at raising as much as $300 million. But the company, which had raised $970 million in equity and won approval for a $535 million federal government loan to build a factory, said unfavorable market conditions forced it to cancel the IPO.

Nobao Renewable Energy, a Chinese company that builds geothermal energy systems to heat and cool buildings, also ditched its IPO plan last month. Trony Solar, a maker of amorphous-silicon solar panels in China, postponed its IPO as well last December.

Meanwhile, JinkoSolar (JKS), a crystalline-silicon solar panel maker from China, went public on the New York Stock Exchange in May this year and failed to excite investors. The company's shares launched at $11 and closed at $11.01 on the first day.

See full article from DailyFinance:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yingli Secures $5 Billion Loan from Development Bank

China may double the world’s capacity for making solar panels by loaning Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. 36 billion yuan ($5.3 billion) to expand production, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst said.

The funds from the state-run China Development Bank Corp. follow an agreement to lend as much as 50 billion yuan to Suntech Power Holdings Co. in April. Some 30 billion yuan was also loaned to Trina Solar Ltd. by the bank in the same month, according to New Energy Finance. The three New York-traded companies are China’s biggest solar firms by market value.

“The loans are enough to increase the world’s solar wafer and cell capacity by 100 percent,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar-energy analysis for New Energy Finance in London. “It will allow the Chinese companies to deliver unprecedented economies of scale.”

The money will allow China to strengthen its position as the world’s largest maker of solar panels used to generate electricity from the sun’s rays. Yingli and its Chinese competitors shipped 43 percent of the world’s solar panels last year, according to the London-based research group owned by Bloomberg LP.

Yingli will use the funds to finance both domestic development and boost its overseas business, the Baoding-based company said in a statement on its website. The company didn’t provide further details or disclose terms of the loan.

China Development Bank also extended an eight-year loan of $70 million to Yingli in December 2008 to fund expansion. The company said in a separate statement it has started production on a solar panel factory able to make 400 megawatts of generation capacity a year.

Capacity Expansion

Yingli expects its newest production lines to reach full capacity by the end of the third quarter, raising its total output capacity to 1 gigawatt. The China Development Bank loan may be enough to raise Yingli’s production capacity to as much as 5 gigawatts, Chase said.

The 50 billion yuan loan agreement with Suntech may be used to help expand output capacity, said spokesman Rory Macpherson.

“The strategic agreement signifies China Development Bank’s confidence in the ongoing growth of Suntech and the solar industry,” he said. “The use of the funds was not specified though could potentially be used for capacity expansion.”

See the original article here

IMS Research Estimates 14.6GW Installed in 2010

Despite only a small improvement in solar inverter component supply expected in the second-half of the year, IMS Research has raised its forecast for global photovoltaics system installations. The market research firm expects installs to reach 14.6 GW, a 95% increase from 2009 and nearly three times size of the market back in 2008. Increased demand from Germany and other European countries is fuelling demand but growth in other regions such as the U.S. is playing a part, IMS Research said.

“Basing our forecast on inverter production is incredibly important this year as it’s well documented that inverter supply is limiting the PV market to a massive extent,” noted Ash Sharma, PV Research Director at IMS Research. “Although demand may be higher than this 14.6GW, if customers are not able to secure inverters then installations will not be completed.”

According to the market research firm, the top three markets in 2010 will be Germany, Italy and Czech Republic, which are predicted to install a combined 9.8GW of new PV capacity. Germany is expected to account for some 47% of new capacity, IMS Research said.

However, emerging markets in Asia and North America will gain share over Europe, leading to a slight share fall for EMEA countries to 78% of the market.

With acute shortages in top-brand inverters, IMS Research noted that double ordering is taking place.

“It’s possible we may see a large number of orders cancelled in 2H’10 or excess inventory in the supply chain,” noted Sharma.

Friday, July 9, 2010

German Lawmakers Compromise on FiT Reductions

German lawmakers have today (July 9) approved the easing of solar subsidy cuts for three months, lessening the blow by three percentage points until the end of September. The proposal has now been passed by a committee of both houses of parliament, changing the government plan to cut subsidies for solar power fed into Germany's electricity grid by 16% for rooftop equipment, 15% for farmland and 11% for spaces such as former industrial or military sites.

The reductions will be introduced retroactively from July 1, scaled back by three percentage points for each category until Sept. 30, when the full 16, 15 and 11% cuts will take effect.

Germany's solar industry says the three-month reprieve will do little to shield the industry, beyond offering a slightly softer landing in the short term. Industry representatives in Germany have warned this week that the feed-in tariff cut will increase pressure on companies such as Q-Cells and Solarworld as they face competition from producers in China.

"Germany's solar industry now faces the big challenge of lowering production costs even faster than they were cut in the past," said Carsten Koernig, head of the BSW German solar-industry lobby.

"It's not much of a concession, and it won't really change anything for any companies," said another spokesman for trade body BSW. "But we're happy the debate is finally coming to an end, so industry and consumers will have a basis on which to make plans."

See the original article here

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ontario Announces Update to FiT Program

As of July 1, 2010, the amount of applications for photovoltaic systems installed under the micro-generation feed-in tariff in Ontario, Canada, reached 16,000. The majority of these applications have been for ground-mounted systems and thus, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has designed a FiT cut for any systems of this kind of 10kW or less, to stop the pressure this will place on tax payers.

Several sources are now reporting that more than 10,000 solar applications in Ontario are on now hold as a direct result of this cut. The previous price being paid by the power authority was 80.2 cents per kWh of energy generated. This is one of the most generous FiTs in the world, which is one of the reasons the Ontario market has taken off so well in the past year. However, the FiT rate will now drop to 58.8 cents per kWh for all ground-mounted systems of 10kW or less. Without this cut, energy and infrastructure minister Brad Duguid said that Ontario taxpayers would have had a CAD$1 billion price to pay over 20 years. "(It) would have been irresponsible for us to have let it continue," he said.

"The OPA believes the new price category is fair, reasonable, more accurately reflects the costs associated with ground-mounted projects and maintains the long-term stability of the program," says Colin Andersen, chief executive officer of the Ontario Power Authority. "It enables the program to continue to meet its original goals and provides proper value to both generators and ratepayers."

However, these cuts, as expected, have caused mixed feelings, and a great amount of uncertainty in the market. Some in the industry say it's unfair to change the rate after people have submitted proposals for a contract though the OPA and that applications already sent should still receive the original higher rate of 80.2 cents. Others are behind the cuts, agreeing that since the cost for small, ground-mounted solar installations have turned out to be lower than expected, the annual rate of return is around 25%, meaning that with the higher rate the industry would be "way out of whack," and for which consumers would otherwise ultimately bear significant cost.

"We have a whole lot of unhappy customers right now," said Bruce Knight, president of London-based Ontario Solar Farms, which designs, sells and installs ground-mounted solar installations.

Knight said the company has provided approximately 50 quotes to people who want a contract or are awaiting word on applications they've submitted while a large proportion have already invested money in their planned installation. Knight believes that the province should not be changing the price for applications which are already in the pipeline, "It's not the way normal business operates," he said.

The planned price change was announced via e-mail on July 2 to applicants, causing uproar since the province had initially stipulated that it would review its terms and policies in September 2011. Yet since the OPA has been flooded with applications in recent months the decision had to be made to chop the subsidies.

The lucky few

The change will not affect micro-FiT producers who already have a 20-year contract at the 80.2-cent rate; the OPA has assured these people that they will continue to receive the original price. Installations of over 10kW will still receive the set amount of 44.3 cents per kWh.

The OPA has now begun a 30-day consultation period on the price change, however it looks very likely that this cut will go through as planned.

See the original article here

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

SMA Raises Guidance for FY2010

The solar inverter market leader, SMA Solar Technology has made a significant upward revision to its revenue guidance for 2010 on the back of strong demand. The company said it expected revenue to be between €1.5 and €1.8 billion for the year. Previously, SMA Solar guided revenue to be between €1.1 and €1.3 billion. The worldwide solar market could reach 14GW installed, compared to previous expectations of the market reaching 9GW to 11GW in 2010.

The upward revisions to both revenue and global market growth suggest the critical shortages of inverter components, primarily semiconductors is expected to ease in the second-half of the year as IC suppliers increase production allocations to customers such as SMA Solar to better meet booing demand.

SMA Solar noted that delivery times for its inverters would gradually improve in
the second-half of the year. The company previously noted that recent capacity expansions at facilities were underutilized due to the shortages in components.

The company said that sales topped €800 million for the first six months 2010 and sold more than 3.1GW of inverter output. However, SMA Solar noted that it expected a decline in the German market and a stronger growth of foreign markets in 2011.

See the original article here

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hyundai to Double Module and Cell Capacity by 2011

In another move by a Korean conglomerate to expand solar PV manufacturing, Hyundai Heavy Industries said it plans to double its annual module and cell production capacity from the current levels of 320MW and 370MW to 600MW, respectively, by early 2011. The company, which claims to be the largest PV cell and module producer in South Korea, will complete the near-doubling of its capacity through the expansion of its solar power factory in Eumseong, north Choong-cheong province, by early next year and start full-scale production from the second quarter of 2011.

The company said the decision to expand the Eumseong facility was based on increasing demand for solar cells and solar modules from Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, and other European countries where suppliers cannot meet the demand.

“We already had enough orders for this year, and we are now receiving orders for next year," said Kim Kweon-tae, COO of Hyundai Heavy’s electro electric systems division. "Our target is to be [in the] global top 10 with annual sales of 2 trillion won (US$1.645 billion)and annual production capacity of 1GW by 2012.”

Farther up the PV production stream, Hyundai Heavy has also been processing 3000 tons of polysilicon prototypes at Korea Advanced Materials, a company jointly established with KCC.

It also aims to be the first Korean solar power company with a vertically integrated production scheme--from polysilicon through complete systems--by having an annual production capacity of 100MW of ingots and wafers as well.

Hyundai Heavy is one of several Korean companies along the value chain that are making sizeable investments in solar PV production and seeking to break into the top tier of global solar players.

Samsung Electronics told PV-Tech recently that it plans to spend $6 billion on building up its solar PV capabilities over the next decade, with a stated objective of scaling to multi-gigawatt-level manufacturing capacities.

LG Electronics said earlier this week that it has opened a pair of c-Si solar cell production lines, one for multicrystalline cells, the other for monocrystalline, as the first part of its own longer-term manufacturing strategy.

On the materials side, Korean polysilicon producer OCI (formerly DC Chemical) announced that it wants to become the number-two supplier of the key raw material, with plans for ramping capacity to 32,000MT by the end of 2011.

Capital equipment maker Jusung Engineering signed a deal earlier this year worth nearly US$139 million to supply turnkey c-Si and thin-film production equipment to Chinese company G Group--said to be the largest single contract in Jusung's history.

See the original article here

Monday, June 14, 2010

Japan: White Paper Calls for Promotion of Renewables

TOKYO, Jun. 14, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- Japan needs to promote the use of renewable energy including wind and solar power to secure a stable energy supply amid a rise in global energy demand due to rapid growth in China and other emerging economies, a government white paper said Tuesday.

In the fiscal 2009 energy white paper approved at a Cabinet meeting, the government said Japan's ratio of renewable energy to overall energy supply is comparable to the ratios for Germany and Spain, which are promoting the use of renewable energy.

The renewable energy ratio stood at 6 percent in 2007, compared with 9 percent for Germany and 7 percent for Spain, according to the white paper.

To ensure the spread of renewable energy, however, Japan should fully introduce feed-in tariffs -- a premium rate paid for renewable energy-generated electricity and fed back into the electricity grid -- and ease conditions for power generation facilities, the annual report said.

It also pointed out the need to establish the network of the next-generation smart grid based on information technology, to make energy use more effective.

The white paper gave Japan a score of 1.8 in evaluating its energy self-sufficiency, including nuclear power generation, on a scale of 1 to 10.

Japan should secure rights to develop natural resources abroad and steadily stockpile oil, the paper said.

See the original article here

Sunday, June 13, 2010

School Districts Look to Solar Power to Cut Costs

Last Updated Sunday, Jun 13 2010 12:00 PM

School districts throughout Kern County are hoping to save thousands of dollars a year on energy costs by contracting with companies offering solar power.

The latest plan is coming out of Greenfield Union School District in south Bakersfield. The district hopes to have companies install solar panels on top of roofs of nearly all 11 campuses (Ollivier Middle School is excluded because of efficiency concerns).

Instead of paying PG&E for power, as it does now, the district would pay the solar power provider installing the panels directly under the plan. The move could save the district more than $50,000 a year, and $4.6 million after 20 years, Superintendent Chris Crawford said.

"We are really excited about this," Crawford said. "There are the savings, and it allows us to budget our power costs."

Greenfield trustees earlier in the week heard a presentation from Enfinity, a solar energy company of investors, and Garland Energy Systems, a solar panel provider and consulting resource.

Trustees have given Crawford the OK to draw up an action item school board members could vote on later this month. If approved, the panels would be installed at no cost to the district under the contract.

At the meeting, trustees asked how the panels would look, whether they would affect roof warranties and most importantly, how much the district could save. The district paid PG&E about $800,000 for energy the last 12 months, and hopes to save $56,000 the first year with the solar panels, Crawford said.

Saving money is a priority for schools county and statewide as they deal with unprecedented budget cuts. Greenfield is working with a $5.5 million budget reduction for next year.

Another local school district -- Standard School District -- has discussed options with Chevron, a company that makes up 75 percent of the district's tax base. The company would provide solar energy from its solar farms to the district, which has lost roughly $3.7 million since 2008.

"We're all looking for solutions because we're not getting solutions from Sacramento. You have to take matters into your own hands," said Superintendent Kevin Silberberg, who also shared that the district also added artificial turf at one of its elementary schools to cut landscaping costs. "Everyone is looking for creative ways to cut costs."

Adding solar panels to schools saves money, certainly, but it also stamps the school as "green conscious" and sustainable, officials said. School districts contract for solar panels instead of buying them partly because there is no incentive to the public agencies.

In Mojave, where the sun shines clear most of the year, school leaders at Mojave Unified are discussing solar options.

"We're doing our homework," Superintendent Larry Phelps said. "We want to be as green as we can, and we're trying to look at long-term costs."

Installing solar panels and attempts to cut energy costs at schools are nothing new; they're just becoming hotter with looming budget cuts, officials said.

Kern High School District is using an efficient air-chilling unit and motion sensors to shut off machines when not in use, according to previous Californian reports.

Schools throughout the Rosedale area recycle paper, and the money earned goes back to their schools. At Fruitvale School District, officials measured and tracked HVAC and lighting systems to save money.

At the 40-plus campuses in the Bakersfield City School District, temperatures are adjusted and automatic shutdown software was installed.

And at Bakersfield College, plans expected to be live as early as fall call for covering the northeast parking lot with solar panels, a project that will supply about a third of the campus's energy needs. A similar project is planned for Cal State Bakersfield.

Back at Greenfield, the district is looking at the plan as a way to catch a break from the ups and downs of power costs. If approved, the solar providers have 18 months to get panels installed.

"What it's doing is helping the school districts out in a really tough time," said Sean Gavin, with Garland Energy Systems' local office. "I think that's what this whole solar initiative is supposed to do."

PG&E, which loses out when districts change services, said representatives work with schools to cut costs. The company, however, supports customers' right to choose, said Cindy Pollard, PG&E spokeswoman.

See the original article here

Agency Announces Rental Rates for Solar Power Plants on Public Land

The federal Bureau of Land Management has announced the rental fees it plans to charge for any solar power plants constructed on public lands – and they aren't cheap.

A 400-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant installed in Riverside County, California, for example – where a number of solar power plants have been proposed – could be required to pay as much as about $3.5 million a year under the bureau's fee structure.

"Publishing this rental schedule moves our nation closer to creating a new energy frontier – one that relies more on renewable, clean, energy sources," said Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management, in a news release. "We are providing the solar energy industry the level of certainty it needs about the costs associated with projects on the public lands and ensuring a fair return to American taxpayers for the use of their public lands."

The bureau recently had 175 active applications under environmental review for large-scale solar power projects proposed on public lands in six western states. Fourteen solar projects are undergoing "fast-track" reviews that follow the same procedures as others but are expedited to allow the projects, if approved, to qualify for economic stimulus funding before the end of 2010 under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Rhone Resch, president and chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a prepared statement that "while oil and gas companies have received more than 74,000 permits to operate on federal lands in the past two decades, utility-scale solar developers have received zero. We applaud Interior Secretary [Ken] Salazar and BLM Director Abbey for achieving this milestone and taking another step toward the clean-energy future that the American public wants." A recent poll showed about three-fourths of Americans support putting solar power plants on public lands, he said.

The Bureau of Land Management is required under the law to collect annual rent payments for right-of-way authorizations on public lands. The law stipulates that the rents reflect fair market value.

The solar rental schedule was developed by the bureau, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy. It consists of a "base rent" that will be charged for the amount of acreage taken up and a "megawatt capacity fee" based on a plant's power output.

The rent per acre will vary from county to county and is based on values published by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Examples range from $313.88 per acre in Riverside County, Calif., and Yuma County, Ariz., to $15.70 per acre in Pima County, Ariz.; Mineral County, Nev.; and Hidalgo and Luna counties, N.M. Most of the land managed by the bureau is in 12 Western states.

The capacity fee will be charged annually once a power plant begins operations, but will be phased in over a five-year period. The fee will start at 20 percent the first year, then rise to 40 percent the second, 60 percent the third, 80 percent the fourth, and 100 percent in the fifth year and every year thereafter. Solar power plants are expected to have typical lifetimes of 25 years or more. The nation's oldest utility-scale solar photovoltaic and solar thermal power plants, both in California, are now about 26 years old, and continue to operate.

The capacity fee will vary depending on the type of solar technology used in a power plant. It is based on a formula that includes the production efficiency of the electricity generation and the average return on a federal 20-year bond.

For solar PV technology -- the type also used on homeowner and small-business rooftops – the fee will be $5,256 per year per megawatt of capacity.

For concentrated photovoltaics, which use mirrors or lenses to focus light onto semiconductor materials, and for concentrated solar thermal plants, which use the sun to heat up materials to run generating turbines, the megawatt capacity fee will be $6,570 if the plants have no way to store significant amounts of heat to continue to produce electricity when the sun isn't shining.

For concentrated solar plants with storage capacities of three hours or more, the fee will be $7,884 per megawatt per year.

As an example, the bureau said, the capacity fee for a 400-mw photovoltaic installation would be $2,102,400 annually. If the plant were in Riverside County, Calif., and occupied 4,410 acres, its base rent would be $1,384,211, and the combination in the first year would total $3,486,611. Total fees would be higher for concentrated solar plants.

Power plants using all types of solar technologies are proposed on bureau-managed lands in Riverside County and other locations in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, but none have been approved.

The policy takes effect immediately, the Bureau of Land Management said.

See the original article here

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Suntech Launches Concept Museum

WUXI, China, June 11 /PRNewswire-Asia/ -- Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), one of the world's leading producers of solar panels, today launched the Low Carbon Concept Museum at Suntech Headquarters. Al Gore, Chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection, former Vice President of the United States, and a world-renowned environmental advocate, was on hand to commemorate the event.

"I am honored to be here with my friend, Dr. Shi, for the launch of the Low Carbon Concept Museum," said Al Gore following the launch ceremony. "The climate crisis can be solved but only with the rapid deployment of technologies in China, the United States and around the world that reduce the pollution that causes global warming."

The Suntech Low Carbon Concept Museum provides an educational introduction to our world's energy and environmental challenges, particularly climate change. Examining the age-old relationship between energy and human civilization, from the creation of fire to the development of solar technology, the interactive exhibition serves as an open platform for the local community and school children to learn about the impacts of carbon-based energy production on our planet. Underneath the world's largest solar facade, comprised of more than 2,600 semi-transparent Light Thru(TM) solar panels, the sunlit lobby of Suntech Headquarters presents an ideal venue for exploring the world's energy and environmental future.

"We are inspired by Al Gore's continued leadership in driving global awareness about the costs and dangers of fossil fuel energy production - most importantly, climate change," said Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech's Founder, Chairman and CEO, in a speech at the launch event. "Suntech stands in solidarity with all those working around the world to create a green future for our children. That process begins with education."

Suntech is committed to promoting global energy and environmental education to foster the next generation of social leaders and solar scientists. Over the last year, Suntech donated 200 sets of solar testing and engineering equipment for schools across China; provided a basic education scholarship fund and solar systems for three remote schools in Tibet; donated a 3kW solar system to a rural school in Morogoro, Tanzania; and subsidized a 10kW system at McNeil High School in Austin, Texas. In addition, Dr. Shi announced at the event that Shi's Family Charitable Foundation will donate solar panels to power eighteen remote schools in Lebanon in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Mr. Gore's participation in the launch at Suntech Headquarters highlights the global nature of contemporary energy and environmental challenges as well as the global nature of the solar industry. Suntech works with material and silicon suppliers - who similarly operate global supply and distribution networks - as well as downstream partners in dozens of countries around the world. In addition, Suntech maintains manufacturing, production and/or R&D operations in China, Japan, Germany, Australia and the U.S., with its new module production facility in Goodyear, Arizona, scheduled to come online later this year.

"Humanity faces a global threat that demands global solutions. Although we must not underestimate the severity of this crisis, or the work that lies ahead, there is reason for optimism," added Dr. Zhengrong Shi. "With our partners around the world, we are providing everyone with reliable access to nature's cleanest and most abundant energy source."

About Suntech Power

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP) produces industry-leading solar products for residential, commercial, industrial, and utility applications. With regional headquarters in China, Switzerland, and the United States, and gigawatt-scale manufacturing worldwide, Suntech has delivered more than 10,000,000 photovoltaic panels to thousands of customers in more than eighty countries. Suntech's pioneering R&D creates customer-centric innovations that are driving solar to grid parity against fossil fuels. Our mission is to provide everyone with reliable access to nature's cleanest and most abundant energy source.

For more information about our people and products visit

Large Texas Photovoltaic Project Taking Shape

A prominent U.S. utility has reported a financing deal for a large-scale solar project being developed near San Antonio, Texas.

According to Duke Energy Generation Services (DEGS), it has raised about $45 million by leveraging its ownership of the 14-megawatt Blue Wing Solar Project. The 25-year loan was provided by Prudential Capital Group.

"This financing is another important milestone for Duke Energy as we continue to build a portfolio of high-quality commercial renewable power projects," said Greg Wolf, DEGS senior vice president for business development. "We're demonstrating our capacity to deliver and execute on every aspect of a successful solar photovoltaic project, including the judicious deployment of Duke Energy's capital."

The Blue Wing project is expected to consist of 214,500 ground-mounted thin-film photovoltaic panels located on a 139-acre parcel of land. When complete, it will be the largest photovoltaic project in Texas.

DEGS purchased the project from Juwi Solar, a Colorado company that remains the construction contractor for it. The acquisition deal also included a 30-year power purchase agreement to sell generated power to CPS Energy of San Antonio.

See the original article here

Friday, June 11, 2010

Yingli at the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited has officially opened its carbon-neutral commercial display at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ soccer stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The display, which will be utilized by World Cup partners and sponsors to advertise, is the first carbon-neutral commercial display in the history of the FIFA World Cup™.

By using the Yingli Solar PV system and low carbon footprint materials in the design of the commercial display, the Company was able to achieve carbon neutral status. Additionally, all materials are manufactured in South Africa so products wouldn’t need to be transported by air. Investments in ecological carbon dioxide emission reduction certificates were also made.

"We are pleased to be the first FIFA World Cup™ sponsor to showcase a carbon-neutral Commercial Display," Mr. Liansheng Miao, Chairman and CEO of Yingli Green Energy, stated. "It is important for us at Yingli Green Energy that we are responsible for our own operational footprint in terms of social and environmental impact. Like FIFA, we are committed to making our contributions to a cleaner and greener world. Our Commercial Display will also be an opportunity for football fans from all over the world to see and experience the PV technology as they gather before the kick-off of matches at Soccer City."

The commercial display was designed and installed by Yingli, as a fully operating PV system with Yingli Solar semi-transparent laminates. A total of 1.2 kWp will be generated from the system. The system has the potential to generate around 1,500 KWh of electricity, if it were left at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg for a full year, offsetting around 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. The display also incorporates wood, bamboo and other materials from South Africa, which contribute to the reduction of the overall carbon footprint of the display.

Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary General, said, "We are excited that Yingli Green Energy marks another historical moment by presenting the very first carbon neutral Commercial Display ever in FIFA World Cup™ history. FIFA is very conscious about the planet we inhabit and we are proud to join forces with Yingli Green Energy by combining our love for football and the environment."

See the original article here

Friday, June 4, 2010

China Overtakes U.S. In Clean Energy Investments

by Donna Howell, Investor's Business Daily

China's formidable power in solar energy is growing.

With potentially huge export and domestic markets, low-cost factory labor and government backing, China's clean energy sector attracted more investment last year than any country, knocking the U.S. to second place.

"One of the main reasons is obvious, looking at the unquenchable thirst of China for electricity," said Lux Research analyst Ted Sullivan. "Look at the rate at which demand is growing, the rate at which they're adding new dams and electric and hydroelectric plants."

Wanting to ensure it's an ally, the U.S. stressed clean-tech collaboration in a joint U.S.-China statement on energy security cooperation issued last month.

The Chinese government's focus on fostering alternative energy has "given investors a place to go and invest" by offering predictability, said Phyllis Cuttino, a Pew Charitable Trusts project director.

A recent study she led says China topped the world last year with $34.6 billion in clean energy investments, public and private. The U.S. followed with $18.6 billion.

China has stepped up aid to its solar companies. Many foreign firms build solar parts there too, drawn by labor as cheap as 3% of manufacturing's cost in the U.S.

"Solar is generally a commodity business, and companies with low manufacturing costs generally have an edge; longer term they can price attractively," said Wells Fargo analyst Sam Dubinsky. "China has the lowest manufacturing costs."

While China has been lending billions to solar firms, and doling out other incentives, U.S. and European perks are waning.

China's Trina Solar (TSL) recently signed a deal with China Development Bank that will bring it $4.4 billion in loans through 2015 so it can boost production. Analysts expect the firm will lift revenue 122%, to $332.9 million, this quarter.

Canadian Solar (CSIQ), which despite the name is a China player, won contracts in Ontario, Canada, for 176 megawatts of solar gear.

Suntech Power (STP), China's largest maker of solar cells and panels, in April inked a deal with the China Development Bank for up to $7.33 billion.

The euro's fall, however, is weighing on Chinese solar stocks of late. And with prices for conventional energy sources relatively low, governments might be even less inclined to apply solar stimulus measures.

Subsidies are key to supporting the solar industry until that theoretical grid-parity day when it's advanced enough to pay its own way by matching the cost of conventional energy. But just how far a government should go to prop up the industry is a matter of great debate.

"Looking at all countries that continue to be real leaders, or are emerging, almost all of them have a strong national policy framework," Cuttino said. "One reason we think a lot of capital is sitting on the sidelines in the U.S., or is going to China, is because we don't have those policies."

Subsidies are generally sliding outside China and rising in China, says Broadpoint AmTech analyst John Hardy — although German lawmakers on Friday took steps to put off a planned solar subsidy cut of as high as 16% and are looking at more modest trims.

"There is the likelihood that sometime in the not-too-distant future we'll hear about a feed-in tariff (where energy generators can sell power to utilities at a premium) for solar in China," he said. "You read a lot about Germany cutting feed-in tariffs. Italy's set to decide what they want to do with their feed-in tariff as we move into 2011."

Reducing subsidies is necessary for the industry, Hardy contends.

"Ultimately it's good and forces companies to reduce costs" and head toward grid parity, he said. "But it creates volatility."

Hardy sees U.S.-based First Solar (FSLR) as best positioned with its lead at reducing costs via its thin-film modules.

SunPower (SPWRA), another U.S. firm, is "in the bucket of benefiting from more demand coming domestically over the next couple years as some utilities start to ramp up their projects," he said.

U.S.-based solar wafer and polysilicon provider MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR) is in the same bucket, says Hardy.

After a lull, China's market is recharged. "There are a lot of politically well-connected Chinese oligarchs" leading solar firms, Sullivan said. "And the downturn has spurred them to start developing the domestic market."

Two years ago, 80% to 90% of China's domestic solar sales were residential, notes research firm Freedonia Group, with utilities negligible. This is set to change through 2013, it says; utilities, with government incentives, are expected to rapidly increase investment to as much as 4% of total sales.

"Export sales growth is naturally going to decelerate. Meanwhile, domestic demand for PV modules is going to really take off," Freedonia analyst Ryan Martinson said by e-mail. "The net effect is that Chinese firms are going to be selling a lot more of their output locally."

China's starting to take direct investments in Chinese producers, and subsidizes up to half of costs for large-scale domestic solar projects via its Golden Sun program.

Chinese sovereign wealth funds hold a large position in GCL Solar Energy, Sullivan says, while the Jiangxi provincial government has a stake in LDK Solar (LDK).

"Both GCL and LDK were looking shaky as polysilicon prices crashed," he said.

With all this, China will emerge as the world's largest solar market in 2015, with 5.5 gigawatts of capacity newly installed that year and a cumulative total of 18, Sullivan says. Global capacity that year should hit 26.4 gigawatts. For 2010, China's adding about 580 megawatts vs. 9.3 gigawatts worldwide. "The Chinese are building a strategic overcapacity so they don't get caught in a trap like 2005-09," he said, adding that Polysilicon went from $23 a kilogram in 2003 to $400 by 2008.

With overcapacity, China can keep prices low, Sullivan says, but can turn on the spigot if prices go up, giving Chinese exporters preferential access to raw materials. He sees U.S. firms as likely able to compete with China, but says some fear First Solar could lose its price edge.

Hardy names JA Solar (JASO) as a rare China firm that hasn't overlevered itself short term.

"Pretty much across the board, China-based component manufacturers have relied on short-term financing to build out capacity," he said. "It's difficult to say whether that support continues to exist. If it should slow for any reason, that would be favorable to non-China-based companies."

See the original article here

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SANYO to Expand Solar and Energy Solutions Business in Europe

Tokyo, Japan - Jun 13, 2010 (PRN): SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. (SANYO) has announced that it will begin full-scale development and expansion of its solar and energy solutions business in the European market in 2010. SANYO is aiming to achieve a business scale of 800 million Euros in its solar and energy solutions business in Europe by March 2016, providing photovoltaic modules, lithium-ion battery systems, energy management systems that include controllers, as well as a comprehensive maintenance service.

Today there is growing demand for clean energy, given the continued advancement of measures to reduce effects on the environment, including the setting of numerical targets for CO2 emission reductions in countries around the world. So far, SANYO has expanded its HITR solar cell business mainly through residential applications in the European market, thanks to the product's world highest-class energy conversion efficiency and superior temperature co-efficiency characteristics.

Starting this fiscal year, SANYO will now develop its energy solutions business in Europe by offering a substantial reduction in running costs and CO2 emissions for facilities such as factories, schools and stores, through its Smart Energy System (SES) which combine SANYO technologies for energy generation (photovoltaic systems), energy storage (rechargeable batteries), and energy efficiency (commercial equipment, etc.). The system will optimally control clean energy generated by photovoltaic modules and stored into rechargeable batteries to supply equipment such as air conditioning and lighting with the energy. It can be installed in small-scale applications such as homes, medium-scale applications such as convenience stores, and large-scale applications such as factories to realize a more effective use of clean energy.

By engaging in full-scale development and expansion of its solar and energy solutions business in Europe, SANYO will play a key role in reducing the negative effects of global warming on the world's environment.

*1HIT is a registered trademark of SANYO Electric Co.,Ltd.The name "HIT" comes from "Heterojunction with intrinsic Thin-layer"which is an original technology of SANYO Electric Co.,Ltd..

About Sanyo Electric Co Ltd

SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD. manufactures electrical appliances and equipment for household and industrial use. The Company's products include household appliances, audio/video equipment, semiconductor products, and batteries. Sanyo's industrial equipment includes vending machines and commercial use kitchen appliances.

See the original article here

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

LDK Solar Achieves 2GW of Wafer Production Capacity

by Karl-Erik Stromsta

China’s LDK Solar confirms plans to intensify its efforts to remake itself as a vertically integrated solar company, shunning the advice of investors who believe the firm should slow its feverish expansion.

LDK this week reached an annualized wafer production capacity of 2 gigawatts (GW), solidifying its position as the world’s dominant solar-wafer maker. LDK, which counts Q-Cells, Conergy, Trina and JA Solar among its key customers, intends to swell its wafer production to 2.6GW by the end of 2011.

Its 10.8% slice of the wafer market last year was more than double that of its closest competitor, Norway’s REC Wafer.

“Five years ago we had a dream to become the world’s largest and most economical multi-crystalline wafer manufacturer for the solar industry, and we have done it,” says chief executive Xiaofeng Peng. “I am proud of the way our team has successfully executed one of the most impressive capacity ramps in the sector.”

But LDK is no longer content to dominate the wafer market from its base in Jiangxi province, with plans to become a major player along the entire solar value chain, covering polysilicon, cells and modules.

Its expansion plans are stunning in their ambition. By the end of 2011 it will grow its solar-cell output from nothing to 480 megawatts (MW); its polysilicon output from 6,000 tonnes to 18,000 tonnes; and its module output from 600MW to 2GW.

LDK has also cemented a strategy to become a major solar-park developer, with a particular focus on China in the coming years.Vice president Mario Zen says the firm began developing solar arrays in Europe in 2009 “to develop confidence and get our feet wet, in order to be ready for Chinese projects in the future”.

LDK, which has close ties to the Chinese government, intends to aggressively pursue large-scale solar projects as part of China’s still-hazy Golden Sun subsidy scheme. The government has so far approved 642MW of projects under Golden Sun, with LDK holding concessions for 19MW.

See the original article here

Poly-Si Spot Price Begins to Rise on Increased Demand

Nuying Huang, Taipei; Willie Teng, DIGITIMES [Thursday 22 April 2010]

Polycrystalline silicon (poly-Si) spot price has increased to US$55/kg compared with US$50-55/kg seen in the first quarter, and prices for some express orders have risen to US$56-57, according to industry sources.

Since demand is expected to trend upwards in 2010, some poly-Si producers have begun selling materials at smaller volumes and holding onto their supplies in anticipation of price appreciation in the coming months, the sources said, adding that buyers are now forced to diversify their poly-Si suppliers.

Previously signed contract prices have remained relatively stable thus far, but some have modified agreements to adjust prices on a quarterly basis.

See the original article here

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Scaling Single-Junction a-Si Thin-Film PV Technology to the Next Level

The recent photovoltaic industry shakeout which started around Q3 2008 has faced the overcapacity, credit crunch, and economic crisis that significantly declined the average selling price by 50-65%, including the price of thin-film photovoltaic modules. The changing business environment has put significant pressure on all PV manufacturing technologies but more candidly on amorphous silicon thin-film single-junction module manufacturers to advance and scale up the device efficiency and aggressively drive cost reduction. This paper outlines the technical approach taken at Moser Baer Photovoltaic Technologies India Limited (PVTIL), including process optimization and device management strategies, to enhance the efficiency (total area) of the thin-film single-junction amorphous silicon module as manufactured using Applied Materials' SunFab line.

See the original article here

Sharp's 1GW Thin-Film Plant Starts Production

With an initial production capacity of 160MW, Sharp has started volume production at its 1GW a-Si thin-film plant in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. According to the company, the new facility will be a model plant for future Sharp thin-film solar cell plants around the world.

Sharp had previously announced a joint venture 160MW a-Si thin-film plant with Enel and STMicroelectronics, using an existing shuttered semiconductor fab in Catania, Italy, as well as reporting the news of its a-Si thin-film modules' conversion efficiency of 8.5%.

A new tandem-junction a-Si module with ~10% conversion rates will also enter volume production at the new plant in Japan.

See the original article here

Monday, March 29, 2010

SunPower Completes Acquisition of SunRay

Solar-panel maker SunPower Corp. said Monday it completed its acquisition of SunRay Renewable Energy, a solar power plant developer with offices in Europe and the Middle East.

SunPower paid $263 million in cash and $14 million in promissory notes in the deal, which was announced in February.

As a result of the deal, SunPower expanded its project pipeline to include more than 1,200 megawatts of solar photovoltaic projects in different stages of development across Europe.

Shares rose 55 cents, or 3 percent, to $18.77 during morning trading. The stock has traded between $17.82 and $34 during the past year.

See the original post here

Global Solar Demand Expected at 4GW in Q2 201G

Market research firm Solarbuzz believes the solar industry will experience rapid growth in 2010, with global PV demand expected to reach 4GW in the second quarter. According to Solarbuzz, the fourth quarter of 2009 saw the PV market reach 2.9GW, 453% times larger than first quarter of 2009, a new record high. The end market strength was driven principally by Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, while Germany actually accounted for 52% of the global solar demand in the fourth quarter.

"The data demonstrates clearly that managing quarterly corporate performance in 2010 will be even more challenging than it has been over the past two years - a period that proved to be a roller coaster ride for sales revenues and profitability," said Craig Stevens, President of Solarbuzz, a division of The NPD Group. "In the event that production is not moderated in the second half of the year, the outcome will be a return to more price disruption. However, unlike 2009, there will be significant consequences for high cost producers."

For the first half of the year, Solarbuzz believes that module prices will remain stable, due to many leading producers already running at high-utilization rates to meet demand. However, preliminary estimates show average solar cell manufacturer gross margins were 8% in the fourth quarter 2009, down from 15% one year earlier. Crystalline silicon module factory-gate prices had fallen 22% between the first and fourth quarter 2009, according to Solarbuzz.

Module production is projected to rise 7% in first quarter and a further 19% in the second quarter 2010, Solarbuzz said. Thin film production will account for 17% of global shipments in first half of 2010.

One key warning was the potential impact on demand once the proposed German feed-in tariff cuts are introduced. The market research firm noted that there should be discipline on production levels and inventory management to limit the potential for more price declines.

See the original post here

Italy to Unveil New Solar Incentives in April

New information in a Reuters report outlines Italy's plans to unveil a new incentive scheme for the country's solar power market. Full details of the latest development in Italy's solar sector will be announced in April after a regional vote. According to a senior government official, the scheme is expected to be one of the most generous in Europe.

Details of the plan have been delayed since the beginning of this year, raising investor concerns about strategies for Italy and added unpredictability to shares in Italian solar firms such as TerniEnergia and ErgyCap.

Italian industry ministry undersecretary Stefano Saglia has said that his ministry and experts from the Environment and Culture Ministries have now agreed technical details of the new incentive plan. However, the plan is still awaiting approval from the state body which oversees relations between central government and regions and whose meeting had not been called for a couple of months in the run-up to regional elections, due on March 28-29.

"I hope that the conference will be called immediately after soon as April," said Saglia.

Saglia made it clear that Italy's new incentives would remain "the most generous in Europe" yet the planned 5-6% cut in support for the solar energy sector would still go ahead "in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with bigger cuts for large-scale projects." The incentive cut level is expected to be "slightly below the reduction in solar panel costs," yet the minister declined to give more details.

Some region's authorities and farmers lobbies, who face losing solar incentives, have opposed development of large-scale solar projects, he said.

The existing Italian feed-in tariff scheme is due to expire at the end of 2010 after the capacity covered by the incentives hits a 1,200MW cap. Under the draft plan, new installed solar capacity will be capped at 3,000MW over a period of three years with an expectation of reaching 8,000MW of installed solar capacity in 2020.

See the original article here

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

GCL-Poly Announces 2009 Results

GCL-Poly reduces polysilicon costs to US$39.4 per kg in 2009

GCL-Poly has announced 2009 financial results and detailed a major effort to diversify operations and move downstream into wafer and solar project development. Revenue from the sale of polysilicon and wafers amounted to RMB 2,537.1 million (US$371.6 million) and and RMB 262.3 million (US$38.4 million respectively.

GCL-Poly was able to produce 7,454MT of polysilicon in 2009 and sold 5,675MT as well as 46.4MW of wafers via tolling arrangements. Average selling price for polysilicon was US$65.4 per kg and US$0.83/W for wafers.

As the company ramped polysilicon production and benefited from improved economies of scale, production costs declined significantly from US$66.0 per kg in 2008 to US$39.4 per kg in 2009.

Previously announced polysilicon capacity ramps remain on target, having reached 18,000MT production capacity by the end of 2009 and plans to reach 21,000MT by December 2010. GCL-Poly expects to produce roughly 15,000MT of polysilicon in 2010.

However, significant expansion of ingot and wafering capacity beyond previously guided plans is now underway. In November, 2009, GCL-Poly said that wafer production capacity would be expanded to 1GW by mid-2010.

The company now plans to expand wafer capacity to 2GW by end of 2010 with a production volume of 1.3GW. In-house construction of ingot and wafer manufacturing facilities has already started.

Further expansions could come from acquisitions, such as its recently announced acquisition of Konca Solar Cell, as well as partnerships, the company said.

Moving further downstream, GCL-Poly noted that its first 20MW solar power plant in in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province was fully operational and with its partner CIC expects to expand it's project business globally in 2010.

“We are now one of the leading suppliers of solar raw materials globally and we are also one of the top green energy operators in China,” noted Mr. Zhu Gong Shan, Executive Director, Chairman and CEO of GCL-Poly.

See the original article here

Suntech Brings Solar Power to Harrah's Rincon Casino

Suntech's Solar Panels Offset a Quarter of the Casino's Energy Consumption

VALLEY CENTER, Calif., March 24 /PRNewswire-Asia/ -- Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), the world's largest manufacturer of crystalline silicon solar panels, today announced that it has completed a 1 megawatt (MW) solar installation for Harrah's Rincon Casino in Southern California, a top resort-gaming destination. The system will offset nearly a quarter of the Casino's total energy consumption and is part of Harrah's ongoing conservation and sustainability effort.

With over 4,000 Suntech solar panels installed at the Harrah's Rincon site, the system covers over five-and-a-half acres and will provide enough power to run nearly 90% of the 662-room property's HVAC system. The Harrah's Suntech solar installation is expected to provide the Casino with considerable energy cost savings over time.

"Led by the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians in partnership with the California Center for Sustainable Energy, TRANE and San Diego Gas & Electric, the Harrah's Rincon Casino solar plant is a model for California businesses to follow and speaks to the success of the California Solar Initiative program," explained Steven Chan, Chief Strategy Officer of Suntech. "We're thrilled with the environmental and cost benefits from Harrah's solar installation as well as the education opportunity it provides for visitors to its resort."

Bo Mazzetti, Chairman of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, said, "This is an important step forward in energy efficiency. It is just the beginning of what we, as a tribe, look to accomplish as responsible members of our community which is addressing the multiple energy and environmental issues that currently face all governments."

See the original article here

SolarCity Partners with Home Depot

Foster City-based SolarCity Inc. plans to offer installation of BP Plc photovoltaic panels for residential customers at 92 Home Depot stores in Northern California. SolarCity will begin offering design, installation and financing services for customers atHome Depot starting April 2, Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said today in an interview. The company will use BP panels exclusively for the Home Depot orders, he said. SolarCity has installed about 6,000 rooftop systems in the U.S., mostly in California, Oregon and Arizona. The company offers homeowners financing for solar systems that require no down payments.

See the original article here

Visit Solar City here

Monday, March 15, 2010

Caltech Researchers Create Highly Absorbing, Flexible Solar Cells with Silicon Wire Arrays

PASADENA, Calif.—Using arrays of long, thin silicon wires embedded in a polymer substrate, a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has created a new type of flexible solar cell that enhances the absorption of sunlight and efficiently converts its photons into electrons. The solar cell does all this using only a fraction of the expensive semiconductor materials required by conventional solar cells.

"These solar cells have, for the first time, surpassed the conventional light-trapping limit for absorbing materials," says Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor, professor of applied physics and materials science, and director of Caltech's Resnick Institute, which focuses on sustainability research.

The light-trapping limit of a material refers to how much sunlight it is able to absorb. The silicon-wire arrays absorb up to 96 percent of incident sunlight at a single wavelength and 85 percent of total collectible sunlight. "We've surpassed previous optical microstructures developed to trap light," he says.

This is a photomicrograph of a silicon wire array embedded within a transparent, flexible polymer film. [Credit: Caltech/Michael Kelzenberg]

Atwater and his colleagues—including Nathan Lewis, the George L. Argyros Professor and professor of chemistry at Caltech, and graduate student Michael Kelzenberg—assessed the performance of these arrays in a paper appearing in the February 14 advance online edition of the journal Nature Materials.

Atwater notes that the solar cells' enhanced absorption is "useful absorption."

"Many materials can absorb light quite well but not generate electricity—like, for instance, black paint," he explains. "What's most important in a solar cell is whether that absorption leads to the creation of charge carriers."

The silicon wire arrays created by Atwater and his colleagues are able to convert between 90 and 100 percent of the photons they absorb into electrons—in technical terms, the wires have a near-perfect internal quantum efficiency. "High absorption plus good conversion makes for a high-quality solar cell," says Atwater. "It's an important advance."

The key to the success of these solar cells is their silicon wires, each of which, says Atwater, "is independently a high-efficiency, high-quality solar cell." When brought together in an array, however, they're even more effective, because they interact to increase the cell's ability to absorb light.

"Light comes into each wire, and a portion is absorbed and another portion scatters. The collective scattering interactions between the wires make the array very absorbing," he says.

This is a schematic diagram of the light-trapping elements used to optimize absorption within a polymer-embedded silicon wire array. [Credit: Caltech/Michael Kelzenberg]

This effect occurs despite the sparseness of the wires in the array—they cover only between 2 and 10 percent of the cell's surface area.

"When we first considered silicon wire-array solar cells, we assumed that sunlight would be wasted on the space between wires," explains Kelzenberg. "So our initial plan was to grow the wires as close together as possible. But when we started quantifying their absorption, we realized that more light could be absorbed than predicted by the wire-packing fraction alone. By developing light-trapping techniques for relatively sparse wire arrays, not only did we achieve suitable absorption, we also demonstrated effective optical concentration—an exciting prospect for further enhancing the efficiency of silicon-wire-array solar cells."

Each wire measures between 30 and 100 microns in length and only 1 micron in diameter. “The entire thickness of the array is the length of the wire,” notes Atwater. “But in terms of area or volume, just 2 percent of it is silicon, and 98 percent is polymer.”

In other words, while these arrays have the thickness of a conventional crystalline solar cell, their volume is equivalent to that of a two-micron-thick film.

Since the silicon material is an expensive component of a conventional solar cell, a cell that requires just one-fiftieth of the amount of this semiconductor will be much cheaper to produce.

The composite nature of these solar cells, Atwater adds, means that they are also flexible. "Having these be complete flexible sheets of material ends up being important," he says, "because flexible thin films can be manufactured in a roll-to-roll process, an inherently lower-cost process than one that involves brittle wafers, like those used to make conventional solar cells."

Atwater, Lewis, and their colleagues had earlier demonstrated that it was possible to create these innovative solar cells. "They were visually striking," says Atwater. "But it wasn't until now that we could show that they are both highly efficient at carrier collection and highly absorbing."

The next steps, Atwater says, are to increase the operating voltage and the overall size of the solar cell. "The structures we've made are square centimeters in size," he explains. "We're now scaling up to make cells that will be hundreds of square centimeters—the size of a normal cell."

Atwater says that the team is already "on its way" to showing that large-area cells work just as well as these smaller versions.

In addition to Atwater, Lewis, and Kelzenberg, the all-Caltech coauthors on the Nature Materials paper, "Enhanced absorption and carrier collection in Si wire arrays for photovoltaic applications," are postdoctoral scholars Shannon Boettcher and Joshua Spurgeon; undergraduate student Jan Petykiewicz; and graduate students Daniel Turner-Evans, Morgan Putnam, Emily Warren, and Ryan Briggs.

Their research was supported by BP and the Energy Frontier Research Center program of the Department of Energy, and made use of facilities supported by the Center for Science and Engineering of Materials, a National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Caltech. In addition, Boettcher received fellowship support from the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech.

See the original article here

Friday, March 12, 2010

Italian Gov't Approves Plans for Europe's Largest PV Plant

The Italian government issued final approval to MEMC’s SunEdison division to develop and build a 72-megawatt photovoltaic solar power plant near Rovigo, in northeastern Italy.

The plant is expected to be Europe’s largest photovoltaic solar power plant in Europe when it’s completed.

The largest facility currently is a 60-megawatt solar farm in Olmedilla, Spain, followed by a 50-megawatt plant in Strasskirchen, Germany, which was built by MEMC through a joint venture.

The Rovigo plant is schedule to begin generating power in the second half of this year, with final completion by year’s end, the company said.

In its first full year of operation, the system will generate enough energy to power 17,150 homes and avoid 41,000 tons of CO2, or the equivalent of taking 8,000 cars of the road, the company said.

SunEdison is developing the project jointly with its financing partner Spain-based retail and commercial bank Banco Santander, and the company said additional financial partners are expected to join the project in final ownership.

The project is expected to create more than 350 local construction jobs in Italy’s Veneto region. Isolux Cors├ín, Spain’s seventh-largest construction company known for its utility work, was chosen for the project.

Beltsville, Md.-based SunEdison, led by President Carlos Domenech, develops and operates solar power plants for commercial clients, including government agencies and utilities.

MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. bought SunEdison last year in a deal worth more than $200 million.

St. Peters, Mo.-based MEMC (NYSE: WFR), led by CEO Ahmad Chatila, manufactures wafers for the semiconductor and solar industries. With the addition of SunEdison, MEMC is also a developer of solar power projects and North America's largest solar energy services provider.

See the original article here

Munich Re Signs Photovoltaic Module Guarantee Cover for LDK Solar

XINYU CITY, China and SUNNYVALE, Calif., March 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- LDK Solar Co., Ltd. ("LDK Solar") (NYSE: LDK) announced today that Munich Re's Special Enterprise Risk unit's new insurance solution will cover the performance warranty of its photovoltaic modules.

The insurance solution covers the performance warranty of LDK Solar modules for a period of 25 years. The warranty guarantees that the modules will perform to at least 90 percent capacity in the first ten years and to at least 80 percent in the remaining 15 years.

The cover offers LDK Solar a greater degree of business certainty and thus constitutes a powerful differentiator in a competitive marketplace. Ultimately it gives operators of solar parks additional economic security in the event of an unforeseen loss in performance of the modules. This new insurance solution is a major stepping-stone in financing photovoltaic projects as it provides additional financial security.

Thomas Blunck, Member of the Board of Management at Munich Re: "We are happy that we acquired LDK Solar as a new client. It shows that our innovative photovoltaic module guarantee cover is beginning to establish a standard in the industry. Investors and lenders will welcome this development."

"We are pleased to become a client of Munich Re and view this insurance solution as a positive development for the PV industry as it provides additional fiscal security in guaranteeing the long-term performance of solar modules," stated Xiaofeng Peng, Chairman and CEO of LDK Solar.

The insurance cover developed by Munich Re's unit Special Enterprise Risk will be implemented for Munich Re by one of the group's primary insurers.

See the original article here