The German solar industry’s research and development efforts into advanced solar cell technology will be given a boost of €100 million, after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved plans, according to Reuters. The move was made, according to the report, to weaken resistance by members of the lower house of parliament (Bundesrat), particularly from eastern states such as Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, to a proposed 16% extra solar feed-in tariff cut. There are a a significant number of PV manufacturers located in these regions, and many have openly opposed the FIT cut suggested by Merkel’s government.
The road turns from rough pavement to graded dirt about a mile or so to the south of Interstate 10, just past the unincorporated community of Mesa Verde west of Blythe in southeastern California. Following 15th Street’s dusty grade beyond a funky residential neighborhood out into a mix of desert and agricultural lands, you soon come upon a large fenced-off area to the south that stretches for acres and acres. Inside the double-fence line is the Blythe solar project, the reigning (for now) largest thin-film photovoltaic power plant in the U.S.—and a harbinger of much bigger things to come.
Up until a couple of years ago if someone mentioned “solar power” and “Ontario” in the same breath, he or she might get a quizzical look and a bewildered shake of the head. Wind or hydro power maybe, but solar? Then the provincial government announced the Green Energy Act in early 2009, the act became law midyear, and one of the world’s most lucrative feed-in tariffs started taking applications Oct. 1.
Photon Consulting’s forecast figures for German PV installations were virtually right on the mark, and my criticism over its forecasting credibility has been blown out of the water. Preliminary figures from the German Federal Network Agency put PV installations at 3.8GW with the potential for final number crunching to produce a higher figure. Photon Consulting had projected 3.9GW in their September 2009 release of their annual report and could prove to be frighteningly close to final figures, whenever they are issued.
The Greentech Media solar summit, held last week in Phoenix, has become one of the better of the smaller solar industry confabs. The presentations and attendees represented the entire vertical of the sector, from materials and equipment guys to cell and module mavens to systems integrators and project developers to utility men and women. And yes, there were bankers and lawyers too, and denizens of the halls of academia and the national labs. With such a wide-ranging agenda and eclectic cast of characters, the event lends itself well to the latest blog-edition of anecdotal short takes.
No company likes to see auditors use the phrase “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” But way down on page F-2 of Solyndra’s “Amendment No. 1 to Form S-1” (filed with the SEC on March 16), those are the troubling words used by independent accounting firm PriceWaterhousecoopers to describe the predicament of the CIGS thin-film manufacturer.
It may seem to some that introducing the UK’s feed-in tariff on April fool’s day is a bit of a dig in the ribs, since the country has waited so long to catch up with its European counterparts in the renewable energy world. Yet this is no joke - the time has actually arrived. From this day forth, the UK will receive a financial payback for the solar energy it produces.
Nothing says oil-refinery site remediation like a photovoltaic installation. Chevron, though more known for harvesting energy from carbon than from photons, has activated what it calls Project Brightfield. This intriguing multimillion-dollar PV panel test bed sits on a repurposed site near Bakersfield that once hosted a long-decommissioned petroleum processing facility.
Final, absolute solar photovoltaic installation figures for Italy are not expected to be officially released until early May, according to reliable sources, yet confusion remains as to what those figures may ultimately be. PV-Tech reported in January that installation figures released by the Italian government agency GSE for 2009 had disappointed, with only 374MW installed—up only 10% from 338MW in 2008. An important factor—and something we have just discovered—is that timelines for reporting connection to the grid run a little longer than the typical benchmark cut-off dates used in Germany. This means that May is probably the earliest that the official figures will be published.
Ron Reis, REC Silicon’s VP of technology, laid out the reasons why FBR was chosen as the successor to the ol’ Siemens polysilicon warhorse. While he credited the incumbent as “a proven technology for producing ultrapure polysilicon” that “meets the market’s needs,” he went on to detail what he called its “several disadvantages.” His summarized explanation shines a technical and economic light on why the company chose to go with the fluidized bed reactor (FBR) approach.