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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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."

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