Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Solar Field Dedicated In Fairfeld Twp.

Lincoln Renewable Energy dedicated a massive solar project here Thursday. The 12.5-megawatt site consists of about 53,000 solar panels constructed on 100 acres along Elmer Road.

Declan Flanagan, CEO of Lincoln Renewable Energy,
stands in front of a new solar project dedicated Thursday
on Elmer Road in Fairfield.

LRE, a developer of solar and wind projects, said it’s the largest non-utility-owned solar project east of the Mississippi.

At the ceremony, LRE also announced it has formed a partnership with Samsung C&T Corp.

“We are delighted to reach another key milestone in the growth of our company with the completion of (this) project,” LRE CEO Declan Flanagan said. We also are delighted to announce our partnership with a company of the strength of Samsung C&T. Combining LRE’s proven project-development capability with Samsung C&T’s global strength in engineering, procurement, construction and operation of major infrastructure is an extremely complimentary partnership.”

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Solar-Powered Phones Recharge Kenya's Conversations

The upcoming Rio+20 conference on sustainable development will try to identify solutions to worsening resource scarcity and climate change, but Habiba Rage may already be holding one in the palm of her hand.
Chief Mohammed Abdi use his newly acquired solar phone
to communicate with a villager in northern Kenya. Solar-
powered phones fill a need in areas of Kenya off the
conventional electrical grid.

The 38-year-old from Alago Alba in Kenya’s North Eastern Region has overcome her village’s lack of connection to the electricity grid with a cell phone that uses solar energy to recharge.

“Our village does not have electricity,” says the mother of four. “It is very difficult to own a mobile phone because of the energy it needs to keep working.”

Habiba needs a phone for her livelihood as a trader including to keep track of stock arriving from Isiolo, the nearest urban center. Attacks by bandits along the 110 km (70 mile) route are not uncommon.

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German Parliament Renews Solar Subsidy Discussion

The German Parliament's upper house has voted to send back to committee a bill backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel that would see subsidies for solar power sharply reduced.

The up

The upper house, which represents Germany's states and where Merkel's government lacks a majority, made the decision Friday amid concerns the cutbacks could affect German jobs and give foreign manufacturers an advantage.

Merkel's Cabinet earlier this year proposed cutting subsidies supporting solar power by up to 30 percent within a year because higher-than-expected demand had made the scheme more costly than expected. Parliament's lower house backed the plan.

Germany's main industry lobby group, BDI, criticized the upper house's decision, saying the government needed to move away from subsidies and focus on strengthening innovation.

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Got A Deck? Solar Panels Now A Plug-In Appliance

It's a green-energy geek's dream do-it-yourself project: attach a few solar panels to your deck and watch your electric bills go down. Now one company is selling such a product.
Power deck: plug-in solar panel appliances being tested.

SpinRay Energy has developed a system that lets consumers install up to five solar panels on their decks and plug them into an outdoor power outlet. People can install one panel at a time, and get up to 1,000 watts of power with five installed.

The main electrical components of the system have the UL safety certification, including the solar panel and the microinverter, which converts direct current from the panels to household alternating current. If there is a loss of grid power, the panels will stop delivering current because it could be a danger to line workers, according to the company.

SpinRay Energy is selling the DIY kit through a few retailers, including Amazon. There are just a few reviews, but people who installed the panels say they work as advertised. The deck kit, sold for $1,099.95 on Amazon, comes with brackets that attach to a deck or for setting up panels in a yard. The panels should qualify users for a 30 percent federal tax credit for renewable energy.

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Solar Project in Desert Gets Boost from California Legislature

Despite strong opposition from environmentalists, the state Assembly on Thursday approved controversial legislation that allows a solar energy developer to bypass local agencies in seeking to build a large-scale power plant in a valley that is home to desert tortoises, golden eagles and bighorn sheep.

The nation's leading environmental groups see K Road Power's proposed 663-megawatt Calico Solar plant as one of the most ecologically damaging renewable energy projects in the California desert.

If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill as expected, San Bernardino County government will have no formal say in the process. Neighboring Kern County also opposed the bill out of concern that Calico Solar posed a threat to local control of projects that can occupy hundreds and sometimes thousands of acres.

Under the bill, approved by the Senate in March and passed 56 to 10 in the Assembly, Calico Solar may now go directly to the California Energy Commission with its application for approval. Environmental groups believe that the commission is predisposed to overlook their concerns because its mission is to help the state meet one-third of its electricity needs from renewable resources by 2020.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

UPDATE 1-Germany's Upper House Suspends Solar Subsidy Cuts

The German parliament's upper house suspended the government's proposed cuts in subsidies for the solar power industry on Friday and referred them to a mediation committee, in a setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

The opposition and federal states who oppose plans to slash so-called feed-in tariffs by between 20 and nearly 40 percent from April did not get a big enough majority to reject the law in the Bundesrat, but had enough support to delay it, potentially for several months.

States run by the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, and some areas of Germany where solar power provides jobs and growth, defend the subsidies that have helped Germany become the world's largest market for power converted from solar radiation, or photovoltaic energy, with 25 megawatts of installed capacity - nearly half of the world's solar capacity.

"Photovoltaic power makes a considerable contribution to reducing the price of electricity," Winfried Kretschmann, the Greens premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, told the debate. "This law would put our success story at great risk."

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U.S., India Glimpse A Bright Future Together in Solar Power

There are few places in the world where the opportunity for solar power is more blindingly obvious than India. There are also few industries where the possibility of collaboration between India and the United States is more tantalizing.
India looks to bright future in solar power: While India’s solar
industry is finally taking off, massive hurdles must be overcome
before it can make a meaningful contribution to the country’s
rapidly growing power needs.

But although India’s solar industry is finally taking off, enormous hurdles must be overcome before it can make a meaningful contribution to the country’s rapidly growing power needs, experts and business leaders say.

Two years ago, as part of its National Action Plan on Climate Change, India set out to boost the solar industry through subsidies, setting a generation target equivalent to about 3 percent of the country’s projected power needs by 2022.

The private sector has responded eagerly. With the price of solar energy dropping sharply, and with sun-drenched western states such as Gujarat and Rajas­than launching drives to subsidize solar power, many say the target will be more than met.

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Imtech to Boost the Solar Energy Industry in Peru

Royal Imtech N.V. (IM-AE, technical services provider in and outside Europe) is going to give a boost to the solar energy industry in Peru as part of its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS). It involves two pilot projects in a school and a hospital in the village of Sibayo, in the Colca Canyon in the Andes mountains. The company will be working alongside various manufacturers of solar energy equipment. Together with them and other manufacturers, the aim is to provide similar solutions for other villages in the same valley in due course. A collaboration agreement has also been reached with San Pablo University in Arequipa, the purpose of which is to develop a prototype for solar energy heating that can be used in homes located in mountainous areas across Peru. This is a relatively under-developed region with a high level of infant mortality and poor healthcare provision. A conference is being organised in conjunction with the university about the use of sustainable energy in the specific circumstances of Peru, in order to bring about a broad-based transfer of knowledge. Students and school pupils will be involved in the project.

Imtech CEO Rene van der Bruggen: 'Many of the world's problems - water, energy and the environment - can be solved using green technology. Imtech is one of the strongest technological players in Europe in this area and has extensive and relevant knowledge at its disposal. Imtech is also proactive when it comes to CSR, and it is against that background that we seek to give support with our own employees to boost local communities, organisations and businesses in under developed countries to use green technology, as part of our Corporate Citizenship policy. We have been doing this since 2008. If you provide local people with the right knowledge and technology, they are perfectly capable of finding the most suitable solutions to their own challenges and problems, as a result of which levels of prosperity and the well-being of local communities will improve. Our Spanish employees are specialised in solar energy and will be giving the local solar energy industry in Peru a boost. This Imtech initiative is being provided free of charge. Imtech is working with SharePeople, a Dutch non-governmental organisation. The total investment in this CSR project amounts to around 0.8 million euro.'

Peru: an ideal climate for solar energy
The potential for solar energy is better in Peru than anywhere else. The 'impact' of the sun as a possible source of heat for solar energy is measured in W/m2. At 230 W/m2, the figure in Peru is higher than any other location on earth. By comparison, the average for north-west Europe is 150 W/m2, and that of the Sahara is 200 W/m2. In the Colca Canyon in particular, the conditions for solar energy are more or less perfect, thanks to the altitude (more than 4,000 metres) and the presence of the nearby Atacama desert in Chile. Nonetheless, solar energy is used here relatively little, and because of the use of inadequately developed technology, it has only a modest yield. This has direct consequences on levels of prosperity and the quality of life of the tens of thousands of mostly poor people who live here. Temperatures in the daytime exceed 40 degrees Celsius, while at night they fall to below minus 20. Medical facilities are very poorly developed. Because of the severe cold, life expectancy is short, and more than 300 young children dying in the Colca Canyon every year. Imtech is keen to change this through its CSR policies. Following a period of intensive preparations, a team of eight solar energy specialists is being sent to the region from the Spanish division of Imtech.

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German solar-power companies expect sales to decline by 50 percent this year because of subsidy cuts in the world’s second-largest market for the industry, according to a survey by the BSW-Solar lobby.

More than half the companies surveyed cut jobs in recent weeks, the Berlin-based group said in an e-mailed statement today. The lobby polled 555 producers, wholesalers and installers of photovoltaic products between April 26 and May 8.

“Cuts to solar subsidies that are way too harsh have poisoned the investment climate in Germany, caused sales to plummet and already cost more than 10,000 solar jobs,” Carsten Koernig, the head of the lobby, said in the statement.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plan to reduce solar incentives after an installation boom is putting additional pressure on domestic manufacturers such as Solarworld AG (SWV) as Chinese rivals led by Suntech Power Holdings Co. grab market share.

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Solar Is Europe’s Most-Installed Power Source, Lobby Says

Solar power became the most-installed energy source in Europe last year for the first time as subsidies drove investment to records, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association said.
A floating photovoltaic panel system rotates automatically as
it follows the sun on the surface of the lake of Colignola,
a village near Pisa, Italy on January 11, 2012. The experiment is
called "Floating, Tracking, Cooling, Concentration FCC"
and is made of panels totaling 300 square-meters.

Installations of photovoltaic panels in the region surged 63 percent to 21.9 gigawatts, surpassing all new wind and gas- fired power capacity combined, a report set to be presented today by the trade group shows. Wind and gas plants connected in 2011 amounted to about 9.5 gigawatts each, it said.

European countries installed 75 percent of global capacity, benefitting from lower panel prices and guaranteed premiums for the energy. As they have for the past decade, photovoltaic markets again grew faster than expected both in Europe and around the world, according to EPIA.

Global installations reached 29.7 gigawatts last year, compared to 16.8 gigawatts during 2010, the new report shows. Italy and Germany accounted for 60 percent of this market with 9.3 and 7.5 gigawatts, respectively.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vivint Solar Now Available to Homeowners in Massachusetts

Over the Last 10 Years, Power Prices in Massachusetts Have Risen an Average of 12 Percent a Year

Vivint Solar(TM), a leading provider of simple, affordable solar solutions, today announced plans to expand services throughout the entire state of Massachusetts after seeing rapid adoption rates in the initial test market area of Boston.

Vivint Solar first began test marketing its simple and affordable solar solutions to residents in the Boston suburbs of Woburn, Lexington, Stoneham and Burlington at the end of February 2012. Since that testing phase began, the company has installed more than 100 solar systems in those areas, and demand for Vivint Solar's services continues to grow, leading the company to initiate immediate availability to residents throughout the state.

"The response we've seen so far in the Boston area has really exceeded our expectations, and we're looking forward to being able to offer Vivint Solar throughout the whole state of Massachusetts," said Tanguy Serra, president of Vivint Solar. "We've found that the residents of Massachusetts are largely green-minded, and we are happy to offer them such robust solar solutions that addresses the desires to both conserve energy and save money."

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Westinghouse Solar Removes CEO After CBD Buyout Deal

U.S. solar power systems maker Westinghouse Solar Inc (WEST.O) said it removed Chief Executive Barry Cinnamon from his position and appointed an interim CEO, after Australia's CBD Energy (CBD.AX) struck a deal to buy the company.

In a regulatory filing, Westinghouse Solar said CFO Margaret Randazzo will replace Cinnamon on an interim basis.

Cinnamon, whose employment was terminated effective May 7, also resigned as a director, the company said, adding that Randazzo continues as chief financial officer.

Renewable energy company CBD Energy in February unveiled its plans to buy Westinghouse Solar in an all-stock deal.

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Salazar Activates First Solar Power Project on U.S. Land

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar activated today a 50-megawatt power plant that was developed by First Solar Inc. (FSLR) (FSLR) and is the the first on U.S. public land.

The Silver State North project in Nevada’s Ivanpah Valley, south of Las Vegas, is owned by Enbridge Inc. (ENB), Canada’s largest oil-pipeline company, and generates enough electricity for about 9,000 homes, according to a statement today.

The U.S. Interior Department has approved 29 wind, solar and geothermal projects on public land since 2009 as part of President Barack Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, Salazar said. With Silver State, the U.S. is on pace to install 10,000 megawatts of non-hydroelectric renewable power capacity by this year, three years earlier than mandated by Congress.

“Today is a landmark for America, a landmark for the solar industry and a landmark for how we use our public lands,” Salazar said in a speech dedicating the project. “We are making believers out of skeptics. A lot of people would have said three years ago that this day would never come.”

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Solar Energy Initiatives Signs Definitive Agreement to Purchase Internet Digital Marketing Company

Solar Energy Initiatives, Inc. SNRY 0.00% , a diversified provider of solar solutions with two principal wholly owned subsidiaries focused on large-scale projects, today announced that the company has signed a definitive agreement to purchase certain assets of a company focused in the digital internet marketing space. The asset purchase is scheduled to close no later than July 15, 2012.

Our plan of acquiring a leading media & data solutions provider which is focused on connecting their clients to a targeted audience across multiple sales, marketing and distribution channels gives the company a strong platform on which to launch our new business strategy into the explosive internet digital marketing space. We plan to leverage all digital media options to drive new customers, increase sales, and increase revenue to build shareholder value. The plan is to provide everything a business needs to successfully promote their business on the internet. Future plans include a merger and acquisition strategy to increase client base and company revenues. Future acquisitions are directed toward businesses involved in internet technology, enabled business processes, data, Internet marketing or e-commerce, and service businesses including web enabled software platforms.

"Solar Energy Initiatives has been working to recapitalize the company and seek out new growth opportunities in order to maximize shareholder value. The decision was made due to the reduction in value of its current solar business.

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Solar Farm Generating Power at Lawrenceville School

Lawrenceville School flipped on the metaphorical switch to its new 6.1 megawatt solar farm during a dedication ceremony held last Friday, May 4.

The solar array, construction of which began in September 2011 and was completed in March, is expected to have a positive impact on the school, both environmentally and economically.

"The solar farm is part of the Green Campus Initiative which involves everything from energy to lawn maintenance to water usage. Then there's a strong economic incentive as well," said Sam Kosoff, the private school’s director of sustainability. "The school will wind up saving $400,000 a year, but if energy prices escalate, it will be more."

The nearly 25,000 solar panels, located on about 30 acres, are expected to generate 90 percent of the energy needs of the school off Route 206.

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Solar Project Opens On Federal Property

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar on Monday cheered on the opening of the first large-scale solar power project on federal property, just three days after his department rolled out new regulations on oil and gas companies doing business on those very same lands.

The Enbridge Silver State North solar project in Clark County, Nevada, one of at least 28 renewable-energy projects approved by the Obama administration for construction on government land, will produce enough electricity to power about 9,000 homes, the Interior Department said. Approved by federal officials two years ago, the plant is also expected to help Nevada move toward its goal of producing 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

“This is a landmark day for solar energy and for the nation,” said Mr. Salazar, speaking at Monday’s “switch-flipping” ceremony.

“Silver State North was the first solar project we approved on public lands and, 18 months later, the first of our priority projects to provide clean energy to the power grid,” he added, calling the project “a model of industry and government working together to strengthen local economies.”

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Asia To Overtake Europe As Global Solar Power Grows - EPIA

The world's solar power generating capacity will grow by between 200 and 400 percent over the next five years, with Asia and other emerging markets overtaking leadership from Europe, a European industry association said on Monday.

"Europe has dominated the global PV (photovoltaic) market for years but the rest of the world clearly has the biggest potential for growth," the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) said in its market outlook until 2016.

The fastest PV capacity growth is expected in China and India, followed by the southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa in the next five years, said the report distributed at a PV conference in northern Italy.

Global installed PV capacity, which turns sunlight into power, is expected to have risen to between 207.9 gigawatts and 342.8 GW in 2016, depending on the level of political support, from 69.7 GW in 2011, the report said.

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SPI Solar to Build 6.4 Megawatts of Solar Developments at Mountain Creek Resort in Vernon, New Jersey

SPI Solar ("SPI") SOPW 0.00% a leading vertically integrated photovoltaic ("PV") solar developer, today announced that it has entered into an engineering, procurement and construction ("EPC") agreement with a subsidiary of KDC Solar ("KDC Solar") to design and build multiple solar energy facilities ("SEF") for KDC Solar at the Mountain Creek Resort and Grand Cascades Golf Resort in Vernon, New Jersey. KDC Solar will own and operate the SEFs. The SEFs being developed at the resorts will include a mixture of fixed ground mount and custom designed solar parking canopies and car ports located at three separate sites at the resort. The three SEFs will provide more than 8,000,000 kW hours of solar electricity generation per year to help power the resort's operations. The project is yet another large-scale solar installation for SPI as a result of its preferred provider agreement with KDC Solar.

"This will be our first installation at a major year-round resort," said Stephen Kircher, CEO for SPI Solar. "We are extremely pleased that it will be Mountain Creek and Crystal Springs and that our finished work will be seen by the thousands of visitors the resorts draw from the tri-state area. We look forward to getting started."

"We are very happy to have the opportunity to provide the Mountain Creek and Crystal Springs Resorts with clean, low cost, long-term solar energy," said Hal Kamine, KDC Solar's CEO. "These installations are an example of the resort's commitment to the environment, and a complement to KDC Solar's commitment to "behind-the-meter" solar electric systems for businesses and jobs in New Jersey."

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Sullivan Solar Power Stands Up in Recent Statewide Net Metering Debate

The solar energy industry has come together to dispute the investor owned utility companies' efforts to destabilize the net metering law. This law, effective in its current form since 1998, has enabled over 100,000 solar power systems to be connected to the grid. Various entities, including schools, businesses, water districts, and homeowners receive fair credit for the electricity their solar power systems provide to the grid through net-metering.

However, the utilities are refuting a Public Utilities Proposed Decision which would require them to comply with the legislature's directives. At issue is the cap, or number of systems that can be installed in California. Currently the law states that ratepayers are permitted to install solar power systems under net-metering until such time that the amount of power installed is equal to 5 percent of the sum of peak demand of each customer in a given utility territory. The utilities argue that the number of systems should be limited to only 5 percent of the utility's peak demand. This slight difference in language would result in a halving of the amount of solar that could be deployed in the State. Should the utilities succeed in rebuking the Public Utilities Commission and State Legislature on this issue, there will be a negative impact on solar employees, companies, and producers.

Dan Sullivan, president of San Diego-based solar company Sullivan Solar Power has recently entered the fray to oppose the utilities' unwillingness to comply with statute. Sullivan has ventured to San Francisco, most recently on May 3rd, to meet with the Public Utilities Commission and express his company's concerns in person. As witnessed in similar cases it is rare for a local solar integrator to engage the Public Utilities Commission on Statewide issues. This is generally left to industry associations. However, Sullivan recognizes his actions as vital to ensure that his customers and employees will continue to benefit from the opportunities that solar energy has to offer.

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19 Solar, Wind And Biofuel Stocks To Watch

Yes, there are lots of deals in alternative-energy technology stocks. Your research just has to dig deeper.
Nellis Power Plant - Nellis Air Force Base. Nevada

That’s what I discovered when I was publishing my financial newsletter years ago. So when I saw Wired magazine’s new feature, “The Clean Tech Meltdown,” I knew there had to be stocks that probably weren’t melting down, were overlooked, appealed to contrarians or were long-term investments.

We began our research with Rachel Swaby’s sidebar, “Power Struggles” on Wired, focusing on eight areas in the alternative energy sector. We were able to isolate leads to 19 specific investment opportunities:

Solar power stocks: ‘One hour sunlight can power the world for a year’

The good news: There’s enough sunlight hitting “Earth in one hour to power the world for a year,” reports Wired. But the “prices for conventional solar cells have fallen 40% in the past year, due largely to a flood of panels from Chinese manufacturers, which have benefited from plunging silicon prices and government support.”

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UPDATE 2-Italy's Solar Growth Seen Slowing Sharply In 2012

Growth of solar power capacity in Italy, the world's second-biggest market, is expected to slow to 1,500-2,500 megawatts in 2012 after a 9,300 MW leap in 2011, due to a planned cut in incentives, a senior industry official said.

"It could be between 1,500 and 2,500 megawatts," Gerardo Montanino, director of operating division at GSE, Italy's green energy incentives management agency, said on the sidelines of a photovoltaic conference in northern Italy on Tuesday.

"It is very difficult to make more precise forecasts when the rules for the sector are changing," Montanino said.

The Italian government has announced a plan to scale back production incentives to the photovoltaic and other renewable energy this year to ease the burden on consumers, who pay for the industry support with their power bills.

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Solar Park Set To Warm Region

The first visitors to New England’s largest privately owned solar energy park nearly missed it. Nestled on a plateau more than half a mile from the road, the state-of-the-art array is hidden from view, surrounded by woods at the edge of the old Fletcher Quarry.

Restless after a long bus ride from Cambridge, the fifth-grade students from Shady Hill School were eager to see firsthand how the sun’s energy was being harnessed. But the meeting proved elusive. There was no sign marking the site of the Westford Solar Park. The only clue they were in the vicinity of something big were the small signs posted along the meandering dirt driveway that warned: “Video surveillance in use on these premises.”

After a quick call to confirm they were in the right place, the bus made its way to a chain-link fence that wraps around a steep embankment covered with rocks. The bus passed the security check point and toiled slowly up the hill as 35 pairs of eyes, suddenly alert, strained to see. At the crest of the knoll, the curious visitors got their first glimpse.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

As Incentives Dim, Solar Companies Shift Focus

The landscape for solar power is changing, and the leaders of two Knoxville solar companies are altering their focus to adapt to the shift.
Adrian Sainz/Associated Press Daniel Poneman, the deputy
secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy, center, is given a
tour of the West Tennessee Solar Farm by two project managers
in Stanton, Tenn., in April. The state's solar industry sees few
new large-scale solar projects being built because of changes
in TVA incentives

Ignited by federal stimulus dollars, the industry has enjoyed three years of federal and state incentives that have, for the most part, dimmed. And last year, TVA scaled back its incentives, limiting the most generous payments to systems producing less than 50 kilowatts of power. That's left many in the industry to predict few, if any, large commercial installations will be built in the near future.

David Bolt, founder of Knoxville firm Sustainable Future, says last year about 80 percent of his business was composed of installations for commercial clients. Since TVA announced the changes, he's hired a dedicated sales person to market solar power systems to homeowners.

Bolt founded the company in 2005, after he converted his own home to net-zero energy — meaning he produces more power than he consumes — and before the economic crash and resulting stimulus spending. In April, he was honored by the White House as a Champion for Change for "demonstrating that corporate environmental leadership makes sense, both for business and for American communities."

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Warning Over Solar Hot Water Systems

AS MANY as 400 households in NSW could be using a solar hot water system that heats water so intensely that people could be seriously scalded and produces discoloured drinking water that may cause skin irritations.

NSW Fair Trading was tipped off to the problems with the Chinese-made water systems, sold by a company trading as Solar & Bamboo and Solar Installations, by a concerned plumber who was employed by the company.

The plumber pressed his employer for more information about the tanks and whether they met Australian standards, but when he was simply told he would be protected from any liability, he quit his job immediately.
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The director and general manager of Solar and Bamboo, Jan Pieter McHeyzer, was convicted last month in Coffs Harbour local court for selling the hot water storage tanks and making false and misleading claims. Mr McHeyzer was fined more than $15,000 as well as being hit with an $11,000 infringement penalty from Fair Trading.

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Official To Flip Switch On Solar Plant Near Vegas


Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is due to flip the switch on a new solar electricity project on federal public land in the Las Vegas area near the Nevada-California state line.

The Monday ceremony at the Enbridge Silver State North Solar Project in the Ivanpah (EYE-van-pah) Valley is due to mark the start of a 50-megawatt solar project that officials say will generate enough electricity to power about 9,000 homes.

Canada-based Enbridge bought the project near Primm in March from builder First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Ariz.

Nevada utility company NV Energy Inc. has committed to buying the power from the photovoltaic project for the next 25 years.

Officials say the project is one of 16 authorized by the federal Interior Department for public lands since 2009.

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Solar To Drive European Green Energy M&A In Q2-Pwc

Europe's solar power market is expected to drive a rebound in activity in the region's renewable energy mergers and acquisitions (M&A) sector in the second quarter, consultancy PwC said in a report on Monday.

A steep drop in module prices is expected to accelerate demand, making the sector an attractive long-term investment opportunity set to revive power market M&A after a weak start to the year, PwC said.

Foreign buyers have already started snatching up distressed European solar manufacturers, such as Germany's Solon and Swiss Oerlikon.

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Advanced Energy and Bergen Group of Companies Partner to Deliver Reliable, Scalable Solar Systems to the Fast-Growing Indian PV Market

Advanced Energy Industries, Inc. AEIS +0.22% , today announced a sales and service partnership with Bergen Group that will help both companies better service the high-growth Indian photovoltaic (PV) market. The first project under this partnership is a 1 megawatt (MW) ground-mount array, which has already been commissioned in Kalanaur, in the state of Haryana, India.

"We are excited to be working with AE Solar Energy and look forward to bringing the company's high quality and reliable utility-scale inverters as well as service and support offerings to the rapidly expanding Indian solar PV market," said Rajinder Kumar, managing director and chairman, Bergen Group. "We see great opportunity in the Indian PV market and are pleased to be partnered with Advanced Energy, a leader in utility-scale inverter manufacturing. We are fully prepared to take up the responsibility to provide a strong after sales support for installation, commissioning, warranty, and annual maintenance contracts."

The Indian PV market has significant potential due to its growing demand for energy, driven by its rapidly expanding economy, and supported by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission and its goal of 20GW of installed solar power by 2020. This growing demand for renewable, clean sources of energy strongly aligns with AE Solar Energy's expertise in lowering the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for project owners and off-takers. Together with Bergen, AE Solar Energy will deliver inverter and energy service solutions that provide utilities with confidence that their PV projects will deliver on long-term production goals.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

KYOCERA Launches Latest Solar Energy Solution: Kyocera Solar Finance

As a world-leading supplier of solar energy solutions, Kyocera Solar, Inc. today announced the launch of its latest solution: Kyocera Solar Finance, a program designed to provide loan and lease options to consumers seeking light commercial and mid-to-large commercial installations. In partnership with De Lage Landen Financial Services, Inc. (DLL), Kyocera Solar Finance will offer up to 100 percent financing for qualified borrowers. Interested applicants should contact solarfinance@kyocera.com.

Drawing on 37 years of experience in solar panel manufacturing, Kyocera designed a financing program that delivers to qualified consumers the company's industry-leading solar panels and up to 100 percent financing of the total project cost, including inverters, racking, wiring, installation and other costs associated with the system installation. This all-inclusive approach creates a streamlined process for customers ready to make the conversion to solar energy for the environmental and economic advantages it provides.

Based on familiar lease, rental and purchase agreements, Kyocera Solar Finance offers two viable financing solutions: loans and tax leases, both with distinct advantages. For projects $10,000,000 and lower, the loan option enables the end user to own the system outright, retain tax benefits and any qualifying local subsidies. Still relatively unique as a solar system financing model, a loan is an attractive option for buyers seeking to benefit from long term ownership of a 30 plus year energy system while not paying cash for the system up front.

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Solar Panels A Long-Term Bet

YOU may think that solar panels are a big expense and so not for you, but if you're planning to stay in your home for a long time, installing them can make sense financially, as well as being beneficial to the environment.

There are two types of solar panel - ones that generate electricity (solar photovoltaics or PV), which are most popular, and ones that heat your home's water (solar thermal). With both, you'll cut your utility bills and CO2 emissions, but the benefits don't end there.

Solar PV panels can also earn you money, thanks to the Government's Feed-In Tariffs scheme, which pays you for the electricity you generate and use and also for any surplus you supply to the National Grid.

This could give you savings and income of around pounds 670 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Its website ( www.energysavingtrust.org.uk ) features a Solar Energy Calculator, where you can work out how you could benefit from the scheme.

An average 3kWp (kilowatts peak) PV system, which will produce enough electricity for around 75% of a typical household's needs, costs in the region of pounds 10,000.

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Industrial Spotlight: Dow Corning Ceo Helps Found Global Solar Council Coalition

Dow Corning CEO Bob Hansen is among the founding members of a new CEO-level industry coalition called the Global Solar Council that will work to expand the global deployment of solar energy in a sustainable and cost-competitive way.


The council said it will advocate for a supportive policy and trade environment, "which will enable the ongoing development of competitively priced solar energy, driving job creation and economic growth."

"Solar energy has already proven itself a viable contribution to energy sources in many markets, particularly in the EU and the U.S., and the industry continues to improve the cost-effectiveness of this technology," Hansen said in a press release from the council.

"The Global Solar Council will enable us to continue the expansion of cost-effective solar power in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders."

The council said it believes that governments should continue to reduce trade barriers through favorable policy regimes, energy market access, reducing import duties on manufacturing inputs, providing pre-competitive research and development support and other measures that will allow firms to lower their costs and compete at lower prices.

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'green' Energy: New Solar Panels At River Hill Pool will Save CA Money

Here comes the sun — and the sustainable solar energy and savings that come with it. That line of thinking has brought 24 solar panels on 12 posts standing on Columbia Association land in River Hill, an array that can be seen from Route 32.
Twenty four solar panels on 12 posts stand on
Columbia Association land in River Hill.

The array, dedicated at a ceremony Saturday morning, is powering both the nearby CA pool in River Hill and the village's "Meeting Room" building, which is used for the pool during the summer months and as a nursery school for the remainder of the year.

"We have a facility here that one way or another is operating year-round, so we can see an annualized benefit," Chick Rhodehamel, CA's director of community development and sustainability, said Saturday

The solar panels' location, off Trotter Road near Great Star Drive, is also highly visible, highlighting CA's efforts, officials said.

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Solar Canopy Gives Green Edge to New England Patriots

The National Football League has been falling all over itself in a fierce competition to see which team can lay claim to the most sustainability cred, and it seems like this week’s winner is the New England Patriots. Not only is the team’s Gillette Stadium an early adopter of sustainability initiatives, but the adjacent Patriot Place retail destination is getting a solar makeover, too.

A solar shade canopy for Patriot Place
Patriot Place is touting a “futuristic” new solar canopy as the showpiece of the new installation. The canopy doubles as shade and weather protection for outdoor walkways, which anchors the whole complex to the concept of sustainable energy.

That just goes to show how much value today’s retail sector is putting on high-visibility alternative energy installations. Despite the best efforts of organizations like the Heartland Institute to frame climate awareness as the belief system of the criminally insane, savvy investors have found that mass market America finds the whole idea of clean, reliable, low risk energy to be rather appealing.

Getting more sustainable bang for the buck

Investors are also tuning in to the fact that sustainable energy can provide a way to squeeze extra dollars from a property without disrupting existing operations – something not possible with fossil fuel harvesting. That’s why you see solar installations popping up all over the NFL (another good example is the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field) as well as other pro sports venues including baseball, hockey and the NASCAR circuit.

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Rooftop Solar Panels for MKU Buildings On Anvil

Solar mission is being aggressively pursued in Madurai Kamaraj University and plans are afoot to set up roof top solar panels in at least 10 buildings on the campus.

Solar Power Plant at Madurai Kamaraj University in Madurai

The ‘go solar' drive has been taken up following a keen interest shown by the Vice-Chancellor, Kalyani Mathivanan, who has asked the School of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources to prepare proposals for the solar energy project.

“Our university is now focusing on ‘go green' campaign. As a part of that initiative, the Vice-Chancellor had a meeting with us in which she asked us to prepare proposals to be forwarded to the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy,” A. Sundaram, Head and Chairperson, School of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, told The Hindu on Saturday.

He said that the university would be ready with proposals in the next 10 days for submission to the Ministry to get Government subsidy.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Ut Analysis Sees Solar Job Boom By 2020, With Fewer Federal Incentives

Solar power is on track to become a major source of energy for the United States, and will likely need fewer federal incentives than other energy sources to get there, according to a new study by the University of Tennessee's Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
Cars line up along Walnut Grove as traffic slowed down
during the official ceremony recently to dedicate the
Shelby Farms solar array at Shelby Farms.

The 128-page report -- "Assessment of Incentives and Employment Impacts of Solar Industry Deployment" -- touts the potential of solar power to reduce energy costs, produce hundreds of thousands of jobs and create a favorable trade balance for the country as American companies export products and materials for international clean energy markets.

The study, released last week, was commissioned by the Solar Energy Industry Association.

"This report looks at solar in relation to other energy sources and finds that solar is on the path to becoming a mainstream source of energy for our nation," Matt Murray, director of the Baker Center, said in a statement.

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Main St, Wall St. Join in Residential Solar Lease Program

Main Street Power, Clean Power Finance and a subsidiary of New York investment bank Morgan Stanley are partnering to finance as much as $300 million worth of residential solar power leases in Arizona and California. A syndicate of banks– Zions Bancorporation partner Zions Energy Link being the first– are providing debt financing for for MySolar, the solar lease facility.

Leasing, as opposed to outright purchase, of a solar power system can drastically reduce the upfront cost of having a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy system installed. There have been solar lease programs out there offering to do so for zero down and a series of monthly payments. As many as 1/3 of US homeowners can save money by financing a residential solar power system via a lease or Power Purchase Agreement structure, according to the partners.

Main St. Meets Wall St.

Through the MySolar program, monthly savings from the clean, renewable electricity the rooftop solar power systems produce will flow through to the homeowner. Boulder, Colorado’s Main St. Power will own the rooftop systems, selling the surplus power they produce on to grid providers.

“The MySolar program will be the largest residential solar investment facility in the nation and can help save consumers millions of dollars in electricity payments, create thousands of solar jobs and further the easy adoption of solar for thousands of homeowners around the country,” said Jonathan W. Postal, Main Street Power senior vice president.

Clean Power Finance finds and qualifies homeowners for the residential leases through a network of some 1,550 local solar energy professionals who make use of its online CPF Tools solar sales software platform, taking a cut of the lease payments. MySolar is the third solar lease program the San Francisco provider has launched. It now has some $500 million in project financing available for residential solar leases.

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2 Solar Companies Headed in Different Directions

Earnings season is upon us and two of the solar industry's largest players have weighed in on how the year has begun. First Solar (NAS: FSLR) and SunPower (NAS: SPWR) seem like they're operating in different worlds. I'll compare the two in a second but let's get to the numbers first.

First Solar struggles
Revenue for the first quarter was $497.1 million at First Solar, down 12% from last year and 25% sequentially. Net loss ballooned to a whopping $449.4 million, or $5.20 per share, on $401.1 million in restructuring charges.

Revenue fluctuates because of the company's power plant sales, but there are two red flags I would like to highlight. Capacity is expected to drop from 2.4 GW in 2011 to below 1.7 GW in 2012. This is due to the previously announced closure of a plant in Germany, but it gives less opportunity for revenue in the future. More importantly, gross margin declined to 15.4%, a third of what it was a year ago. I'll highlight why this is important below.

SunPower steadies
On the other end of the spectrum is SunPower, which can't match First Solar's cost per watt but crushes First Solar in efficiency. The company had revenue of $580.1 million in the quarter and a GAAP loss of $74.5 million, or $0.67 per share. Non-GAAP loss was $13.5 million, or $0.12 per share. Revenue was up from last year and down sequentially, but like First Solar, comparisons in revenue mean very little.

What is important for SunPower is that margins have stabilized and appear to be rising ever so slightly. In the first quarter, non-GAAP gross margins edged up to 12.7% from 11.3% in the previous quarter. GAAP gross margin rose from 6.8% to 9.2%. Management expects further improvement in the second quarter to a GAAP gross margin of 11% to 13%.

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First Solar Ups Forecast After Miss

First Solar posted a surprise quarterly loss on Thursday, but raised its full-year profit outlook as it drives down production costs for its solar panels, while peer SunPower slightly beat Wall Street forecasts.

Solar makers have seen profit margins evaporate over the last year as prices for the modules that turn sunlight into electricity have fallen sharply amid a global supply glut and declining government subsidies in Europe, the biggest market.

First Solar [FSLR 14.33 0.11 (+0.77%) ], the industry's lowest-cost solar panel maker, also said it named James Hughes as its new chief executive to replace Rob Gillette, who was ousted by the company in October last year.

Hughes joined First Solar in March as chief commercial officer and will take over from Chairman Mike Ahearn, who had been serving as the interim CEO.


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First Solar Names Hughes As New CEO

Tempe-based First Solar Inc. announced a new CEO Thursday as it released earnings that showed the company lost $449 million in the first three months of the year.
James Hughes

The company has been struggling with an oversupply of solar panels on the global market and falling subsidies in its main sales targets of Germany and Spain. The oversupply has pushed prices for solar panels down, cutting into the advantage First Solar had over competitors.

With factories around the world producing more panels than can be sold, the company has cut production and indefinitely delayed the opening of a massive factory in Mesa. It recently announced it would lay off 2,000 workers, 30 percent of its employees, though few of the cuts were in Arizona.

Against that backdrop, First Solar said that James Hughes, who joined First Solar in March as chief commercial officer, will take over as CEO.

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Solar-Powered Catamaran Goes Around The World In 584 Days

In the spring of 2004 Raphael Domjan, a Swiss electrical engineer, conceived of a borderline insane idea -- to travel around the world aboard a ship powered entirely by solar energy.
The solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar crosses the finish
line of its trip around the world at the Hercule Harbor in Monaco.

It would be an adventure and a statement. If he could do it, he would prove to the world that there are other alternatives to powering sea travel besides fossil fuels and wind. It would also demonstrate just what solar power is capable of.

In 2008 he formed a partnership with German entrepreneur Immo Stroeher, who helped provide the funds to make this idea possible.

And now, eight years later, Domjan's dream is a reality: On Friday, the solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar catamaran pulled into port in Monaco after completing a 37,294-mile journey around the world.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Solar Restructuring Leads To Loss Of $449M

A shakeout that is rattling the solar panel industry has sent First Solar, once among the industry's biggest and strongest companies, to a wide quarterly loss.

First Solar Inc. said Thursday that it lost $449 million in the first quarter, mostly due to a restructuring announced last month that will eliminate 30 percent of the company's workforce and close a newly-expanded plant in Germany.

The company also announced that its Chief Commercial Officer, James Hughes, would become CEO, replacing interim chief and company founder Mike Ahearn.

First Solar said the loss amounted to $5.20 per share. Revenue fell to $497 million. Excluding restructuring costs, the loss was 8 cents per share. Analysts had expected the company to earn 58 cents per share on an adjusted basis on revenue of $691 million.

In the year-earlier quarter, the company earned $115 million, or $1.33 per share, on revenue of $567 million.

First Solar, along with other makers of solar panels, is struggling to adjust to a dramatic plunge in panel prices. A boom in construction of solar panel factories, especially in Asia, coincided with lower demand in Europe, the world's biggest solar panel market. This created a glut of panels and sent prices tumbling. European demand fell because cash-strapped governments there reduced renewable energy subsidies.

First Solar is wrestling with a unique problem, though, too. An enormous cost advantage over its competition has eroded. As a result, the company's stock has fallen to about $18 per share, from $140 a year ago.

First Solar became the biggest solar company in the world, both by market valuation and panel sales, selling solar panels made with a thin film that were far cheaper to produce than those made from crystalline silicon. Though a thin-film panel is less efficient in turning the sun's rays into electricity than a crystalline silicon panel, a solar farm with thousands of First Solar's thin-films could produce the same of amount electricity at a lower total cost.

Now, the cost of the raw material for crystalline silicon panels has plummeted, making it easier for these more efficient panels to compete with First Solar's thin film on price.

"A year ago the question was when the inevitable recovery in thin film would occur. Now it's whether thin film solar is viable as a business, at all," wrote Joe Osha, global coordinator for solar power for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in a recent research note.

To cut costs, First Solar is closing a factory in Germany, idling part of its factory in Malaysia and eliminating 2,000 jobs, or 30 percent of the company's workforce. On Thursday, Solar said the cost-cutting will allow it to earn $4 to $4.50 per share, on an adjusted basis, for the year. That's up from its previous estimate of $3.75 to $4.25 per share.

First Solar anticipated that solar panel prices would decline, so the company aggressively expanded its project development operations in hopes that lower panel prices would fuel a boom in solar installations. First Solar is now building some of the biggest solar panel farms in the world, in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Construction of these projects is expected to buoy the company's results for the rest of this year and much of next year. Aaron Chew, an analyst at Maxim Group, notes that those projects have locked in relatively high power rates because they were designed before panel prices had fallen so far. Chew and other analysts worry that future projects won't be nearly as profitable -- and whether First Solar will be able to compete for those big projects now that competing panels are as cheap, or cheaper.

First Solar has been searching for a permanent CEO since October, when Ahearn took over on an interim basis, replacing for Rob Gillette. Ahearn had served as CEO from 2000 to 2009. He will remain chairman.

Hughes, who last led the electric power and natural gas distribution company AEI Services Inc., joined First Solar in March.

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Solar Is Way To Go, Biden Tells Crowd At Lafayette

Vice President Joseph Biden is known as the White House's eternal optimist, but his speech at Lafayette College Wednesday included an undercurrent of warning.
Vice President Joe Biden at Lafayette College.

“The rest of the world has awakened,” Biden said during a speech in Lafayette's Kirby Sports Center as part of the college's Lives of Liberty series. Other countries, especially Brazil, Russia, India and China, are investing large amounts of their gross domestic product in research, innovation and education.

Whatever country develops solar power that is as cheap as or cheaper than coal will become the leader in innovation in the 21st century, according to Biden.
“We will either lead in the 21st century or we will follow,” Biden said. “There is no standing still.”

One of Biden's biggest concerns is the college graduation rate in the United States. Where for many years the United States had the largest percentage of college graduates in the world, the United States has now fallen to sixteenth in percent of college graduates, Biden said.

At a recent conference of national security experts, Biden said, he was asked what the single most important thing we can do to maintain security.
“The answer is simple,” Biden said. “Be the best educated nation in the world.”

College graduation rates aren't the only thing suffering, Biden said. He said the United States cannot meet its expectations “without nurturing early education.”

But his optimism for America did spill out, in the way he began sentences with “Imagine a world …”

“We're the most innovative nation in the world,” Biden said. “We're in a better position than any nation in the world to be the dominant economy of the 21st century, and that's not based on American chauvinism. It's based on knowing the history of this country. We have the most receptive environment for innovation and the most dedicated workers in the world.”
Yet statements of this sort were always tempered by a warning, that there is no guarantee of America's future unless Americans persevere, that the United States will have to be “smart and tough, not just tough.”

In the ideal of America promoted by Biden and the President Barack Obama White House, our weaknesses don't matter so much as long as we have faith in our strengths.

While much of the innovation of the United States comes from private investors, people such as Steve Jobs or Henry Ford or a dozen other famed company builders, the public sector has always played a role in nursing that innovation, Biden said. He described the efforts of President Abraham Lincoln to build a railroad across the nation, or how President John Kennedy's race to put a man on the moon helped lower the price of the semiconductor, and, thus, lead to the creation of the personal computer.

In both those examples, and in the example of President Dwight Eisenhower's push for a national highway system, opponents of the ideas worried that government support would not be enough to drive private investment.

But the naysayers have always been wrong, Biden said, and a bet against America is always a risky bet.

Biden never mentioned the November election specifically, and even went as far as noting that America with or without Obama is still America. But he implied Obama has a similar plan for transportation, job growth, infrastructure and advances in medical technology, one that is just as epic in scope as any of those proposed by the Eisenhower, Kennedy or Lincoln administrations.

The Obama administration wants to see 80 percent of energy generated from clean sources, an effective treatment for Alzheimer's, and an America where 80 percent of people have access to high-speed rail, all by 2035, Biden said.

“There are certain externalities that prevent any one business or enterprise from being able to do this on their own,” Biden said. “And that's where we come in.”

Biden has a deep regional connection to northeastern Pennsylvania. He was born in Scranton, but the connection goes even deeper, back to 1875, when his great-grandfather enrolled in Lafayette. Two of his great uncles also attended Lafayette.

After Biden's speech, college President Daniel Weiss presented Biden with a map of the school as it appeared in 1875. The framed map included a picture of Biden's great-grandfather, Edward Francis Blewitt.

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The State of Commercial Solar Power in Australia

Commercial-scale and utility-scale solar power are viewed as the next frontier for the solar industry in Australia. The incentives that drove the wild boom in residential solar power — state-run feed-in tariffs coupled with federal up-front discounts in the form of renewable energy certificate — have mostly died down, and at present, the home solar market has reached a fragile sort of equilibrium. As has been widely noted, the cost of solar PV has plummeted in the past several years. This is a game-changing fact for solar power and for the future of electricity generation.

There are a number of large-scale projects in the pipeline, including the Solar Flagships projects — the proposed but beleaguered Moree Solar Farm and the Solar Dawn consortium’s CSP plant in Chinchilla, Queensland. Both of these are now on shaky ground, due to the withdrawal of a key partner and failure to secure a PPA in the case of the former, as well as a change of government from Labour to Liberal in Queensland that promises to see a withdrawal of funding in the case of the latter.

But there are a number of other large-scale projects and incentives going forward. For example, there are high hopes for the ACT’s large-scale feed-in tariff — which received a whopping 49 submissions in its opening round — to show the rest of the nation how it’s done. The winners are expected to be selected within the year. Meanwhile, Western Australia’s 10MW Greenough River Solar Farm carries on, and a renewable energy think-tank has even recently pitched a well-argued proposal for replacing 2 ageing coal-fired power plants in Port Augusta, South Australia with concentrating solar power.

In addition to these high-profile projects, there are also numerous other medium (~100kW) to large-scale project in the works or already operational throughout the country, including the Nullagine and Marble Bar solar plants in remote Western Australia, and the University of Queensland solar array — currently Australia’s largest rooftop array. Solar PV and solar thermal combined, however, still made up less than 2.5% of Australia’s electricity generation in 2011, according to the Clean Energy Council’s Clean Energy Australia 2011 (pdf) report. 90.36% of all generation came from fossil fuels — mostly coal.

If we wanted to use a metaphor, one could liken Australia’s utility-scale solar power industry to chicks in an incubator who are just beginning to break out of their eggs. To take this awkward metaphor further, more eggs could potentially be on the way, but only if the first few reach a stage of development advanced enough to move out of the incubator to make room for them, and to give their rearers some confidence in their own ability to bring birds into the world. If this happens, Australia could start to see its large-scale solar industry reach its full potential, and, well, take flight to become a large chunk of the country’s generation portfolio.

Australian Politicians Refuse to Acknowledge the Potential of Commercial Solar Power (and Solar PV in General)

This sort of success will be predicated on a number of factors, and many feel that what is really needed right now is a number of projects that demonstrate the technical and financial viability of these projects for Australia. Coal-fired generation technology is well-understood and widely deployed here, and is therefore associated with a low level of risk; from an investor’s point of view, it is a known quantity and therefore seen as bankable technology (at least for now).

This is not yet the case for utility-scale or commercial solar power in Australia, especially after all the turbulence surrounding incentive schemes for the industry. To make matters worse, many Australian politicians still have their heads in the sand with regard to renewable energy, despite ample evidence that renewable technologies can deliver. Shining example and case-in-point is Germany, whose renewable capacity is not only reliably producing a good chunk of the country’s overall generation, but is even starting to show signs of its growing ability to drive down electricity prices, thanks to the merit order effect. It goes without saying that expansive, sunny Australia’s solar power potential easily dwarfs that of smaller, colder Germany. So what’s going on?

Once some larger products are on the ground and proving themselves, more will likely be quick to follow suit, especially with the price of solar technology dropping steadily. As Australian solar industry analyst and veteran Nigel Morris of Solar Business Services wrote recently about solar PV: “Those on the inside of the PV industry can smell economic parity; we can see it and taste it in many parts of the world, including Australia’s retail market and we know how fast it is going to accelerate. It won’t come without bumps and wobbles and it isn’t a silver bullet. But it is grossly underestimated and with their own confirmation bias I suspect the deniers are failing to open up to what’s really going on around them.”

Morris says that the 3 ‘golden rules’ required for large-scale solar project developers to get projects on the ground are: 1) knowing the market, 2) getting engineering and business advice, and 3) understanding finance. Making specific reference to Solar Choice’s Operational Lease package for financing big projects, he notes that this last point is integral for ‘staying in the game’.

Do what they may, however, commercial solar power project developers, at least for the time being (or until 2020), will need some kind of government support to reach the price-points that will make their projects economically worthwhile. Germany and Spain, as the world’s loss-leaders for solar, have already done much of the heavy lifting in helping to drive the price of solar technologies down to their current historically low levels. The rest of the world can now stand on their shoulders.

Having commented and advised extensively on the state of the utility/commercial solar industry here, Morris recently wrote an eloquently worded open letter to some high-profile government leaders on the topic (copied in below).

Dear respected leaders,

I would like to bring your urgent attention to the report by McKinsey & Company titled “Solar Power, Darkest before Dawn”. McKinsey are one of the most respected consultancies in the world and are noted for their conservatism. The findings in this report highlight the astounding growth of PV and the crucial role it will play in the world’s energy mix in the near term. They echo the upgraded forecast for solar PV issued recently by the IEA, arguably an even more conservative organisation and those of many others including my own company SolarBusinessServices.

It highlights the fact that solar PV is economic NOW in selected markets and is tantalisingly close to being economic without subsidies in many more.

Quoting the headline statement – “Those who believe the potential of the solar industry has dimmed may be surprised. Companies that take the right steps now can position themselves for a bright future in the coming years”.

If only our elected leaders could take this advice and provide meaningful support.

With minor exceptions, Australian Government policy for solar PV, at all levels, remains meek, dis-jointed and inconsistent.

We see State leaders continuing to use solar PV as a completely unjustified scape goat for rising electricity prices.

We see an enormous focus on protecting the viability of coal-fired generation and the potential of CCS from Federal leaders.

We see lacklustre and un-coordinated policy foresight from opposition, that belies the magnitude of the industry.

And we have an Energy White Paper, the business plan for our energy future that is so wrong with respect to solar PV it virtually ignores it.

I do not deny that we need an energy mix, nor is solar PV a silver bullet. However, I remain perplexed and astonished at the lack of will, fortitude and vision when it comes to the most obvious resource that Australia has.

What is it going to take for our leaders to wake up and embrace this unique opportunity ?

I hope that this report might help convince you that solar PV, even by the most conservative estimates, has a staggering and completely underestimated potential in Australia and I look forward to seeing co-ordinated policy that supports rather than hampers solar PV .

Kind regards,

Nigel Morris

Director

SolarBusinessServices

The Australian solar industry has its fingers crossed that leaders will heed Morris’ words.

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China, Inc. Locked In on World Solar, Wind Manufacturing Domination

The collapse of the USSR and the “liberalization” of formerly closed, socialist economies opened up the path to globalization, which, proponents wanted us to believe, would transcend longstanding political and economic differences and pave the way to a global, free market economy based on fair trade. Well, it hasn’t exactly turned out that way.

It’s abundantly clear, though much less often or openly discussed, just how wide the gap is and differences are between countries with economies based largely on free, open market principles and driven by private sector businesses and capital allocation and those where centralized government planning determines how much and where investment capital will be allocated and how much of what should be produced. Nowhere is this more publicly in evidence than in the recent trade disputes between the US and China regarding the manufacturing and export of silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, panels and wind turbine towers from China to the US.

A Subsidy is a Subsidy is a Subsidy…Not

Now, the US government has been subsidizing the US solar and wind power markets and industries, and these incentives have been a critical driver of rapid growth in terms of “green” job creation as well as economic activity in both emerging renewable energy sectors. Not only are US subsidies dwarfed by those of China, they are fundamentally different in nature and in their results, however.

US state renewable energy/power standards (RPS) and state feed-in tariffs that require a certain amount of electricity be generated from renewable energy resources have been key to rapidly growing clean energy development in the US. So have federal investment and production tax credits and accelerated depreciation schedules.

These subsidies and accounting supports differ in crucial ways from those in China in that they stimulate adoption of and demand for clean, renewable energy– a long-term, socially, environmentally and economically beneficial outcome for US society as a whole– no matter where they originate. They do not favor solar, wind or other renewable energy technology, products, raw or intermediate materials or services from any one producer, manufacturer or country.

China’s subsidies, in contrast, do just that. Controlled and managed by the central government and carried out by state-controlled banks and “private-sector” enterprises, China’s economic, industrial development strategy is founded on a state controlled, 21st century form of mercantilism in which exports continue to play an extremely outsized role. That’s worked very well for the Chinese for twenty-odd years running now, but the system is now fraying and threatening to come apart at the seams as it’s lead to financial and economic imbalances in China and around the world.

Could you imagine the DOE setting mandatory targets for private sector industry to produce X amount of solar cells, panels, wind turbines and towers at Y cost with Z efficiency over the next five years? And directing banks and lenders, as well as materials producers and manufacturers to fall in line do all they can to make that happen? That’s exactly how China’s economy works. And that’s what US businesses and those in other Chinese trading partner countries have to compete against.

The Economic Irony of Chinese Solar PV Domination

It’s become widely understood and appreciated that a huge, worldwide glut of solar PV cells and panels has accumulated, driven primarily by increased production and export targets set by the Chinese government and carried out by Chinese manufacturers.

Of course, Chinese industry participants are willing to take on foreign partners and the government welcome foreign direct investment, so long as you build the plants and create the jobs in China. Seeing how the deck is stacked and the government subsidies on offer, US, German and solar PV industry players have been very willing to comply.

Want a better idea of just how much of a glut and industry overcapacity exists in the solar PV industry? China’s solar PV capacity alone is 32x greater than its own domestic demand. Guess what? That means pretty much all that capacity, if utilized, is heading to markets overseas.

To date, more than 90% of Chinese solar PV products have been exported. That’s in-line with China’s strategic “Going Abroad” program, another central plank in its broader economic plans. The result: the ongoing decimation of silicon solar PV manufacturing in countries outside China. That in no way can be construed as a recipe for a healthy, sustainable and competitive globalized industry or market.

While China’s massive manufacturing and export subsidies have led to an extraordinary drop in the price of silicon solar PV cells and panels that has fueled growth in installations, it’s also resulted in economic carnage among solar industry participants worldwide. They are now cutting a widening, deepening swathe that’s stretching across the entire solar PV industry supply chain, including producers of polysilicon and thin-film, as well as crystalline silicon, solar PV manufacturers.

Ironically, it’s been the demand side-oriented subsidies and incentives enacted by governments outside China– Germany, Spain, Italy and even the US, thanks mainly to state subsidy programs– that led solar PV and renewable energy industry participants to ramp up investments in plants, capacity and production. That rug is now being pulled out from under them, as subsidies are being scaled back and even eliminated.

Solar PV and US-China Trade Disuptes

The solar PV and wind tower manufacturing cases brought by US manufacturers against their Chinese competitors and the Chinese government are by no means the only examples. There has been a steady stream of such cases in recent decades. It’s just that solar, wind and renewable energy markets and industries are justifiably seen as a critical enablers of more sustainable, socially and environmentally economic and jobs growth for decades to come.

They’re also targets for politically well entrenched oil, gas and fossil fuel industry interests in Washington, D.C. and across the US. As a result, the anti-dumping and illegal subsidy cases related to them now under determination by the Commerce Dept. and International Trade Commission have taken on a much higher public profile.

Anyone interested need look no further than China’s latest Five-Year national economic plan to gain insight into the fundamental differences between the US and Chinese economic systems, and how different their respective subsidy programs are. Yet, US manufacturers and exporters are supposedly competing on something approaching a level playing field governed by mutually agreed upon WTO rules.

It’s clear from China’s 12th Five-Year Plan for the Solar Photovoltaic Industry that despite being a direct cause of bankruptcies and massive losses in its own solar energy industry, as well as those in the US, Europe and other countries, the Chinese government not only remains firmly committed to dominating the global market for solar PV cells and panels, it’s redoubling its efforts.

Solar PV and China’s 12th Five-Year Plan


The lead litigators for the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing’s (CASM) silicon solar PV illegal subsidy and dumping petitions, Washington, D.C. law firm Wiley, Rein LLP yesterday publicly released their analysis of the solar PV aspects of the 12th Five-Year Plan.

“The plan to fuel China’s export-intensive solar-industry campaign calls for a number of government initiatives, including new policy, financial and price subsidies; more support in industry, financial and tax policy; and further aid with development and production of equipment used to produce polysilicon, silicon ingots, wafers, cells and panels within the crystalline-silicon solar industry,” according to Wiley, Rein’s analysis.

Watch out thin-film and polysilicon solar industry players, having decimated competition in silicon solar PV manufacturing, China’s now set its sights on you. “Moreover, the portfolio includes plans to support industrialization of China’s as-yet-undeveloped thin-film industry, specifically harnessing silicon and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar technologies.”

“These plans significantly increase the government’s control over the development of the solar industry, permitting the government to manage virtually every aspect of the industry,” the analysis says. “Substantial government assistance is also mandated to carry out the goals identified in these plans.”

Viewed by the Chinese government as one of seven “strategic emerging industries,” some $1.5 trillion in solar PV subsidies and support will be directed into the sector by the Chinese government through 2015, according to the analysis. No matter that these allegedly violate mutually agreed-upon international trade rules.
CASM has identified more than 30 illegal Chinese subsidy programs, including ten that the Commerce Dept. has preliminarily sanctioned. Rather than striving to comply with international trade rules, China’s redoubling its efforts.

“The new 12th Five-Year Plan for the Solar Photovoltaic Industry unveils a host of new government initiatives to continue to fuel China’s export campaign.” Indeed, the law firm’s analysts note, “the plan covers virtually every detail of every phase of industrial development, including:

  • Where new industrial siting should take place;
  • Precise levels for environmental performance improvement; and
  • Precise standards for cost and power-conversion efficiency improvement.”

“The Chinese government launched a trade war against the U.S. domestic industry, took over the leadership of the largest American industry trade association and began driving U.S. solar manufacturing pioneers out of business,” commented Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc.. The largest U.S. solar manufacturer for more than 35 years, SolarWorld America has been the driving force behind CASM’s petitions.

“Our coalition of U.S. producers contested the illegal Chinese governmental interference in the U.S. market and sought enforcement of U.S. and international trade law. In response, China has rolled out a host of initiatives to further manipulate pricing, snuff out competition and solidify its domination – all on foreign soil. Needless to say, China allows no foreign competition on its own soil.”

“China is steamrolling American manufacturing and jobs and breaking its trade commitments in plain sight,” Brinser said. “No wonder the American public has grown increasingly anxious about the state of U.S.-China trade. China is scoffing at international trade rules.”

The U.S. International Trade Commission issued a unanimous preliminary ruling on December 2, that Chinese trade practices are harming the U.S. domestic solar industry. On May 17, the Department of Commerce is expected to announce the extent to which Chinese manufacturers have illegally dumped products in the U.S. market.

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