In Depth

  • Proof of disruption: Ampulse keeps the faith with heterojunction single-crystal silicon thin-film PV

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 16 September 2011, 20:49

    Although some PV industry watchers would say the term “disruptive technology” does not belong in the same sentence with “crystalline silicon,” several start-up companies and a host of national labs and research groups in the US and elsewhere would beg to differ. In the most recent Department of Energy SunShot Initiative announcements, corporate and institutional participants pursuing the general topic area of thin crystalline silicon received millions in awards to explore various avenues of developing and manufacturing seriously skinny, often nanoscale wafers or cells out of the solar sector’s primary incumbent material. DOE won’t be cutting Ampulse one of those SunShot checks, but the venture-backed, national lab-connected start-up thinks that its technology, which facilitates the “on-the-cheap” fabrication of c-Si thin-film heteroepitaxial cells on flexible metal substrate “foils,” has a legitimate shot at upending the solar status quo.

  • What has happened to demand elasticity?

    Editors' Blog | By Mark Osborne - 15 September 2011, 11:31 | 2

    The PV-Tech team weren’t the only ones that noticed the subdued atmosphere at EU PVSEC. Others with back-to-back meetings over the length and breadth of the show floors were some of the key financial analysts that cover the PV industry. In particular, Jesse Pichel at Jeffries raised important issues concerning the weak demand dynamics, despite continued pricing pressure.

  • Red carpet solar: Emmys to feature 49.5KW PV awning powered by SolarWorld panels

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 14 September 2011, 22:33 | 1

    Hollywood is both a physical location within L.A.’s city limits as well as a state of mind (or mindlessness, in some cases) and catch-all phrase for what we Los Angelenos call “the industry.” In the solar community, when we say “the industry,” we mean something altogether different, although sometimes the worlds of entertainment and photovoltaics do come into contact. SolarWorld, the company who pulled Larry “JR Ewing” Hagman out of Hollywood exile and turned him loose as a celebrity spokesman, will be making its branding mark Sunday, Sept. 18, on one of the entertainment crowd’s marquee events: the Primetime Emmy Awards. A 49.5KW (DC) PV power system equipped with 225 of the company’s 220W polycrystalline-silicon modules will provide a “solar awning” over the red carpet as the glitterati stroll into the show at the Nokia Theater in downtown L.A.

  • Balancing act, Part II: Study sees PV mounting systems’ domestic value creation; Renusol joins in

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 07 September 2011, 22:13 | 1

    Racking and mounting may not be the sexiest parts of a photovoltaic installation, but the slickest high-performance modules would be all form and no function without the structural bones of the array to keep them in line with the sun. In the US, these balance-of-systems mainstays also turn out to be the hardware components with the largest percentage of domestic value creation among US installations in 2010, according to the recently released “US Solar Energy Trade Assessment,” produced by GTM Research for SEIA—a real “Made in the USA” story on the solarscape. Although a familiar face in Germany, mounting system firm Renusol is hoping to make an impact on the US BOS market.

  • SunShot seed corn: DOE sows projects from cheaper BIPV shingles to Shockley-Queisser limit busters

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 06 September 2011, 05:23

    Still smarting from the wounds of loan guarantee recipient Solyndra’s shutdown and imminent Chapter 11 filing, the US Department of Energy kept its eyes on the SunShot Initiative prize last week, announcing more than $145 million in awards to be spread across 69 projects run by companies, national and private labs, and universities. The efforts encompass a half-dozen categories, including big R, little d and little r, big D accelerants on the cell, module, and inverter technology, balance of system cost reduction (actually, cost reduction is a recurring theme among all categories), grid integration schemes, building integrated PV, and a chunk of change for IT-laden moves to cut nonhardware costs down significantly. Here’s a closer look at some of the players, numbers, and threads that emerge from the latest DOE innovation seed-corn distribution.

  • Solyndra shellshock: Insiders and observers chime in on the fallen thin-film PV firm

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 01 September 2011, 02:02 | 8

    Imagine you left work one evening, excited and exhausted by a job where everything was gung-ho and thumbs-up, moving forward at a 24/7 clip, only to report to work the very next morning and be told the company is closing down, so clear out your desks, get your unemployment packet, and see ya later. You and your coworkers had seen no warning signs, no hint of trouble, and certainly had no inkling that a full and total shutdown was imminent. If you work(ed) for Solyndra, you don’t have to use your imagination to fill in this scenario—it is your new reality.

  • 2012: A fundamental shift in Germany’s market drivers?

    Guest Blog | By Parag Bhamre - 31 August 2011, 11:35 | 4

    Feed-in-tariffs (FiT) as incentive mechanisms are increasingly gaining popularity. China recently announced a new feed-in tariff scheme for PV to complement its rapidly expanding module manufacturing capacity. Other countries such as Germany and Italy, which have established FiT schemes, nevertheless are continuously adjusting the FiTs to encourage balanced growth in the market. But in the future, will designing FiTs be the sole important factor affecting the growth of photovoltaics in the developed PV markets?

  • Balancing act: Study finds solid US solar exports, value accrual; developer sees falling module cost

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 30 August 2011, 23:06 | 1

    The data giveth and the data taketh away. In the case of a new study conducted by GTM Research for SEIA, the data giveth a surprising, seemingly counterintuitive view of the US solar industry: The United States was a net solar exporter by a far piece in 2010—including in trade with China—and nearly three-quarters of the direct value of solar systems installed here last year accrued to the US economy, to the tune of more than $4.4 billion. The report factors in the entire value chain—from raw materials to finished products to balance of systems and installation to permitting and other soft costs—and demonstrates that there is a lot more to the total market picture than where solar modules are manufactured and how much they cost. The research also provides a jumping-off point to check in on a commercial project developer/builder, Ra Power & Light, which offers a snapshot of current module pricing, in the first installment of a two-part blog.

  • Solar module manufacturers score football sponsorships

    Editors' Blog | By Chris Whitmore - 30 August 2011, 10:51 | 1

    Last Thursday, 31 of Europe’s finest football clubs, and Arsenal, entered the draw for the group stage of this season’s Champions League. Commonly regarded as the most prestigious football competition in the world, between now and next May it will be the battle ground for not just the finest footballers on the continent, but also some of the world’s leading commercial brands, including Yingli Green Energy, Q-Cells and JinkoSolar.

  • Mage Solar photo blog: Spreading the PV message with a Dublin (Georgia) drawl

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 24 August 2011, 03:20

    A few hours’ drive south of Atlanta, Georgia—and thousands of miles from Ireland—the town of Dublin hosts another German solar company seeking to plow the green fields of the burgeoning US PV marketscape: Mage Solar. In addition to its North American HQ and new crystalline-silicon module line located in a former Rockwell Automation plant, the firm has set up an intriguing educational center called the Mage Solar Academy. Although the company’s brand may be part of the fledgling institute’s name, the effort goes far beyond any parochial corporate intent. By training new installers, potential solar entrepreneurs, and other interested parties in the boot-camp and PV101 basics as well as NABCEP certification essentials, the academy—as well as via collaborations with local technical community colleges and talks at regional town-hall meetings—may be the start of something critical to the market development and growth of photovoltaics in the southeast US. As I toured the Mage campus, several photo opps presented themselves, which I share in this graphically oriented blog.

Publications

  • Photovoltaics International 27th Edition

    Now that the PV industry has unquestionably entered a new growth phase, all eyes are on which technologies will win through into the mainstream of PV manufacturing. PERC, n-type, p-type bifacial, heterojunction – all have become familiar terms in the ever-growing constellation of solar cell technologies. The question is which will offer manufacturers what they are looking for in improving efficiencies and cutting costs.

  • Manufacturing The Solar Future: The 2014 Production Annual

    Although the past few years have proved extremely testing for PV equipment manufacturers, falling module prices have driven solar end-market demand to previously unseen levels. That demand is now starting to be felt by manufacturers, to the extent that leading companies are starting to talk about serious capacity expansions later this year and into 2015. This means that the next 12 months will be a critical period if companies throughout the supply chain are to take full advantage of the PV industry’s next growth phase.

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