Archive for August 2012

Italy to be knocked out of top 3 PV markets

22. August 2012 | Top News, Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends| By:  Becky Beetz

New figures have revealed that new global photovoltaic installations surpassed 13 GW in the first six months of 2012. In 2H almost 18 GW is expected to be added. For the FY, Germany, China and the U.S. will be the leading markets, while Italy will fall into fourth place.

Greece solar photovoltaic plant thin film

Greece added 285 MW of new photovoltaic capacity in 1H 2012, thus taking cumulative capacity to 724 MW.

Conergy AG

In its latest quarterly report, IMS Research has found that over 13 GW of new photovoltaic capacity has been added in 1H 2012, thus representing growth of 35% over 2011. Leading this development is said to be Germany and the Americas.

Despite the growth seen in Germany, the U.K.-based company believes demand in Europe will shrink by almost 3 GW in 2012, compared to the previous year, while China and the U.S. will be responsible for adding most new capacity.

Specifically, the U.S. is predicted to become the third biggest market in 2012, accounting for 40% of new installations, and increasing cumulative installed capacity to 3.5 GW. “The longer-term outlook for this market is less certain, although the speed at which it is developing so far in 2012 provides some encouragement,” stated PV research director, Ash Sharma.

This means Italy, which was the biggest photovoltaic market in 2011 in terms of newly installed capacity and which knocked Germany off its top spot for the first time, will fall to fourth place, Sharma told pv magazine. As such, he says the top 3 markets in 2012 will be Germany, China and the U.S.

The Americas market, comprised of South and North America, is said to have already added 1.7 GW of new photovoltaic capacity this year, thus representing annual growth of 120%. It is predicted to end 2012 with 4.3 GW of new installations. Sharma continued, “The Americas market, led by the USA was unseasonably strong in the first half and did not show any significant slowdown resulting from the anti-dumping duties.”

Meanwhile, looking at installation figures currently available for other countries, the German Federal Network Agency recently reported that Germany reached a new 1H installation record, having added 4.4 GW of new capacity. In comparison, Greece added just 285 MW, thus taking cumulative capacity to 724 MW. Unfortunately, the government has now taken the decision to halt approvals for new photovoltaic installations and cut funding. According to Enerplan, France has installed 604.7 MW.

“Despite the lackluster financial performance of the industry’s suppliers, underlying demand was robust in the first six months of this year, with first half installations 35 percent up on 2011,” said Sharma.

IMS Research concluded, “Global demand is predicted to accelerate in the second half of 2012, despite the slowing of key European markets, Germany and Italy … driven by markets such as China and Japan, as well as the Americas. China recently approved 1.7 GW of Golden Sun projects which must be completed by the end of the year, whilst Japan’s new FIT became effective on 1st July and will help spark a surge in demand towards the end of 2012.”

Automated demand response key to intermittent renewables

August 2012 | Markets & Trends, Research & Development, Storage & grid integration| By:  Becky Beetz

Automated demand response, or AutoDR could cost-effectively help combat intermittent renewable energy supply, particularly in light of the current high costs of grid-connected storage batteries.

AutoDR could cost-effectively help combat intermittent renewable energy supply.

Michael Crawley

By 2020, many countries, states and regions expect to generate a certain percentage of their electricity from renewables, like wind and solar. In the European Union, this target is 20%, for example, while in the U.S. state of California, it is 33%.

While these goals are positive, if not exactly over-ambitious, storage solutions are currently costly and technology is still being developed, meaning intermittency issues  are a very present challenge for the energy industry.

However, according to scientists at California’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), AutoDR – the infrastructure of which already exists – is an important element of the smart grid, since it can efficiently and economically reduce the chances of grid failure and help ease intermittency problems.

They say that automatically reducing the power demand of large commerical and industrial buildings to more closely match the demands of the grid is currently “more cost-effective” than grid-scale battery storage. “Deployed costs for fast automated demand response including installation, materials, labor and program management are about 10% of the deployed costs of grid scale battery storage,” write the report’s authors.

Average demand response costs compared to various average grid scale
battery costs:

Grid scale battery technology Demand response costs compared to various grid scale battery costs
DR cost* (US$/kW) Battery cost** ($/kW) DR/battery (% cost)
Lithium-ion – High power 230 2,050 11
Advanced lead acid 230 2,100 11
Lithium ion – high energy 230 2,750 8
Vanadium redox battery 230 2,375 10
Zinc bromine 230 1,625 14
Sodium sulfur (NaS) 230 3,500 7
Zinc-air battery 230 2,625 9

Source: Fast Automated Demand Response to Enable the Integration of Renewable Resources
* Deployed cost, average (Wikler et al., 2009)
* Deployed costs, average(Seto 2010)

Furthermore, the scientists say their research – supported by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program, California utilities, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority – has proven that AutoDR reduces peak power use during periods of high demand.

“In response, the California Public Utilities Commission mandated the use of AutoDR by California’s investor-owned electric utilities as a tool for managing the grid. Currently, there is more than 250 MW of AutoDR in California. Electric power authorities globally are also beginning to add AutoDR to their grid management toolkits,” writes the Berkley Lab in an article summarizing the report.

Specifically, the EETD scientists have developed an internet based communications specification, OpenADR, which is said to be “one of the early Smart Grid standards” and which is already being used to implement AutoDR in practice.

However, while AutoDR presents a possible solution to intermittency, it is still not at the stage where it can completely resolve the issue. According to a study carried out in 2010, it was found that between 3 and 5 GW of load shedding would be would be required to meet California’s 2020 goals.

Based on the EETD scientists’ latest research, AutoDR deployed on a large-scale  in California, and utilizing existing commercial and industrial facilities, could provide between 0.18 and 0.90 GW of load shedding. If the system was upgraded and expanded, they believe this could increase to 0.42 to 2.07 GW.

“Automated demand response has the potential to balance renewable intermittency in a cost-effective way,” says EETD scientist and principal investigator of the research, Sila Kiliccote. “Combined with grid-scale energy storage and other methods, it could be an important element of a suite of tools to help operators manage the grid.”

She adds, however, “We need to better understand what percentage of each of these types of load sheds is available to address intermittency throughout the year. Also needed is a quantitative economic analysis of the scale up of AutoDR as a grid resource integrated with renewable and energy storage.”

China’s polysilicon producers urge EU dumping probe

20. August 2012 | Top News, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends| By:  Becky Beetz

Four Chinese polysilicon producers have urged the Chinese government to initiate an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into European imports of solar grade polysilicon, according to reports.

WACKER POLYSILICON chip inspection

Most EU polysilicon products are said to be imported into China by Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG.

Wacker Chemie AG

China’s Xinhua has reported that Jiangsu Zhongneng Polysilicon Technology Development Co. Ltd, Jiangxi LDK PV Silicon, China Silicon Corporation and Daqo New Energy have sent a request to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) urging it to launch an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into “cheap” polysilicon products from the EU. It is now said to be reviewing the request.

The newspaper added that most EU polysilicon products are imported into China by Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG. Last year, it said, Wacker imported over 10,000 tons of polysilicon into the country. In the first half of 2012, imports from the company have already reportedly reached 9,000 tones, thus comprising 22 percent of polysilicon imports into China.

Overall, this year is said to have seen 9,300 tons of polysilicon imported into China from the EU, thus representing year-on-year growth of 30.8%. However, Xinhua, which was quoting figures from the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, said prices have fallen 47.5%, to reach US$27.5 per ton. “The price is significantly lower than normal. Such imports have seriously harmed the interests of China’s polysilicon sector,” Zhao Jiasheng, head of the association, told Xinhua.

MOFCOM already announced in July that it will launch investigations into solar grade polysilicon from the U.S. and Republic of Korea on the back of the U.S.-Sino trade dispute over solar cells. The latest calls for an investigation into polysilicon from Europe follows the announcement that an anti-dumping complaint, again led by SolarWorld, has been filed with the European Commission.

Responding to the news of the filing, MOFCOM said at the start of August that it is not cheap cells coming from China, which have led to module price declines, but rather it is polysilicon price reductions that have driven module price decreases.

A statement on MOFCOM’s website read, “The down-going of pricing of raw material for PV cells and advancement of technology is the main reason for China’s PV cells’ competitive price. It is not the dumping claimed by some EU companies. Price of polysilicon imports, the major raw material for PV cells keeps going down, from the highest of nearly 300 USD/kg in 2008 to less than 30 USD/kg at present, which brings about a down-going price of PV cells.

“Meanwhile, in recent years, China’s PV industry attaches importance to technology advancement and large-scale production, which further brings down the production costs. It is groundless to claim there is a dumping of PV cells from China.”

It added, “China’s industrial advantage is the production of solar cell modules and solar cell panels, but the raw materials, equipments and production technologies are mainly imported from EU and the US. The development of China’s PV industry not only drove the export of EU raw materials and high-level equipment, but also created many jobs for EU downstream industries such as the installation of PV power generation equipments. The PV industries of the two sides are interdependent and mutually beneficial; any restrictive measures against China’s PV cells will harm the interests of the EU industry.”

India accuses US of “ruining” domestic PV industry

20. August 2012 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends| By:  Becky Beetz

ndia’s Centre for Science and Technology (CSE) has launched a scathing attack on U.S. photovoltaic manufacturers, claiming they are “ruining” India’s domestic photovoltaic manufacturing industry by taking advantage of the US$30 billion Fast Start Finance Fund.

First Solar thin film photovoltaic modules cadmium telluride

First Solar’s thin film modules have been heavily used in indian photovoltaic projects.

First Solar

According to the center’s researchers, which are reviewing the first phase of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), 80% of India’s photovoltaic manufacturing capacity is in a state of “forced closure and debt restructuring”, because Indian project developers are placing their equipment orders with U.S. manufacturers.

Currently, the JNNSM requires all crystalline photovoltaic projects to use domestically manufactured products. However, thin film projects may procure their equipment from other regions; a loophole, says the CSE, being exploited by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

The center claims they have been offering rates of interest as low as 3% and long repayment schedules of up to 18 years to Indian project developers under the fund – designed to enable developing countries tackle climate change – if they purchase thin film panels from U.S. companies. In comparison, it says Indian banks are offering interest rates of around 14%.

“This has skewed the market completely in favour of thin-film panels imported from US despite the fact that thin-film has lower efficiency when compared to crystalline panels,” says the center in a statement released, adding, “Close to 60 per cent of the panels installed in India are thin-film type even though only 14 per cent of global capacity is thin-film.”

CSE goes on to quote the U.S. Department of State’s report on U.S. Fast start climate financing between 2010 and 2011, which reportedly shows that $248.3 million was awarded by Ex-Im Bank and OPIC for grid-connected photovoltaic plants in India. “The major beneficiaries in this case have been American producers such as First Solar and the now bankrupt Abound Solar,” it says.

Furthermore, the center claims the US is “fudging” its data on fast start finance. “When giving loans as aid, only the difference of the rate of interest between the ‘soft’ loan and a commercial loan is counted as aid. However, in this case, the US has counted the entire loan sum as aid under fast start finance. If a fair counting would have been done, the fast start financing amount shown by the US would be reduced to a fraction,” continues the statement. The U.S. says it has contributed $5.1 billion to the fund to date.

Outwith the fund, Ex-Im announced in July that it had authorized two loans worth US$57.3 million to support the development of 3 photovoltaic power plants in India, which will use First Solar thin film modules.

In a statement announcing the loans, Ex-Im Bank chairman and president, Fred Hochberg said the bank will be supporting India’s green-energy push. “These important transactions will finance the purchase of American products and services and support jobs in our innovative renewable-energy sector.”

Overall, the bank says it has provided $500 million for the financing of solar projects in India. Its goal is to “promote both the bank’s financial products, but also facilitate the purchase of U.S. goods and services.”

Developing countries

In 2009, the Copenhagen Accord agreed to establish Fast Start Finance, a US$30 billion fund contributed to by developed countries for developing countries to support the implementation of climate change measures between 2010 and 2012.

“Fast start financing was supposed to benefit the developing country recipient. Instead, the US has managed to turn it into a game where funds registered as climate funding is given out as loans to projects that promise to buy equipment made in the US thereby benefiting themselves while knocking out the Indian manufacturing competition that doesn’t have the same government backing,” states Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general.

Referring to the ongoing U.S.-Sino trade dispute over solar cells, Kushal Yadav, head of CSE’s Renewable Energy team adds, “Interestingly, the US government has put anti-dumping duties on solar equipment imported from China because of the alleged subsidies that China is giving to its solar manufacturers. However, the US is engaging in a similar practice in India by subsidising loans for buying American equipment!”

In the U.S. Department of State’s report, the funding transactions between 2010 and 2011 for India’s solar market include:

  • $719,985 awarded to Astonfield Renewables Private Limited from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for a feasibility study for 2 photovoltaic plants in India. “The projects will serve as some of the first solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in India deploying U.S. thin film technology.”
  • $14.8 million from OPIC for the development, construction and operation of a 5 MW photovoltaic power generation facility in Gujarat. “The facility investor is a leading solar energy provider from the United States that will use advanced U.S. power generation technology in this plant in India.”
  • A loan totaling $84.3 million from Ex-Im Bank to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Dahanu Solar project located in the village of Dhursar, in India’s Rajasthan State. “The financing will support the export of thin film, photovoltaic solar modules produced by First Solar.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized a loan of $18.9 million to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Tatith Solar project located in Gujarat. “The project will utilize polycrystalline solar cells produced by Solarworld Industries America, LP.”
  • A financial guarantee from Ex-Im worth $18 million to finance photovoltaic modules for the Acme solar power plant to be located in Gujarat. “The Acme plant will utilize thin film technology photovoltaic modules supplied by First Solar of Tempe Arizona.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized loan of $15.8 million to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Azure Solar Plant project located in Rajasthan. “The photovoltaic farm will … consist of thin film technology photovoltaic panels supplied by First Solar of Tempe, Arizona.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized guarantee of $9.2 million to finance thin film, photovoltaic modules and related equipment to Punj Lloyd Solar Power Ltd. of India for a photovoltaic project located in Rajasthan. “The solar modules for the project will be produced by Abound Solar, Inc. at its Colorado facility.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized loan to Universal Solar System of India for $3.7 million to finance a photovoltaic power plant to be located in Gujarat. “The financing will support the sale of electrical inverters supplied by SMA America, LLC, of California as well as solar modules produced by Abound Solar Inc. at its Colorado facility.”
  • $30 million from OPIC for financing the development, implementation and operation of a 120 MW monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic module manufacturing facility located in Hyderabad.

NY signs legislation to boost solar development

20. August 2012 | Global PV markets, Markets & Trends| By:  Becky Beetz

New York Governor, Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a series of bills, which aim to boost the uptake of solar in the U.S. state. Overall, 3 measures have been introduced: tax credits; sales tax exemptions; and real property tax abatement extensions.

New York skyline

Property tax abatements available to solar energy generating systems in New York City have been extended.


Under the NY-Sun initiative, 3 bills have been signed into law which, says the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), will make solar both more affordable and create new jobs.

“NY-Sun calls for the installation in 2012 of twice the customer-sited solar electricity capacity that was added during 2011, and quadruple that amount in 2013,” said NYSERDA in a statement released. While pv magazine has contacted the authority, it has declined to provide any concrete figures to date.

Under the first law, which takes effect immediately, statewide tax credits will be made available for homeowners obtaining solar equipment via a lease program or power purchase agreement of at least 10 years. Overall, a maximum of US$5,000 will be made available over a period of up to 14 years.

As of January 1, 2013, sales tax exemptions for the sale and installation of commercial solar systems equipment will be introduced. Municipalities and cities will also be able to exclude these costs from local sales tax.

Also taking effect from January 1, 2013, is the extension to property tax abatements available to solar energy generating systems in New York City through 2013 and 2014. “This extension will help mitigate the cost of installing solar installations in the City,” continued the statement.

The Secret to Solar Power

Read the full story from New York Times Magazine

Most mornings, Danny Kennedy hops on a bike with orange saddlebags and rides half an hour from his home to Oakland’s Jack London Square. He makes for quite a picture cruising down Telegraph Avenue, decked out as he often is in an orange helmet, orange jacket and orange leather Adidas shoes. When he arrives at his office, he often makes his rounds on an orange indoor bike. (He’s not joking around with the orange thing.) Though Kennedy was once a young environmental activist documenting the horrors of the oil and mining industries, he’s now a 41-year-old company man. The orange that he wears daily — which extends even to the checks on his shirts, and which drives his wife crazy — is the brand color for his rapidly growing residential solar company, Sungevity, whose revenues grew by a factor of eight in 2010 and doubled again in 2011, and whose employees have grown to 260 from 3 since the company’s inception five years ago.

Given that growth, it’s somewhat surprising to learn that Kennedy and Sungevity aren’t taken very seriously by their larger competitors. Kennedy’s activist past and his willingness to wear his commitment to the solar industry quite literally on his sleeve are viewed by some as a liability in an industry desperate to demonstrate its seriousness. Thanks to increased Chinese production of photovoltaic panels, innovative financing techniques, investment from large institutional investors and a patchwork of semi-effective public-policy efforts, residential solar power has never been more affordable. But even with pricing that requires no initial capital outlay from consumers and guarantees lifetime savings — and even occasional opportunities to make money, by selling power back to the grid — Americans still aren’t buying into solar in significant numbers.

Tarrif is a better fit than fracking

In June The Buffalo News reported that TSP Canada Towers, a Chinese Company, invested $25 million to re-open a factory in Thorold, Ont. TSP plans to hire 250 Canadians to manufacture parts for a bird- and bat-friendly vertical wind turbine. The News failed to mention that this plant opening is one small product of Canada’s 2009 Green Energy Act. That act features the FIT or Feed-in-Tariff concept. It also requires that 60 percent of the labor that goes into building that clean energy infrastructure be supplied by citizens of Ontario.

FIT, under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, has brought 20,000 jobs and $20 billion in investment into Ontario in the last three years and has allowed the closing of most of their coal-powered electrical generating plants. FIT has been successful like this all over the world and particularly so in Germany, which is closing down its nuclear industry.

So what is FIT? Everyone knows about fracking, but only a few know about FIT, and now we must choose between them, to “frack” or to “FIT.”

A FIT, or feed-in-tariff, is a contract to buy clean energy at a guaranteed rate for 20 years. With this guarantee banks are willing to loan money to build windmills and put up solar panels. FIT can bring us thousands of jobs and a supply of clean energy, as it has in Ontario and many other parts of the world.”

Two years ago no one knew what frack meant. Now everyone knows it is a destructive and polluting way of releasing the global warming gas methane, from Marcellus Shale. Now we must add “FIT” to our vocabulary.

The Canadians, the Germans, the Czechs – everyone but we Americans – knows the meaning of FIT. It is the answer to fracking. FIT can bring us electrical energy without cutting up our countryside, fouling our water or heating up the earth’s atmosphere. The kicker is that installing this clean energy infrastructure puts people to work.

Clean energy will cost a little more at its startup. It cost the Canadians about the price of a Tim Horton’s jelly doughnut a month, and more recently half a doughnut. Where will this doughnut money come from? Well, didn’t Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo promise Western New York $1 billion for his regional economic development plan?

Some of the billion ought to come from the cash surplus that the New York Power Authority produces with our Niagara Falls hydropower. It is supposed to benefit us.

Call the governor and your legislator tell them to include in Western New York’s portion of the regional economic development plan the Feed-in-Tariff demonstration project proposed by the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers.

For jobs and clean energy: Frack not, FIT absolutely.

Larry Beahan is conservation chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.

Obama Administration Announces Seven Major Renewable Energy Projects to be Expedited

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, as a part of his We Can’t Wait initiative, President Obama announced that seven nationally and regionally significant solar and wind energy projects will be expedited, including projects in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming. Together, these job-creating infrastructure projects would produce nearly 5,000 megawatts (MW) of clean energy – enough to power approximately 1.5 million homes, and support the President’s all-of-the-above strategy to expand American made energy. As a part of a Presidential Executive Order issued in March of this year, the Office of Management and Budget is charged with overseeing a government-wide effort to make the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects more efficient and effective, saving time while driving better outcomes for the environment and local communities. Additional expedited infrastructure projects will be announced in the coming weeks.

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to expand domestic energy production and strengthen the economy, we are working to advance smart development of renewable energy on our public lands,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “These seven proposed solar and wind projects have great potential to grow our nation’s energy independence, drive job creation, and power economies across the west.”

Read the full story from The White House Briefing Room