The idea of an industry roadmap for photovoltaic technology and manufacturing, along the lines of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), came to fruition a few years ago in the form of, you guessed it, the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (ITRPV). The second edition of the solar effort has just been published by the Crystalline Silicon PV Technology and Manufacturing Group (CTM) in conjunction with SEMI’s PV Group, and a summary of its contents presented at the recent PV Fab Managers Forum in Berlin. Just one problem though: with nary a single non-European cell or module manufacturer participating, the very name of the effort is misleading, since it is anything but international.
Since the fast track review bombshell was dropped last week I have been thinking about what kind of implications this will have on the UK solar industry as a whole—not just how it will affect the large-scale market. As we all know, one of the many things this country’s renewable energy industry lacks is experience, which is why it was so encouraging to see some of the world’s largest and most influential solar players step onto British soil.
During 2010, media coverage of a-Si tool suppliers often outweighed that of their own customers who were hard at work seeking new business for sub-10% efficient PV panels. With much of the attention on well-known names such as Applied Materials, Oerlikon, and Ulvac, other equipment suppliers located within the Asia Pacific region moved quietly – but efficiently - into the turnkey a-Si space, clocking up a host of new orders from enthusiastic thin-film entrants. And the two equipment companies receiving most of these new orders were Jusung Engineering and Apollo Solar Energy Technology.
With its annual solar summit event, Greentech Media intermingles the various food groups of the PV and CSP communities for a tasty buffet. The market, technology, manufacturing, project development, and financial comestibles might come in the form of small plates of newsy nibblets or larger entrees that intrigue and challenge the intellectual palate. Like any fine culinary encounter, the conversations between mouthfuls are an important part of the experience. You walk away from the two-day info-sharing and networking feast satiated but not stuffed, unlike the often-painful mental indigestion that happens after a 15-course technical conference gorging or weeklong mega tradeshow binge.
After what seemed like a decade of delay, the DECC has finally confirmed its intention to break the legs of the UK’s solar industry for good. The axe-wielding Government has now proposed crippling cuts to the solar feed-in tariff for all systems over 50kW. Yet again, our expectations are exceeded, and not in a good way.
Although the direct impact has been relatively slight to the vast majority of the solar manufacturing community in Japan, one of the continuing after-effects of the catastrophic earthquake-tsunami-nuclear accident trifecta—rolling power blackouts and tight grid-energy availability—has had an impact on various parts of the PV supply chain. TÜV Rheinland, which maintains a large testing center in Yokohama, has had to shift its workload to other regional centers and will also be redeploying equipment and personnel temporarily as well, according to company VP of global solar/fuel cell technology, Matthias Heinze.
Italy is faced with three very important considerations in determining how to power the nation: very modest domestic energy resources (it imports 87% of its electricity), resulting high electricity prices and abundance of sunlight. Consequently, over the last few years the Italian government has instituted a series of policies to promote solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment. Growing from just 60MW in 2007, Italy installed almost 2GW of solar PV last year - making it the second largest market in the world.
The fallout from last week’s Japanese earthquake and Tsunami continues to mount today as word spread that radiation levels were rising in areas as far as Tokyo following the explosion at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. As Japanese officials work to fend off any further damage to the power plant, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Germany’s nuclear power plants would be put on a three month moratorium. During cessation of operation, Germany’s nuclear plants will undergo testing by an independent authority that will carry out an investigation on reactor safety at the country’s seven nuclear power plants.
The irony of this won’t go unnoticed. The natural disaster and its repercussions leading to the re-examination of what was largely accepted as a ‘clean’ renewable energy are hitting the headlines.
Another third-generation PV start-up, Alta Devices, has decided to softly emerge from stealth mode: a financing round of $72 million, garnered from a syndicate of VC and equity heavy hitters, has a way of building confidence and making one reconsider an aversion to publicity’s glare. But the San Jose-based firm—which is developing a gallium-arsenide-based, very-high-efficiency thin-film technology—is not quite ready to open its techno-corporate kimono for full frontal exposure. President/CEO Chris Norris offered me a few peeks during a phone interview.