When confronted with a trade show as massive as the recently completed SNEC PV Power Expo 2011, with its 13 halls and tens of thousands of moving bodies, one can only hope to engage a small fraction of the industry folks in attendance. Since one of my three show days was devoted to video interviews, my own available time for editorial content sleuthing and schmoozing was further diminished—though some interesting nuggets did emerge from those five on-camera adventures that will air soon on our Website. To get the post-SNEC blog ball rolling, the first tidbit comes from one of those video shoots.
With consistently strong demand over the last couple of years and again this year, concerns over critical supply of polysilicon have resurfaced. Poly supply has become tight, even though expansions in capacity have been ongoing over the same period of PV demand growth.
President Obama’s new budget proposal for fiscal 2012 seeks to make good on his call during the State of the Union speech for a so-called “Sputnik moment” for clean energy in the United States. Despite the sharpening of cost-cutting cutlery across the budgetary and political spectrum (including throughout most of the president’s own budget), the document seeks to increase overall funding for the Department of Energy by about $3 billion to a total of $29.5 billion. One of the main beneficiaries of the proposed increase? Solar energy, as part of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program thrust.
In releasing their FY Q1’11 financial results, Amtech Systems CEO J.S. Whang captured succinctly the underlying bullishness prevailing today at the Tempe, AZ-based PV equipment manufacturer:
While 2010 may have been the beginning of the age of volume-scale CIGS thin-film PV, with many companies providing frequent updates on their certification successes, technology advancements, supply deals, shipments, site selection, and production ramps, one beneficiary of many millions of dollars in VC funds remained uncharacteristically silent: HelioVolt. The Austin-based nine-year-old early stager kept it close to the vest for well over a year until recent industry conference presentations as well as news of NREL-certified conversion efficiencies of close to 12% and internal testing results find the proponent of monolithically integrated CIGS coming out into the light once again.
As the well-known song puts it, I don’t like Mondays. However, while I can usually cope with them, coming into the office at the beginning of the week to read about how the UK’s Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has decided to launch an early review of the feed-in tariff made me want to turn around and walk straight back out the door.
Having listened to more quarterly conference calls from listed companies than I care to mention, two contrasting characteristics are worth mentioning. In the PV industry, players such as First Solar get star treatment. With so many analysts on the call, questions are limited to one and no follow-up. At times, even with that policy in place, not all analysts get a chance to pose a question. However, the reverse can also happen.
In its conference call last night, MEMC called out a Chinese company with “very nice costs” in the context of best-known methods in solar industry wafering. As MEMC ramps its in-house wafering operations after years of outsourcing, we believe the company was referencing ReneSola.
If you thought Italian PV installation figures looked crazy, then you haven’t seen the UK’s! The database run by Ofgem, the UK agency that logs and reports PV installations in the UK, has been experiencing a few problems. They system is not functioning correctly and is showing a not-too-insignificant 47GW having been installed in January alone! Yes, that’s right, 47GW.
Southern California Edison’s grand distributed-generation plan to deck out around a hundred commercial rooftops and a handful of ground-mounted sites with 250MW of solar PV systems by 2014 is gathering steam. With almost 17MW (AC) plugged in so far on top of 10 different warehouses, the utility has entered the realm of double-digit distributed solar megawattage and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As government and business suits raved about the latest set of new systems during the commissioning ceremonies, SCE spokesman Gil Alexander told me that from one of those recently photovoltaicized roofs in Redlands, you could see another rooftop power plant under construction.