The recent news about XsunX achieving 15.1% conversion efficiencies on its small-area coevaporated copper-indium-gallium-(di)selenide (CIGS) 125mm-square cells has made its way unscathed around most of the usual-suspect solar, renewable, and clean-green websites, including ours. The noisy trumpeting of the “record” efficiencies generated a fair amount of interest, but it was not in tune with standard reporting practices for the important metric of solar PV’s ability to convert photons to electrons—independent verification, something missing from the announcement, makes all the difference.
In reporting its fourth-quarter earnings, Applied Materials (AMAT) announced net sales within its Energy & Environmental Services (EES) segment (which includes PV tool revenues) of US$606 million. Accordingly, Solarbuzz equipment supplier analysis reveals that AMAT has just reached a significant landmark: the first equipment supplier to reach and exceed the US$1 billion barrier for PV-specific trended ttm tool revenues. Certainly, this achievement offers comfort to tool suppliers that the PV segment has grown to an appreciable level. However, while every other PV tool supplier would welcome reaching this milestone, AMAT’s road taken to the US$1 billion PV revenue mark has been far from incident free.
The solar photovoltaic industry swings both ways when it comes to power ratings. For modules or manufacturing output and capacities, the numbers used are consistently stated as DC. It’s a 250W (DC STC-rated) panel or the production line has a 50MW annual capacity or run rate. On the project side, residential and small commercial systems seem pretty uniformly pegged in DC wattage, but the same can’t be said for larger, utility-scale PV power plants. The heftier the installation, the less uniform seems the reporting, with some companies choosing AC, while others take the direct (current) approach—if they bother to clarify the rating type at all.
The solar photovoltaic industry swings both ways when it comes to power ratings. For modules or manufacturing output and capacities, the numbers used are consistently stated as DC. It’s a 250W (DC STC-rated) panel or the production line has a 50MW annual capacity or run rate. On the project side, residential and small commercial systems seem pretty uniformly pegged in DC wattage, but the same can’t be said for larger, utility-scale PV power plants. The heftier the installation, the less uniform seems the reporting, with some companies choosing AC, while others take the direct (current) approach—if they bother to clarify the rating type at all. This lack of standardization fosters confusion in the sector (and the media reporting on it) and has led to false bravado about this or that big PV farm being the largest of its kind. Isn’t it time that all the inhabitants of Planet PV get on the same page?
One of the busiest of the couple-dozen solar manufacturing factory floors I’ve seen this year belonged to ECD Uni-Solar, at its Auburn Hills 2 (AH2) facility just up the road from the Palace where the NBA’s Detroit Pistons play hoops. When I toured the plant in late July, the three production areas—cell deposition, cell finishing, and module stringing/lamination/final assembly—were humming, as the 1.5-mile-long rolls of flexible stainless-steel starting material were transformed into triple-junction amorphous-silicon thin-film PV laminates. The company’s latest quarterly results confirm those observations at the factory, as production output grew some 58% over the previous period—from 21.2MW to 33.6MW—pushing capacity utilization to about 90%.
It’s not a new story: A high-tech manufacturing company decides to shutter an older, less-efficient manufacturing plant and concentrate its production efforts in a purpose-built, highly efficient facility, thus getting economies of scale and cost reductions impossible to achieve in the more mature factory. Such decisions are often seen as exemplifying pragmatic, hard-nosed corner-office leadership in the face of a highly competitive market sector.
The supply and market dynamics of the PV inverter sector continue to play-out this year as this guest blog by Ash Sharma, Renewable Energy Research Director at IMS Research, highlights the next expected supply/demand scenario.Whilst in the first three quarters of 2010 inverter suppliers enjoyed tremendously high demand, tight supply and stable prices, a drastic reversal in their fortunes may quickly be seen as demand wanes, supply massively grows and inventory builds.
With Solar Power International 2010 growing more distant in the rear-view mirror, one of the takeaways about the ongoing state of photovoltaic technology remains clear: there’s plenty of innovation headroom left in crystalline silicon. Exhibit A: one company’s novel module design that features 10,000 ultrathin, bifacial monocrystalline cells (one of which is shown below). The still-media-shy entity responsible for this potentially game-changing technology may be new to the PV scene, but its 50:50 partners should be familiar to those in the know about the energy and micro/nanochip sectors: Transform Solar, the fully funded corporate love-child of Australian utility giant Origin and redoubtable semiconductor survivor Micron.
At the end of October, the Czech government approved special measures against the ongoing solar boom in the country. Many of these measures are being abruptly negotiated and passed by the Czech Parliament so that they can take effect starting in January 2010. One of these measures will be a brand-new retroactive ‘solar tax’ imposed on producers of solar energy.
It seems such an obvious thing that solar PV should be ubiquitous within ±35° latitude around the equator—otherwise know as the Sunbelt. It also has 75% of the world’s population and 40% of the global electricity demand. Yet few actual installations to date are within this region.