Tuesday, January 31, 2012

California Utility Adds Over 200 Megawatts of Wind and Solar

The large California utility company, Pacific, Gas & Electric (better known as PG&E) added over 220 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power last year. One of the largest combined natural gas and electricity utilities in the US, PG&E also signed contracts for 463 MW of new renewable energy, including 263 MW of wind. About 19 percent of PG&E’s electricity sales last year came from renewable sources, and PG&E predicts it will reach 20 percent this year. California requires utilities to generate 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Expect PG&E to continue to add much more solar photovoltaic (PV) projects. Seven PV projects, totaling over 1,900 MW, are under construction and expected to come online by 2015, according to PG&E’s blog, PG&E Currents.

“Our long-term commitment to renewable energy continued to pay off last year as more projects came online, providing our customers with some of the cleanest generation found in the United States,” said Fong Wan, senior vice president for energy procurement at PG&E. “We continue to encourage project developers to help us meet California’s aggressive clean-energy goals as cost-effectively as possible for our customers.”

The perfect place to development solar in California
In October, three PV projects in Fresno County came online, with a combined 50 MW output. The three projects built Fresno County’s west side are the 15 MW Westside Solar Station, the 15 MW Five Points Solar Station and the 20 MW Stroud Solar Station. The three projects consist of 200,000 PV panels on 328 acres, enough to meet the power needs of about 15,000 homes. PG&E is building three more PV plants in Fresno County, with a 50 MW output. The plants are expected to come online by October 2012.

All three of the projects in Fresno County’s west side are part of the Westlands Water District, which supplies agricultural water to the west side of Fresno County and Kings County. The area which the District serves has serious water problems. The Bureau of Reclamation reduced the amount of water delivered to the District because of drought conditions and environmental regulations. According to the District’s website, the “District can expect to receive about 50 percent of its contractual water supply in an average water year.”

In addition to reduced water deliveries, about one-third of the district does not drain properly which results in salt accumulated in the soil. As a result, thousands of acres have been retired from agricultural production. Add in the fact that the area has plenty of sunshine, it’s a perfect place to build solar PV plants. As Mike Jones, PG&E’s Power Generation Lead, said last year, “The Central Valley holds tremendous potential as a source of clean energy for California…Our solar projects in the region are a win for the local economy and for the state’s environment.”

SOURCE: http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/01/california-utility-adds-200-megawatts-wind-solar/

First Solar Reaches Record 14.4% Efficiency, Company Says

First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the world’s largest maker of thin-film solar products, beat its own record for making the most efficient panels.

The company used factory equipment to produce cadmium telluride panels that convert 14.4 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity, it said in a statement yesterday. The results surpassed the previous record of 13.4 percent, also with a First Solar panel, and were confirmed by the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Lab.

First Solar’s efficiency rates for panels in commercial production reached 12.4 percent at some manufacturing lines in the third quarter. At that conversion rate, Chairman Michael Ahearn, who stepped in as the Tempe, Arizona-based company’s interim chief executive officer in October, has said he can produce panels for less than 70 cents a watt.

The company announced in July a record 17.3 percent conversion rate for a solar cell in a lab. Modules, which are typically assembled from dozens of cells, are less efficient in part because some sunlight reflects off glass panel casings.

Panels in full production typically have lower conversion rates than those developed in controlled settings.

First Solar rose 0.2 percent to $40 at the close in New York.

SOURCE: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-17/first-solar-panel-reaches-record-14-4-efficiency-company-says.html

SPI Solar Lands its 2nd Project in Greece

Continuing its overseas expansion, SPI Solar said it will develop its second solar power project in Greece.

The Roseville-based solar developer and engineering firm said it has acquired the contracts for a 2-megawatt ground-mount solar system in the Evros region in the northeastern part of Greece.

The project is SPI's second in that region, following the company's announcement in August that it was building a 4.4-megawatt solar energy facility in Evros.

SOURCE: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/18/4195462/spi-solar-lands-its-2nd-project.html

Monday, January 30, 2012

Large-Scale Solar Plants Fast-Tracked

Two large-scale solar plants planned for public land east of the Coachella Valley are on the list of high-priority projects federal and state officials have targeted for approval this year.

NextEra Energy's 750-megawatt McCoy project near Blythe and enXco's 150-megawatt Desert Harvest project near Desert Center were among those on a new list of nine solar “priority projects” that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and California Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday.

The list is a central piece of a new agreement to fast-track renewable energy projects, including transmission lines, in California that Salazar and Brown signed at a solar project near Sacramento.

The two photovoltaic projects together could create more than 500 jobs during construction, and about 25 permanent jobs, while pouring millions of dollars into the regional economy.

“California has made tremendous progress in permitting renewable projects,” Brown said in a news release. “Putting these construction projects on a fast track will put people back to work and keep California a leader in renewable energy.”

Large-scale projects such as McCoy and Desert Harvest are seen as critical for the state to meet its legal mandate, signed into law last year, to produce 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

Erin Curtis of the Bureau of Land Management said the two projects made the priority list because no major environmental road blocks have been found in the review process for either one so far.

“The companies have shown they're ready to move if we give them some focused attention,” she said.

Steve Stengel, a spokesman for Florida-based NextEra, said Southern California Edison will buy the power from the first phase of the project, a total of 250 megawatts. The power purchase agreement still needs final approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. Stengel expects that to happen later this year.

Representatives for San Diego-based enXco were not available for comment Tuesday. The company is the U.S. affiliate of EDF Energies Nouvelles, a French renewable energy development firm.

The two projects also will be the first required to pay Riverside County's new $450-per-acre solar fee the Board of Supervisors passed in November.

The fee does not cover the total area of a project, only the acres where solar panels and other generating equipment are located, said Greg Neal, deputy director with the county's Planning Department.

So, while NextEra's project has a total area of 7,700 acres, the plant itself may cover only about 5,363 acres.

Both NextEra and enXco are negotiating with the county, Neal said, but it is too early to estimate how much the companies will pay or what kind of discounts they might get for local hires or other credits the county built into the fee structure.

If both projects are given the go-ahead this year, a total of five solar plants will have been approved in the Riverside East solar zone between Joshua Tree National Park and Blythe.

Only two — General Electric and NextEra's 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight and NextEra's 250-megawatt Genesis — are under construction.

The third, Solar Trust of America's Blythe project, is on indefinite hold since its parent company, Solar Millennium, filed for bankruptcy last month.

But even if both projects are approved, they could still face challenges in nailing down financing. In the aftermath of the August bankruptcy filing of Solyndra, the Northern California panel manufacturer that defaulted on a $535 million federal loan guarantee, federal support for such projects has slowed to a trickle.

Projects are still eligible for a 30 percent federal income tax credit, but the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program has ended, as has the Treasury Department's 1603 program, which allowed developers to take the 30 percent tax credit as a cash grant.

“We anticipate there's going to be more demand for project finance than supply, so only the best projects will get financed,” said Brett Prior, a senior analyst for Greentech Media, a renewable energy research and analysis firm.

And the cost of financing will also rise, he said.

“The return tax equity players can demand is higher. It's the basics of economics — when demand outstrips supply, the price moves.”

SOURCE: http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120118/BUSINESS/201180307/Large-scale-solar-plants-fast-tracked?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage

Solar Frontier to Supply World's Largest CIGS Solar plant

Japan's Solar Frontier has reached a deal to supply up to 150 megawatts of its solar panels to a California power plant that will one day be the world's largest solar installation made from an up-and-coming technology know as CIGS.

The company, a unit of Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, called it "a landmark moment" for CIGS technology, or solar panels that use copper indium gallium selenide as their raw material. Once completed, the project with a unit of France's EDF Energies Nouvelles will supply enough electricity to power 35,000 homes.

CIGS panels have been slow to penetrate a market dominated by silicon-based equipment, although they have long been seen as a potential challenger to traditional panels because they cost less to manufacture and have the potential to generate nearly as much electricity from the sun's light.

Solar Frontier is the world's largest CIGS manufacturer.

"We see this project as a launch pad for ever greater (CIGS) achievement in the United States and across the world," Gregory Ashley, chief operating officer of Solar Frontier Americas, said in a statement.

The project with EDF's renewable energy development arm, enXco, is located in Kern County, California. The first phase of the power plant, about 60 MW, will go online by the end of 2012. The remainder of the project will be completed by June of 2013, the companies said.

SOURCE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/17/us-solar-frontier-idUSTRE80G1VK20120117

Solar Gets A Tax Boost

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plan unveiled Tuesday includes two new tax credits designed to help grow the solar industry in the state.

The credits are part of Cuomo's NY-SUN Solar Program he announced during his State of the State address earlier in the month.

The first tax credit would exempt commercial customers from state sales tax on solar electric systems, while giving local governments the option to do the same with their local sales tax. Currently, only residential solar customers are exempt from sales tax, according to Cuomo's budget proposal.

Cuomo would also expand a state income tax credit for solar systems to include leased systems. The current law allows homeowners who buy a solar system to take a personal income tax credit equal to 25 percent of the cost of the system. Cuomo is proposing a tax credit equal to 12.5 percent of the annual leasing costs of a solar system.

Cuomo's NY-SUN program is expected to have other elements to help expand the state' solar industry, especially demand for large-scale solar projects. The governor wants to quadruple annual solar installations in the state by 2013.

Solar advocates hailed Cuomo's tax proposals Tuesday, saying they will further encourage solar development in New York, which already has a solar rebate program through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Carol Murphy, executive director for the Alliance for Clean Energy New York in Albany, says additional details of Cuomo's overall solar plan should be revealed in the near future, but the tax breaks are a welcome component.

"Anything that makes it more affordable for people is all for the good," Murphy said.

A coalition of labor, renewable energy and environmental groups called the New York Solar Jobs Coalition also praised Cuomo's tax credit plan.

"We appreciate Gov. Cuomo's recognition that investing in solar power is an investment in New York's energy and economic future, and this is a step in the right direction" said Carrie Cullen Hitt, vice president of the Solar Energy Industry Association, a national solar industry trade association that is part of the New York coalition.

The tax credits are expected to cost the state $2 million in the next fiscal year and $5 million a year after that until 2016, when the impact would drop back down to $3 million annually.

SOURCE: http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Solar-gets-a-tax-boost-2589503.php

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Debate Heats Up on German Solar Subsidies

Germany has put in place generous government supports to promote renewable energy sources in recent years, with the solar energy sector as one of the main beneficiaries.
File photo of workers installing solar panels on the roof of a
kindergarten in the town of Falkensee, near Berlin.

Europe's largest economy is now a global leader in solar energy, with the number of photovoltaic systems in use countrywide increasing significantly despite its lack of sunshine compared to countries in the south.

But solar energy is expensive, and German customers have had to pay billions of euros in subsidies to ensure the clean-power industry remains competitive.

The cost of the subsidies has sparked a heated political debate within Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government.

The junior coalition partners, the Liberals (FDP), and members of the economic wing of Merkel's conservative CDU party have called for a change in the way the subsidies in the industry have operated to date, accusing Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen of failing in his brief.

Roettgen is committed to a step-by-step reduction in solar subsidies, but this is not enough for Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, who feels the subsidy system needs to be overhauled to prevent costs from spiralling.

The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) has encouraged the production of wind or solar energy with subsidies paid to producers.

Although the regulated price sinks year on year, rooftop solar power still commands a price of some 0.24 euros (0.31 dollars) per kilowatt hour.

That is way above the price at which the solar energy is sold on the market, which amounts to around 0.5 euros. The energy supply companies pass on these differential costs to the consumer by means of a surcharge on the electricity price.

The price of solar collectors has dropped in recent years thanks to the advent of cheap Chinese imports, making the solar energy business in Germany lucrative despite the sometimes unpredictable weather.

According to Germany's Federal Network Agency, solar energy capacity increased by 7,500 megawatts in 2011 owing to the installation of new units. This equates to the capacity of five nuclear power plants -provided the sun actually shines.

It is estimated that, including all the solar collectors installed in previous years, Germany now possesses a theoretical solar energy capacity of 20 gigawatts.

However, the reality is that solar parks and roof units cover just 3 per cent of its overall electricity needs, even though their owners pocketed more than 8 billion euros in subsidies in 2011.

This figure amounts to well over half of all subsidies handed out in Germany to promote renewable energy, which includes wind power, hydraulic power and biomass technology.

The legally fixed feed-in electricity tariff maintaining the subsidies is guaranteed for 20 years under the EEG. This has led critics to warn of consumers having to pay soaring surcharges over the coming years.

German consumers will have to pay 0.36 cents per kilowatt hour in clean-energy subsidies this year, a figure that is expected to increase.

The North Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research (RWI) has estimated that subsidies for photovoltaic systems to be paid between 2000 and 2031 will total around 100 billion euros.

Economy Minister Roesler, who is also vice-chancellor, believes there should only be subsidies for 1,000 megawatts of solar electricity per year.

Meanwhile - although many German firms initially profited from the subventions - competition from cheaper Chinese imports has changed the situation. Two major German companies - Solon and Solar Millennium -recently filed for bankruptcy.

SOURCE: http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2012/01/19/debate-heats-up-on-german-solar-subsidies

BLT Enterprises Selects SPI Solar and Pacific Edison for 400 kW Solar Project at Volkswagen Emissions Laboratory and Technical Center

SPI Solar ("SPI") SOPW -3.57% , a leading vertically integrated photovoltaic ("PV") solar developer, today announced that it has been contracted by BLT Enterprises ("BLT") to design and build a 400 kW DC distributed generation PV solar energy facility ("SEF") to help power operations at Volkswagen's U.S. Test Center California (TCC) which encompasses a Technical Center and an Emissions Laboratory located in Oxnard, CA. The project was jointly developed by Pacific Edison, LLC and SPI. The center, currently under construction by an affiliate of BLT Enterprises, is a 63,500 square-foot facility which will be one of the automobile industry's most advanced emissions testing and power train development facilities. The center will be used by various brands within the Volkswagen Group which includes Volkswagen, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti.

The SEF being designed by SPI will utilize a mix of rooftop and carport structures to host the onsite solar array. It is the second large-scale system that SPI and Pacific Edison have developed for BLT. In January 2011, SPI announced completion of a 398 kW system at BLT's Fremont, CA high-tech recycling and waste recovery facility. "We are fortunate to enjoy a long-term working relationship with BLT Enterprises," said Steve Kircher, CEO for SPI Solar. "BLT is an innovative commercial development company and this will be the second large-scale distributed generation SEF we have designed and built for them. We look forward to having our systems integrated into more of their buildings in the future."

"We are excited to team up with BLT Enterprises on another solar energy project," said Dion Camp Sanders, CEO of Pacific Edison. "This project will help Volkswagen to achieve its sustainability objectives and control energy costs at its new state-of-the-art technical center and emissions laboratory."

"As traditionally sourced energy costs rise, it is becoming increasingly more important to offset them with thoughtful and sustainable energy platforms that can be deployed onsite and reduce long-term operation costs," said Rob Solomon, Chief Development and Legal Officer for BLT Enterprises. "It is also fundamental to Volkswagen's mission to operate the center in a manner that is consistent with its environmental mission. This solar energy facility helps to fulfill a major part of that mission."

SPI expects to begin construction of the SEF in the first quarter of 2012.

About Pacific Edison, LLC: Pacific Edison, LLC (PacEd) is the premier renewable energy project development and consulting firm serving sports and entertainment venues throughout North America. PacEd also delivers clean energy solutions to schools, hospitals, non-profits, and commercial and industrial energy users. PacEd enables clients to adopt onsite renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions with no upfront capital or operating risk. PacEd's range of project development and consulting services include conducting feasibility studies, arranging project financing, determining the most suitable renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions for each client's particular facilities, and negotiating contracts on behalf of clients with key counterparties, such as financiers, installers, and technology vendors. For more information, please visit us online at www.pacificedison.com .

About SPI Solar SOPW -3.57% : SPI Solar ("SPI") (Solar Power, Inc.) is a vertically integrated photovoltaic solar developer offering its own brand of high-quality, low-cost distributed generation and utility-scale solar energy facility development services. Through the Company's close relationship with LDK Solar, SPI extends the reach of its vertical integration from silicon to system. From project development, to project financing and to post-construction asset management, SPI delivers turnkey world-class photovoltaic solar energy facilities to its business, government and utility customers. For additional information visit: www.spisolar.com .

Safe Harbor Statement: This release contains certain "forward-looking statements" relating to the business of Solar Power, Inc., its subsidiaries and the solar industry, which can be identified by the use of forward looking terminology such as "believes, expects" or similar expressions. The forward looking statements contained in this press release include statements regarding the Company's ability to execute its growth plan and meet revenue and sales estimates, enter into formal long-term supply agreements, and market acceptance of products and services. These statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, including, but are not limited to, general business conditions, managing growth, and political and other business risk. All forward-looking statements are expressly qualified in their entirety by this Cautionary Statement and the risks and other factors detailed in the Company's reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable securities law.

SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/blt-enterprises-selects-spi-solar-and-pacific-edison-for-400-kw-solar-project-at-volkswagen-emissions-laboratory-and-technical-center-2012-01-19?reflink=MW_news_stmp

Georgia Solar Farm Oroject with TN Ties Gets Final Approval

A $90 million solar-power project in rural Georgia being developed by Nashville music executive Steve Ivey and a company founded by former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen received final approval Tuesday from the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The Simon Solar Farm will feature an array of solar panels that will produce 30 megawatts of electricity, which will be sold to Georgia Power Co. under a contract that was signed in December pending approval by the Public Service Commission.

The project will be built on the 200-acre farm that Ivey’s grandparents, Robert Simons and Lily Belle Studdard Simons, bought in 1935 near Social Circle, Ga., about 40 miles east of Atlanta. They had grown cotton on the land, said Ivey, who owns IMI, a Music Row publishing house and studio.

“The commission voted 5-0 to approve it,” Ivey said Wednesday. “It was a good day for Simon Solar. Our next step is to figure out the construction start date. We’re slated to have the facility on line by June 1, 2015, but if we can do it earlier, we will.”

Ivey and his partners are working on arranging financing for the project, he said.

“There are several options out there, and we are working hard to make this a successful event for the state of Georgia,” Ivey said.

Ivey started Simon Solar Farm LLC in 2010 to develop the project, which he initially financed by himself. He brought in Bredesen’s firm, the Nashville-based Silicon Ranch Corp., in December when Simon Solar signed the 20-year agreement to sell the electricity to Georgia Power.

Silicon Ranch, founded in late 2010 by Bredesen and two members of his former administration, Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr, will join with Ivey to build the project on about 175 acres of the farm, but the land will remain under Ivey’s ownership.

Technical assistance will be provided by Germany-based Phoenix Solar Inc., said Kisber, who is president and chief executive of Silicon Ranch.

Kisber was Tennessee’s commissioner of economic and community development under Bredesen, who is chairman of Silicon Ranch. Farr, who was the state revenue commissioner, is vice chairman and chief operating officer.

A mandate from the Georgia Public Service Commission that Georgia Power develop a large-scale solar program led to the Simon Solar project and a separate one, by an unrelated company, that will produce 20 megawatts of electricity on another site in Georgia.

SOURCE: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120119/BUSINESS01/301190050/Georgia-solar-farm-project-TN-ties-gets-final-approval

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cheap Chinese Panels Spark Solar Power Trade War

There's a solar trade war going on inside the U.S., sparked by an invasion of inexpensive imports from China.
Contractors with SunEdison install more than 1,000 Chinese-made solar
panels on top of a Kohl's Department Store in Hamilton Township,
N.J., in 2010. Energy generated by the solar system
will cut the store's usage, on average, by 25 to 30 percent.

The U.S. solar industry is divided over these imports: Panel-makers say their business is suffering and want a tariff slapped on the imports. But other parts of the industry say these cheap panels are driving a solar boom in the U.S.

On the manufacturers' side, there's Gordon Brinser. He's an Oregon native who says the company he runs there, SolarWorld, is not only green, it's red, white and blue. "The mission that we have is to build products here in America, for America's community, for America's energy independence, and really leave the world a better place," he says.

Brinser claims China is threatening that vision by flooding the U.S. with cheap solar panels. He claims China subsidizes its solar panel industry to the tune of $30 billion a year, yet uses only a small percentage of the panels it makes. "So obviously," he says, "these subsidies have gone into the industry, and their full intention is to export and control markets in other countries."

Brinser claims the imports contributed to the collapse of some U.S. manufacturers. Three did go out of business in 2010, though the exact cause may or may not be cheap imports. But Brinser has petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to slap tariffs on imported Chinese panels.

So far the feds say, yes, American panel-makers have been harmed by Chinese imports. Yet to be determined is whether China is doing anything illegal: for instance, subsidizing panel-makers so they can sell below cost, a practice called "dumping."

Brinser acknowledges that if he wins and tariffs are added, Americans will have to pay more for panels. "The prices will have to increase, you know, a little. They will find their new, natural balance in a competitive and legal environment," he says.

Higher Prices Could Hurt Installers

But CASE, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, says higher prices are bad for companies that install solar power. These companies far outnumber panel manufacturers.

Kevin Lapidus works for CASE and is vice president of SunEdison, which builds and operates solar power systems.

"Fully 52 percent of the U.S. jobs are in the installation business," he says. "These are U.S. workers who wake up in the morning, put on a tool belt, and they go and build something." He says manufacturers of solar panels in the U.S. are only about a quarter of the domestic business.

Lapidus says solar power is just now shaking off its reputation as too pricey for regular people. "We're finally reducing the price of solar," he says. "We're driving down the cost to grow the solar base — installations, jobs, etc. And the SolarWorld trade case will increase the cost of electricity; it will set the industry back by years."

He says it could also start an international trade war with China. American solar industries export well over a billion dollars of products to China per year.

Most Customers Just Want The Best Price

At Solar Energy Services in Millersville, Md., a single stack of solar panels sits on the floor of a warehouse. Engineer Rick Peters says he got them cheap because the manufacturer folded — they couldn't compete. He's run out of Chinese panels for the moment. "Probably about 70 percent of what we install is Chinese panels," he says.

Peters points out that some homeowners like to buy American, but most, about 90 percent of his customers, just want the best price. And Chinese panels are about 10 percent cheaper.

A tariff could double their price, and Peters says that could push everyone's prices up.

"I'm very concerned about that," he says. "I think that it could significantly increase the price, because of the limited number of manufacturers in the U.S. Potentially, they could take advantage of the marketplace."

By raising their prices as well? "Absolutely," says Peters.

He fears that could have ripple effects for other U.S. manufacturers. He illustrates by cutting open a big cardboard box on the floor of the warehouse. Inside is an inverter, a device that every solar installation needs to convert direct current to the alternating current in your home. It costs about $4,500.

"This one is made by PV Powered," he says, "which is a U.S. manufacturer. A lot of the inverters are manufactured in the U.S." Fewer installations would mean fewer inverters sold.

Over the next several months, the federal government will decide whether China is playing fair or not.

SOURCE: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/19/145403625/cheap-chinese-panels-spark-solar-power-trade-war

Solar Panel Price Drop Slowing Amid Subsidy Cuts, Asbeck Says

The pace at which prices for solar panels are falling will slow this year amid steeper subsidy cuts in Germany, the world’s biggest market for the industry, Solarworld AG Chief Executive Officer Frank Asbeck said today.

Asbeck predicts module prices will drop 13 percent on average in 2012, less than half the level of Germany’s expected solar subsidy cuts.

“Last year module prices fell steeper than subsidies in Germany, this year it will be the other way around,” Asbeck said today in a phone interview.

Officials from the German solar industry, which has struggled with foreign competition including from China, will meet German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen in Berlin today. Talks will focus on possible adjustments to subsidies after the country installed 7.5 gigawatts of panels last year, more than double the government’s target, Roettgen said yesterday.

SOURCE: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-19/solar-panel-price-drop-slowing-amid-subsidy-cuts-asbeck-says.html
Solar projects in the Middle East are competitive with natural-gas-fired generators in some markets because of falling technology prices and more expensive fossil fuels, an industry group said.

With oil prices trading at more than $80 a barrel and the cost of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, above $13 per million British thermal units, solar power is competitive without any government subsidies, the Emirates Solar Industry Association said in a report co-authored with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

“The key question in determining whether solar power is commercially viable is ‘Can it replace some gas generation,’” Robin Mills, who wrote the study for ESIA, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The group released the report at the World Future Energy Summit being held in Abu Dhabi this week.

Crude gained 8.2 percent last year, a third annual rise, pressuring global economic recovery. Crude for February delivery gained as much as $1.06 to $101.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $101.56 at 9:07 a.m. London time. The contract, which expires tomorrow, is up 2.4 percent this year.

Power produced by renewable technologies such as solar and geothermal costs more than coal and gas generation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Utilities and power producers receive government subsidies to promote investment in renewable power.

Energy Versus Solar

The rise in energy costs makes solar power viable even without subsidies in countries that are themselves dependent on costly fuel imports, Mills said. To run generators, Dubai and Kuwait both import LNG, gas that’s cooled to liquid form and loaded on ships for transport over distances not covered by pipeline, making them candidates for solar power.

Qatar, the largest LNG exporter, is currently charging about $16 per thermal unit for its gas, according to the report. Solar technology advances are set to cut costs for such plants to the point where they can produce power more cheaply than generators using gas sold for $10 per thermal unit, according to the report.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, forgoes oil revenue by burning the fuel in power plants, also making it economically sensible to pursue solar power there, said Mills, who works as an analyst at Manaar Energy Consulting in Dubai.

SOURCE: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-19/mideast-solar-projects-can-compete-with-gas-industry-group-says.html

Friday, January 27, 2012

Renewable Energy Projects in California Go Unused

Millions of dollars in projects intended to provide power to facilities in the state's national parks and forests are sitting idle because of a years-long squabble with Southern California Edison.
Woody Smeck, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National
Recreation Area, stands next to solar panels installed on top of a
carport at the King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas.
Because of a squabble between federal agencies and Southern California Edison,
renewable energy projects in California's national parks and forests are on hold.

Millions of dollars in renewable energy projects intended to provide power to facilities in California's national parks and forests are sitting idle because of a years-long squabble with Southern California Edison.

A new $800,000 solar project at Death Valley National Park, photovoltaic panels at the state-of-the art visitors center at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and a solar power system at the U.S. Forest Service's new facility at Mono Lake are among dozens of taxpayer-funded projects in Southern California on hold as the federal agencies try to hash out an agreement with SCE to tie the projects to the state's electrical grid.

The apparent stumbling block involves contract restrictions imposed by federal law, but utilities elsewhere in California have signed similar agreements with the agencies with few problems or delays.

"There's 24-plus systems in the Southern California Edison area that have been installed in the last three years that we have not been able to negotiate an interconnection agreement on," said Jack Williams, who retired this month as the National Park Service's Oakland-based regional facilities manager. "We think we are close at times, but then nothing. We were successful with PG&E, but with Southern California Edison.... They have been a bit more difficult. We've raised the flag many times. It's an issue for all federal agencies."

An Edison spokesman declined to discuss the projects, citing ongoing negotiations.

The impasse has hindered the parks' ability to meet renewable energy goals at a time when federal agencies are rushing to comply with orders to reduce carbon footprints. Equally troubling, officials say, is the financial fallout: a projected saving of tens of thousands of dollars from utility bills hasn't been realized during the two years the park service and forest service have been negotiating with Edison.

Parks officials at Death Valley had hoped the newly renovated visitors center would pare an estimated $31,828 from an annual electric bill of $45,724, a 70% drop in energy cost. At the Santa Monica Mountains, a solar plant designed to power a dormitory has been offline since October 2010.

"It is disappointing to see this big investment sitting idle when we could easily flip the switch and produce benefits," said park superintendent Woody Smeck, who called himself "an administrator here trying to do the right thing."

"We are purchasing electricity from SCE, whereas we could be using renewable energy from the sun and returning power to the grid. Until we can get the interconnection agreement approved, the switch is off and we can't benefit."

The stalemate is also affecting the Veterans Administration and the Department of the Navy, which require interconnection agreements or power purchase agreements with the regional utility. Gov. Jerry Brown's office has dispatched Michael Picker, the governor's advisor on renewable energy, to meet with all the parties in coming weeks to hammer out differences.

Federal agencies generally may not sign contracts that would leave them liable for unknown future damages because they would be committing money that Congress hasn't allocated. In some instances, government departments use contracts based on the federal torts process, the legal mechanism to bring liability claims against the government. But so far, the federal agencies have been unable to get SCE to agree to such contract provisions.

The forest service said it has been trying to draft an agreement using a standard U.S. General Services Administration utility contract, but that approach has not gained any traction.

In addition to the Mono Lake project, the forest service has been waiting for a year to connect its solar panels at the San Dimas Technology and Development Center, which houses the agency's top engineering and development center for wilderness firefighting equipment. The solar plant there would be subject to rebates for the excess power it generates, officials said.

If any national park can make solar power work, it would be Death Valley, one of the world's sunniest and hottest landscapes. But superintendent Sarah L. Craigheadsaid the park's solar projects have been unplugged since she took the job 21/2 years ago.

"We have been trying to get these agreements in place for quite some time. Everything is just sitting in the queue. Some panels were put up as part of the stimulus package," she said, referring to the economic initiative begun in the early days of the Obama administration.

Craighead said attorneys in the InteriorDepartment's solicitor's office had been called on to help resolve the issue.

"We want to turn these things on," she said.

Although Death Valley's solar projects have not been able to get connected, the park's concessionaire has managed to install a one-megawatt photovoltaic plant that will provide one-third of the power needed to run the park's hotels, restaurants, golf course, offices and employee housing.

Pacific Gas & Electric last summer connected Yosemite's $5.8-million photovoltaic project at El Portal. The project was completed in February 2011, and the park signed the interconnection agreement four months later.

The 2,800 solar panels should produce approximately 800,000 kilowatt-hours per year. Yosemite officials estimate the system will save $50,000 per year on electricity bills and generate an energy rebate of $700,000 from PG&E over the next five years.

SOURCE: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-parks-solar-20120109,0,1759062.story

Solar Energy Industry May Be On Threshold of An Exciting Era

This has been the most challenging few weeks to date in the life of the nascent UK solar sector. After a short burst of unprecedented sales growth, with installations more than doubling between June and October, we had to intervene very quickly indeed to ensure the entire subsidy for this and other exciting micro-generation technologies supported by feed-in tariffs, wasn't swept away by excessive returns for a lucky few. At 43p/kWh, your average domestic solar PV panel receives more than four times as much subsidy as renewable electricity generated from a wind turbine, way off the coast, in the hazardous conditions of the north sea.
Solar panels on residential houses in East Dulwich, south London

However, it is easy to see why solar is so popular. It is reliable, intuitive, easy to install and is a great solution for people worried about rising electricity bills or wanting to do their bit to fight climate change. But with the price of solar falling quickly in a very short period of time, the subsidised tariff payments were suddenly offering new customers financial returns completely out of step with other green technologies or government-backed schemes. Double-digit yields, index linked and guaranteed to be paid at that rate for 25 years.

In the current financial climate when interest rates are at record lows, it really was too good to be true. Unfortunately the scheme the coalition inherited just wasn't designed to adapt to these dramatic price falls.

This government believes in solar. We see its huge industrial and employment potential. We get the strong case for smart, well-targeted subsidy, to help early deployment and build a thriving UK sector. However that is not the same as a blank cheque. And we are equally determined to stand up for consumers alarmed by rising energy prices and have shown ourselves willing to take action to curb rising energy bills.

In such tough economic times, we just can't turn a blind eye and watch the solar boom go unchecked, when it is paid for by subsidies taken directly from other people's bills.

We would have preferred to have waited until this April before applying our proposed changes to new installations but the threat to the Fit budget left us no alternative.

Of course the industry would like a longer lead time to work through their bulging order books, I understand that, but the cold reality is that every day of delaying a cut in the tariff would mean more money flowing out of the budget at an excessive rate.

So now the challenge for the new year is to make sure we use the remaining subsidy far more wisely, put the sector back on a more sustainable footing, and reform the scheme to put in place the budget and deployment mechanisms it should have had from the outset. With more than 2,300 responses to our consultation, DECC is busy ploughing through a wide range of opinions on how we should proceed.

Despite this enormous workload, I am determined to publish our response before the end of the month. At the same time I hope to publish our new proposals for reform, to make the Fits much more like the German system and ensure we avoid this type of tariff-fuelled bubble in the future.

However I will be paying particularly careful attention to comments on our proposals to introduce an energy efficiency requirement. In fighting climate change there is a clear hierarchy of action, and reducing energy consumption, whether you are a big business or a domestic customer, should always be the first priority. We really shouldn't be offering a costly subsidy to people to generate renewable energy when in the same building it is being unnecessarily wasted.

I want to look very carefully at what we are told in the consultation responses about how we make this link work, how we better align decentralised renewables with the coming green deal, and how we do so without unduly damaging the solar sector. I am itching to move on to solutions.

We won't build a sustainable future for the industry in the court room, regardless of who wins the appeal [on a high court ruling that the government's cuts are "legally flawed"]. But a return to 43p could be catastrophic for the budget.

Now is the time for genuine collaboration between industry, NGOs and government. That doesn't mean shirking tough choices on budgets and subsidy. But if we can build that elusive consensus around a financially responsible bridge to the future, continuing price falls could put the UK solar sector on the threshold of a genuinely exciting era, unconstrained by the need for high consumer subsidy and able to emerge, at scale, as a genuine market alternative to fossil fuels, and a vital weapon in our war on man-made climate change.

SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jan/09/solar-energy-industry-exciting-era

PowerGuard's PowerClip™ Warranty Solution Adopted by Chinese Solar Panel Manufacturer LONG ENERGY (Shenglong, Suzhou Shenglong PV-Tech Co., Ltd.)

PowerGuard Specialty Insurance Services announces that leading Chinese solar manufacturer, LONG ENERGY (Shenglong, Suzhou Shenglong PV-Tech Co., Ltd.), a client of Marsh Los Angeles, has joined the growing number of China-based solar panel manufacturers to adopt PowerGuard's unique PowerClip extended warranty protection.

A specialty renewable energy Program Manager based in the United States, PowerGuard provides an innovative 25-year, non-cancellable quality and performance guarantee solution to back-up a manufacturer's own warranty terms.

Guaranteeing warranty terms through the use of insurance provides the certainty manufacturers and their customers look for, as well as long-term stability for the industry.

This insurance solution, conceived and underwritten by PowerGuard, offers back-to-back coverage for a 10-year limited product warranty as well as 10-year warranty for 90 percent power performance and an additional 15-year warranty for 80 percent performance for panels sold by LONG ENERGY and covered by the warranty.

Mike McMullen, managing principal of PowerGuard, says, "PowerGuard is proud that our innovative risk-transfer product is quickly gaining momentum with leading solar module manufacturers in China and around the world. PowerGuard will continue to support the expansion and success of the global renewable energy industry with unique, leading-edge products and services."

"The PowerGuard solution is an important way for solar panel producers to provide a greater degree of business certainty and allows developers of solar parks to finance photovoltaic installations more easily and with increased flexibility," states Ken Yang, client relationship manager of Marsh Los Angeles. "The solar panel manufacturing sector in Asia continues to grow rapidly, with China leading the way in terms of manufacturing output."

The PowerGuard solution, which is available directly from PowerGuard or through various retail brokers, provides certainty and security to the solar manufacturer's end customers. Its warranty terms are non-cancellable, surviving even insolvency and bankruptcy. Third-party rights to the policy, in case the original solar manufacturer goes out of business are also offered, and are backed by the capital strength of the insurance market.

Contact:PowerGuard Specialty Insurance Services Mike McMullen
 949.224.1325 mmcmullen@powerguardins.com

About PowerGuard Specialty Insurance Services

PowerGuard manages programs specializing in the design and underwriting of unique insurance and risk management solutions for wind, solar and other alternative energy companies.

PowerGuard's PowerClip warranty product is the most comprehensive contractual liability coverage available to renewable energy manufactures, project developers, power generation operators and the financial institutions who invest in them.

PowerGuard's PowerWrap Solar Project Guarantee Policy is a simple and straightforward insurance policy that guarantees the performance of the entire solar energy system - written on investment grade paper with an insurance company holding an AA- rating from Standard & Poor's. For more information please visit www.powerguardins.com

About LONG ENERGY (Shenglong)

Established in May 2006, Long Energy (Shenglong) is an experienced company with deep roots in technology, now listed on the Korea Exchange. Located in Zhangjiagang City, Long Energy (Shenglong) currently has over 1,500 employees and is about an hour's drive from Shanghai, China. Their factory occupies an area of roughly 240,000 sq. meters and covers the vertically integrated value chain from silicon melting to finished modules.

Aspiring to be a leading photovoltaic company with advanced technology, Long Energy (Shenglong) has always followed the notion of "high starting point, large scale, high quality and strong branding," which has led the company to achieve remarkable growth in just a few years. With a sound mixture of technical competence and visionary ideas, Long Energy (Shenglong) designs, manufactures, and sells high-quality solar products to the international market at competitive prices.

Long Energy's (Shenglong's) main products are crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules which have received IEC, TUV, UL, MCS, CQC, KIER, CE, PV CYCLE membership and approval. These modules are bankable by Unicredit SpA, Italy and GLS bank, Germany. In addition to offering entirely in-house produced modules, Long Energy (Shenglong) also provides complete, tailor-made photovoltaic systems.

About Marsh

Marsh, the world's leading insurance broker and risk advisor, teams up with clients to define, design, and deliver innovative industry-specific solutions that help them protect their future and thrive. Marsh has over 25,000 colleagues who collaborate to provide advice and transactional capabilities to clients in over 100 countries. Marsh is a member of Marsh & McLennan Companies, a global professional risk and insurance services firm with over 52,000 employees worldwide and annual revenue exceeding $10 billion, which is also the parent company of Guy Carpenter, the risk and reinsurance specialist; Mercer, the provider of HR and related financial advice and services; and Oliver Wyman, the management consultancy. Its stock is listed on the New York, Chicago, and London stock exchanges.

SOURCE: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/09/4174466/powerguards-powerclip-warranty.html

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mahindra Solar's Jodhpur Power Plant Commissioned

Mahindra Solar One Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M) and Kiran Energy Ltd, on Monday commissioned its 5MW solar PV (photovoltaic) power plant in Jodhpur, Rajasthan--a project the company had won under Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM).

Mahindra Solar has won another set of 50MW projects under JNNSM. Besides, it plans to add an extra 50MW solar capacity in next two to three years.

Indian government plans to set up 20,000MW of solar power capacity by 2022. In the first phase, 1,000MW will be developed by 2013.

For the JNNSM projects, the government fixes the benchmark tariff and developers quoting the lowest tariff bag the project.

Mahindra Solar will get '11.89 per unit for its 5MW plant. For the next 50MW project, it will get '9.34 per unit, said Vish Palekar, business head for clean technology ventures at M&M.

The first solar power project of scale which uses trackers to enhance efficiency of the plant, the PV plant will have 22% plant load factor (PLF), higher than 18-18.5% PLF of static solar panel-based plants. The trackers help solar panel follow the direction of sun. The PLF indicates efficiency of the plant against its installed capacity.

Consultancy firm KPMG India in May projected that cost of solar power will be comparable with traditional source of power by 2017-18 because of rising costs of coal and gas and falling prices of solar power equipment.

Kameswara Rao, executive director and head of infrastructure, utility and mining practice at Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) India Pvt. Ltd, said apart from JNNSM route, many state governments especially Rajasthan and Gujarat have come out with very attractive policies for solar power sector.

Renewable purchase obligation mandated by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) for all distribution utilities and Renewable Energy Certificate (REC), make it further attractive for solar power developers to scale up their capacities, he added.

CERC has issued guidelines which make mandatory for all distribution utilities to buy certain percentage of their power purchase from renewable sources. If they fail to meet this obligation, they can comply with rules by buying RECs from producers of renewable power.

Joint secretary in the ministry of new and renewable energy, Tarun Kapoor, who was present at the function to announce commissioning of Mahindra Solar One plant said the government will frame policy to allow sale of excess power generated from roof top or off-grid solar power plants on the grid within next three months.

SOURCE: http://www.menafn.com/qn_news_story.asp?storyid={362f835f-44cc-4192-8c65-7d4ba4f6e2af}&src=main

California Bear Creek Ranch Powering Agricultural Water Pumps with Solar Energy

Bear Creek Ranch, an affiliation of Pacific Ag Management, in Wasco, California chose Conergy’s Solar Large Projects Group as the project manager for its 1.5-acre solar energy power generation site . The solar energy site will power the water pumps and irrigation system for the surrounding almond orchards. Brought into the project at its conception phase, Conergy is providing development, EPC and O&M services, along with assistance in securing financing. Using Conergy P modules and Conergy’s SolarLinea driven-pile ground mounting, the solar site will annually produce 470,000 kWh of clean solar energy, which is equivalent to reducing CO2 levels by 308,000 pounds per year or not driving nearly 6 million miles.
Conergy Project in Wasco - SolarLinea Mounting

Wanting to reduce their costs and hedge against rising utility rates, Bear Creek Ranch decided to install a solar power plant. Using an operating lease financing structure, the power plant will provide the ranch $2.6 million in utility savings over the next 25 years. “By implementing a solar power plant we are able to turn our energy costs into predictable fixed costs. By hedging against rising utility rates, we can increase our profitability, have better cost control and improved forecasting capabilities.” says Keith Gardiner, Managing Partner of Bear Creek Ranch. “We chose Conergy as our project developer due to its track record, its reputation of installing similar systems on agricultural operations and the Company’s responsiveness.”

"Working on many agricultural solar energy projects, Conergy has the insight and experience to develop cost effective solutions for the unique challenges this sector faces, such as being heavily dependent on electricity to irrigate crops. We are pleased that we can apply this experience to the development of Bear Creek Ranch’s solar power plant development," said Conergy’s David Vincent, Project Development Manager. “With this solar power plant, Bear Creek Ranch is showing their environmental stewardship and energy leadership in the agricultural industry.”

From planning, financing and engineering to procurement, construction, permitting, and maintenance, the Conergy Solar Large Projects Group has provided turnkey solutions to meet a continuum of renewable energy objectives. To every project, the Group brings its experience in developing power plants around the world from a 10 MW system for a Michelin manufacturing plant which at the time of interconnection was the largest rooftop installation in the world to 20+ MW installations in Spain and South Korea. In the United States, the Projects Group team brought online a 2 MW ground-mounted photovoltaic installation at the Fort Carson U.S. Army base in Colorado, a 3 MW ground mounted photovoltaic installation in Pennsylvania for Exelon and a 1.6 MW tracker system in California for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

The SolarLinea is a Conergy-manufactured driven-pile mounting system for free-field PV installations. With a terrain-adaptable design, the SolarLinea adapts to a ±10% terrain variation and minimizes or completely eliminates site modification. The system is designed to decrease the total install cost of PV system, from labour, equipment and other overhead costs. Offering design flexibility and optimal use of space, the SolarLinea is available in both a dual and single post options.

About Conergy USA
Only Conergy delivers solar energy systems from a single source. As a system manufacturer, Conergy produces all components for a solar installation and offers all services under one roof. With its modules, inverters and mounting systems, the solar expert creates Conergy System Technology, which is efficient and synchronized solar energy systems for private or commercial rooftops, as well as for multi-Megawatt Parks.

Conergy System Services deliver a “Worry-Free Package” for Conergy solar installations. Conergy’s experts not only install on-site turn-key solar projects, but they also manage the planning and financing, project implementation, system monitoring, operation and on-going maintenance of the project for maximum performance. With this comprehensive technology and service package, Conergy offers yield insurance for its installations.

Conergy System Sales brings Conergy premium products to nearly 40 countries. The solar expert supports homeowners, installers, wholesalers and investors in their efforts to “go solar” through deep-rooted local operations in 18 countries. With sales activities on five continents, Conergy has close relationships with all its customers. Listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange, Conergy employs more than 1,700 people worldwide. Since Conergy’s founding in 1998, it has produced and sold more than 1.5 GW of clean solar power.

Through its acquisition of well-established local companies, Conergy began operating as a distributor and project developer in North America in 2005 and currently has five offices, four warehouses and three production sites in the region. Conergy manufacturers mounting systems in Sacramento, CA. In Ontario, Canada Conergy produces modules and mounting systems that meet local content requirements for the Provincial FIT. In addition, Conergy operates a Project Group that develops and operates large-scale systems. Through these activities, Conergy maintains expert knowledge about local market conditions and requirements.

Please contact us if you have any questions or requests.

About Bear Creek Ranch
After serving one term in the White House, Herbert Hoover decided to farm. He hired experts to find the best agricultural land available – the Bear Creek Ranch was one of two sites they identified. “Hoover told them to find the best combination of soil, water and climate, and they didn’t let him down,” indicates Gardiner. “We’re on some of the best ground in the world. If you can’t make it as a farmer here, you can’t make it anywhere. We believe the solar system will stabilize our power costs and enhance our ability to farm this ground for generations.”

SOURCE: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/1/prweb9089483.htm

A Greener Alternative To Conventional Solar Backsheets

As the solar market continues its dramatic growth, the future outlook for manufacturers is changing. While US photovoltaic module manufacturers were working on technology development and manufacturing strategies, their competition, mainly in Asia, was able to line up financing and build new factories more rapidly. The Chinese government also has been developing a set of subsidies to boost solar energy production in-country.

As a result, a great deal of industry buzz has been generated by the precipitous slide in solar module prices, which dropped approximately 40 percent from 2007 to 2010 and by another 40 percent in 2011. Most industry experts predict that solar module price will eventually bounce back from its lowest level of 2011 once demand catches up with supply as evidenced by steadily growing solar energy demand in the future.

As prices of solar modules continue to drop, however, manufacturers are searching for alternative PV components that cost less while matching or exceeding the durability of incumbent components. The pressure to cut costs continues to be intense this year as supply outstrips demand.

An Economical Green Backsheet

The solar industry is still in its relative infancy, and the question of how solar modules will ultimately be disposed of when they have exhausted their lifespans after 25 years or more is only beginning to be addressed. For an example, PV backsheets, the bottom most layer of crystalline silicon solar cells, have traditionally been made of petroleum-based plastics. Unfortunately, the widespread use of petroleum-based plastic backsheets raises the prospect that their disposal will result in the release of toxic chemicals, including harmful hydrogen fluoride, into the environment.

By contrast, BioSolar's BioBacksheet, a bio-based alternative to conventional petroleum based backsheets, does not pose such environmental issues when disposed. It does not require toxic and energy intensive manufacturing processes used in the manufacture of conventional petroleum based backsheets. BioBacksheet is produced by single-step film extrusion, whereas conventional multi-layer backsheets require extrusion extrusion processes followed by lamination of multiple film layers using industrial adhesives. It is not difficult to understand that BioBacksheet's simple manufacturing process means lower manufacturing cost.

Durable BioBacksheet Increases Solar Panel Efficiency

BioSolar's bio-based materials are engineered for extreme duty use. In addition, BioBacksheet is constructed as a single layer film that is more durable than backsheets with multi-layer construction. The adhesives used to hold the layers together in conventional multi-layer backsheets usually experience degradation over time, increasing the risk of inter-layer delamination that can lead to the loss of a solar module's hermetic seal against moisture. Should the seal fail, solar PV module manufacturers could be faced with the time, expense and inconvenience of replacing modules under warranty.

One important characteristic of the BioBacksheet is its higher thermal conductivity. BioBacksheet has approximately 80 percent higher thermal conductivity compared to those of conventional backsheets. Higher thermal conductivity allows the heat that builds up from solar exposure to be dissipated faster. Because the energy efficiency of crystalline silicon solar cells drops as the temperature rises, solar panels incorporating BioBacksheet can yield higher efficiency.

The development of BioBacksheet has been a five-year process that is now coming to a successful conclusion, for which the company expects full scale commercial production and volume delivery in 2012. As the first and only bio-based backsheet in the solar industry, BioBacksheet received material certification from the Underwriters Laboratory in February 2011 and a USDA BioPreferred product certification, which mandates preferential consideration by government agencies, in June 2011.

BioBacksheet made its debut at the recent GovGreen Conference in Washington, D.C., the market for government decision-makers looking for green solutions, and is now being considered by multiple PV manufacturers in full integration trials. While the company is now focusing on the full commercialization of its BioBacksheet, it is also developing other bio-based PV module components that will make solar energy even greener in the future.

As demonstrated by the BioSolar BioBacksheet, new opportunities can still be found to bring down the cost of solar and in doing so, contribute to the widespread implementation of solar, and thus to a cleaner environment, enhanced energy security and the mitigation of global warming.

But, much as has been the case with electronic waste, solar modules hold the prospect of leaving a toxic legacy if they end up in landfills where the harmful chemicals they contain can leach into our groundwater, or in incinerators, where those chemicals can be released into the air we breathe. Care must be taken that solar is green across its entire lifecycle, including the ultimate disposition of the modules. The development of the BioBacksheet is a major step in that direction.

Finally, green technology solutions must provide superior performance and attractive pricing compared to those of incumbent non-green counterparts in order for them to achieve commercial success. Being green alone is just not a guarantee for commercial success even in the presence of abundant government subsidies or policies favoring green technology.

SOURCE: http://energy.aol.com/2012/01/10/a-greener-alternative-to-conventional-solar-backsheets/

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Germany Installed a Record 7.5 GW of Solar Power in 2011

December saw over 3 GW of added capacity, not 2 as stated above.

A couple of other info from the official press release at the Federal Network Agency, with some comment added:
Solar PV prices dropping steadily in Germany

The strongest month was December, with 3.0 GW added alone in that month. That very likely will lead to further massive reductions in the feed-in tariff at the maximum possible under current law, which would be another 15% from July 2012 on and on top of that another 24% from January 2013 on. The record of the last three months of 2011 will be taken into account for both decisions.

If this kind of pace is kept up, then the level of generation capacity projected to be reached in 2022 will be achieved seven years earlier, in 2015. Excellent news for the climate, as well as for further price reductions by even more mass production.

They also expect the next mini boom in June of this year, from people who want to secure the present levels before they go down again in July.

We saw conflicting reports on the amount installed, and went with the German Solar Industry Association’s info. I don’t see a press release from the agency mentioned above on this topic — perhaps there is only one in German? I will update this again if I can retrieve one or get our resident German-speaking American to do so.

Original article:

Preliminary figures recently released suggest that Germany installed a whopping 2.1 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic in December of 2011, bringing the year’s total up to a new record of 7.5 GW, 0.1 GW (1000 MW) more than last year’s total.

On top of breaking a year’s worth of PV installations, Germany also broke the most installations in a single month in December (2011) with its over 2 GW of installed PV, increasing the record over June 2010.

The rush comes just prior to a governmental cut in support for photovoltaic installation of 15% on January 1, 2012, which is expected to be followed by a second cut of 15% as of July 1, 2012. But BSW-Solar (the Germany Solar Industry Association) says that things are rolling along as they should be.

“In 2011, solar power systems in Germany produced over 18 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, according to figures provided by the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar) at the close of the year,” BSW-Solar writes. “That amounts to 60 percent more than in the previous year and is approximately equal to the electricity consumption of the state of Thuringia; this volume could theoretically supply 5.1 million households with electricity for an entire year.”
German solar PV installations increasing as solar prices drop

Reasons for the high demand, cited by BSW-Solar, are 1) a sharp increase in oil and gas prices and 2) significantly lower costs for solar technology (as indicated in charts above). “Since 2007 alone, prices for turnkey solar power systems have fallen by more than half,” BSW-Solar writes. “This has allowed the support for solar power systems to be reduced by the same extent.”

German solar now contributes about 3% of total German electricity supply. That is expected to reach 10% by 2020. But the industry needs the same thin in Germany that it needs in the US, Australia, and everywhere else in the world:

“What the solar industry now needs are reliable political conditions,” Carsten K├Ârnig, Chief Executive Officer of the German Solar Industry Association, says. ”This is indispensable for the continued expansion of renewable energy sources and for maintaining an attractive climate of investment in Germany. It’s the only way to ensure that the contract between generations contained in the energy transformation will work. And it’s the only way that Germany can continue to be successful in the now highly competitive growth markets.”

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/15afv)

SOURCE: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/01/10/germany-installed-a-record-7-5-gw-of-solar-power-in-2011/

SolarKindle Solar Powered Kindle Cover-Battery Debuts At CES 2012

SolarKindle is the first ever cover of its kind — other than protecting your precious Kindle, it also acts as an external battery that charges up your Kindle on the go through solar power. That’s right, the Kindle just got that much greener. Now you can almost forget about having to charge your Kindle because the makers of SolarKindle guarantee 3 months of usage under normal sunlit conditions. However, that is not always the case now in Winter, so you can at least look forward to an external battery with the cover fully charged up.
SolarKindle leather lighted cover for Kindle 4

Along with the cover with an integrated solar panel and battery, the SolarKindle also as a Lux LED lamp for reading your Kindle in the dark. On full charge, you can use this lamp for 50 hours without having to depend on your Kindle’s battery at all. Now that’s happy extended reading.

The SolarKindle is on display at this moment at the CES 2012 event being helpd in Las Vegas, USA. It will go on sale next week on January 15. But you must know something before you put it on your wishlist.

The SolarKindle is all good except for the price tag, which is a little on the steep side. It comes for $79.99 — which is basically as much as your basic Kindle model that many of us own. However, give the value that it adds to all Kindle models, it is clearly a good investment. Plus it is quite flexible also.

If you are living in an environment that has no sunlight (let’s say the north pole in winter), you can charge back up battery through your USB port as well. This charge will then be used to power the built in light or to extend the life of the built in Kindle battery, whichever you like.

However, when used as it is meant to be used, the solar panel mounted on the face of the cover can absorb about three day’s worth of power in about an hour. Which means under normal sunlit conditions you would be able to full up your Kindle’s battery and the back up battery in no time at all. Perfect for those trips away from civilization where you let go of your phone’s reception but not the ability to read your Kindle. We understand though — it can be very hard to stop before knowing whether the butler did it or not. Whatever you reason is, the SolarKindle seems pretty able to power you through your latest pageturner.

Kindle’s popularity is clearly visible in the kind of response it is generating from third party vendors who make accessories and applications. The Kindle Fire already sold in huge numbers this holiday season and Amazon is right now leading the e-book market almost entirely because of their amazing line of e-book readers. B&N might be struggling hard to catch up but it will take them a lot of effort to even match up to Amazon at this point, let alone best them in their own game, so to say.

SOURCE: http://solar-panel-reviews.org/2012/01/solarkindle-solar-powered-kindle-cover-battery-debuts-at-ces-2012/

Dh12bn Solar Plant for Dubai

The emirate is planning a multi-billion-dirham solar energy park to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and decrease its carbon footprint, officials announced yesterday.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park will be built in phases over the next two decades, aiming to reach a capacity output of 1,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030.

The launch event in Dubai yesterday was attended by Sheikh Mohammed, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, after whom the park has been named.

The facility will be located in Seih Al Dahal, 30 kilometres southeast of Dubai and will take up approximately 48 square kilometres of space.

"We have a plan to diversify the energy [sector] in Dubai and to increase solar power to 1 per cent by 2020 and 5 per cent by 2030," said Saeed Al Tayer, the vice chairman of the Supreme Council of Energy.

Dubai produces 4.5MW of solar power in private, small-scale systems. These systems use photovoltaic (PV) technology, which converts sunlight into electricity.

The new solar park will utilise solar PV as well as another technology known as concentrated solar power, in which sunlight is reflected from large rows of mirrors on to a smaller area where the sun's heat is collected and then used to produce energy.

The details of how the emirate hopes to increase its output from 4.5MW to 1,000MW, and exactly who would foot the Dh12 billion construction bill for the facility, have yet to be announced.

"We are going to award a contract to an international consultant where they will submit a road map of how to get there," said Mr Al Tayer, who is also the managing director and chief executive of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).

The consultant will advise on how to connect the new solar capacity to the electricity grid and on how to encourage investment.

"From an economic point of view, solar energy needs a contribution," said Nejib Zaafrani, the Secretary General and chief executive of the Supreme Council of Energy.

Ways to encourage investment in solar projects could include establishing preferential tariffs or providing compensation to renewable-energy producers. The introduction of such measures, also known as feed-in-tariffs, has been instrumental in establishing Germany and Spain among the world's leading countries in clean energy.

Mr Al Tayer and Mr Zaafrani said feed-in-tariffs were being considered as one option, but the matter needed further study.

The project will begin with the establishment of a 10MW solar plant. This facility will use PV technology and will feed electricity to the grid. Work has already started on the project, which should cost about Dh120 million.

Consultants have already been selected, and a tender to construct the facility should be out in summer this year. The project is expected to be operational at the end of 2013.

"The first 10MW ... is financed 100 per cent by the Supreme Council of Energy in Dubai," said Mr Zaafrani. "For future projects, to reach one gigawatt, we are working on many fronts."

While solar energy plants have the advantage of not releasing greenhouse gases - and are thus touted as eco-friendly alternatives to plants that burn fossil fuels - they are more expensive to build.

The good news is, because of advances in technology and an increase in use, prices have been falling. Mr Al Tayer said that in 2004, it cost 120 fils to produce a kilowatt of electricity using solar technology, but that the cost is now 70 fils.

"We hope that in future we will witness more decreases in price," he said.

Sami Khoreibi, the chief executive of Enviromena Power Systems, an Abu Dhabi company that builds solar photovoltaic systems, said the launch of the project was a step in the right direction.

"It is fantastic. It is another market place for sustainable energy in the Middle East," he said. "We will be very interested in the timing of these projects."

SOURCE: http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/environment/dh12bn-solar-plant-for-dubai

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ESA Renewables Constructs and Commissions 500-kW Rooftop Solar System in North Carolina

Project is part of Progress Energy Carolinas’ SunSense Commercial PV Program

Hayesville, NC., January 23, 2012 – ESA Renewables, (ESA), a turnkey solar solutions provider, announced today it has commissioned a 500-kilowatt (kW) DC solar photovoltaic (PV) system in Fuquay-Varina, N.C. ESA developed, constructed the array, installed its monitoring system and will be providing operation and maintenance services for the duration of the Power Purchase Agreement term. The electricity generated from the installation will be sold to Progress Energy Carolinas for use with its customers.

“We are excited to have commissioned the Fuquay-Varina project as it further enables ESA to be part of North Carolina’s sustainable energy solution, providing clean, renewable solar energy,” said Jeffrey Burkett, president of ESA Renewables. “ESA’s proprietary monitoring system has been installed onsite enabling us to provide the highest level of operations and maintenance control for maximum energy production.”

The solar PV array is situated on the rooftop of a building off of Purfoy Road in Wake County. The installation covers 55,867 square-feet of the roof and is expected to annually generate the equivalent amount of electricity as consumed annually by 83 average North Carolina homes.

The PV system was purchased at commissioning by Holocene, a Raleigh, North Carolina, renewable energy company. “We are delighted to be partnered with ESA Renewables on this prominent renewable energy project. ESA Renewables’ professional team worked closely with Holocene leadership in meeting part of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard,” said Ralph Thompson, President of Holocene. Thompson also said, “This is an attractive addition to our growing pool of owned renewable energy assets.”

To facilitate grid-connection, ESA developed the project, installed 2,016 Canadian Solar 245 Wp and 250 Wp CS5P modules and provided EPC services.

This solar PV project is made possible by Progress Energy Carolinas’ SunSense® Commercial Solar PV program, designed to encourage renewable energy by providing a premium price for solar power developed on commercial rooftops. This array in Fuquay-Varina is the largest SunSense solar array in operation in Wake County, N.C.

About ESA Renewables, LLC:
ESA Renewables has positioned itself as a leader in the industry providing turnkey solar PV systems globally. ESA owns and operates a diverse portfolio of over 475 solar PV power generating facilities located in the United States, Puerto Rico, Spain and Italy. ESA’s scope of services includes financing, engineering, construction, testing and operation and maintenance. With headquarters in Castellon Spain, ESA has additional offices in Florida, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, France and Italy. For more information about ESA Renewables, LLC, please visit http://www.esarenewables.com or call 407-268-6455.

About Progress Energy:
Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., is a Fortune 500 energy company with more than 22,000 megawatts of generation capacity and approximately $10 billion in annual revenues. Progress Energy includes two major electric utilities that serve about 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida. The company has earned the Edison Electric Institute’s Edison Award, the industry’s highest honor, in recognition of its operational excellence, and was the first utility to receive the prestigious J.D. Power and Associates Founder’s Award for customer service. The company is pursuing a balanced strategy for a secure energy future, which includes aggressive energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. Progress Energy celebrated a century of service in 2008. Visit the company’s website at www.progress-energy.com.

About Holocene, LLC:
Holocene is a leading provider of renewable energy products and services specializing in the design, installation and financing of a wide variety of renewable energy technologies, including solar water heating and PV solar energy systems. Known for delivering customized sustainable energy solutions, Holocene and its affiliated companies offer affordable, creative and strategic alternative energy technologies and services to a diverse portfolio of private and public organizations. For more information on Holocene, visit www.holocene-energy.com.