In Depth

  • Project-level quality: Reliability demonstration testing helps root out PV module failure mechanisms

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 06 December 2011, 03:24

    As impressive as the exponential expansion of solar power has been over the past few years, it’s important to remember the last part of that preceding phrase: the industry, as a large-scale global concern, is still in its infancy. During his presentation on module reliability and performance characterization at the recent PV Power Plant USA conference in Phoenix, PV Evolution Labs cofounder/CEO Jenya Meydbray shared some telling factoids. Less than 5% of the total installed solar capacity has been deployed for more than 10 years old, and less than 18% has been generating power (or not) for more than five years. Given the sheer numbers of modules involved and wide range of quality assurance levels—and historical field data samples showing a third of 18-24-year old modules degrading at a guarantee-busting 1% or more per year—no wonder he expects to see a whole lot of warranty claims in the next five years.

  • Leaked emails about Solyndra are first to make sense

    Editors' Blog | By Mark Osborne - 02 December 2011, 11:48 | 2

    Having switched off from much, if not all, of the political aspects to the demise of Solyndra, at last we are getting some solid confirmation of the real problems Solyndra was dealing with and getting more inline with the real issue, which was technology based.

  • Bulldog Barry and other stories: Opening salvoes from the PV Power Plant-USA conference

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 02 December 2011, 00:53

    If you’re not sure where Barry Broome stands on a particular issue, just give him a few minutes. The man can talk, and when he does, strong opinions leavened with humor often come pouring out of the mouth of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council’s president/CEO. Given his stocky build and tenacious style, it wouldn’t be a stretch to nickname him “Bulldog.” Though forcefully advocating solar power and its role in the current and future economic development of the Valley of the Sun, Bulldog Barry’s keynote address at this year’s PV Power Plants Conference USA and comments at a press briefing following his speech included several loud barks and growls directed at the solar community.

  • Inauspicious color: Top Chinese solar companies wade through red ink in latest quarterly results

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 28 November 2011, 23:00 | 1

    In Chinese culture, the color red signifies happiness, joy, and good fortune. Wedding dresses shimmer in crimson, and flush-with-cash gift envelopes often bear a distinctive scarlet tint. But there was no ruby-hued joy in the just-completed round of quarterly financial announcements from the leading Chinese solar companies, as sales revenues fell, margins evaporated, and inauspicious red ink flowed in Yangtze-like volumes. Comparisons of certain key indicators among the top 10 firms reveal a profitless sector largely reeling from plummeting PV module prices and urgent attempts to balance capacity with demand and rein in costs.

  • Crunch time for India’s solar industry

    Editors' Blog | By Chris Whitmore - 23 November 2011, 14:30 | 1

    It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Winston Churchill was referring to Russia, but his much-reused quote could just as easily apply to India’s nascent solar industry. Shrouded in secrecy, the state of play on the subcontinent is exciting as it is confusing.

  • Reading list: A PV-related sampler, from solar-powered leathernecks to utility-scale drive-by photos

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 22 November 2011, 00:22

    There’s more than one media outlet and many good writers reporting on and analyzing the photovoltaics sector with solid editorial content, something underscored by the sampling of the following five stories posted on the Web over the past few days. Sometimes, hand-crafted aggregation can be a sincere form of flattery. Enjoy the ride.

  • German Federal Network Agency publishes data on installations from January to September of 2011

    Guest Blog | By Till von Versen - 21 November 2011, 17:43

    According the Federal Network Agency, only 3.35 GWp of PV systems were installed in Germany in the first 9 months of 2011. In comparison to last year, this represents a market volume decrease of 40%. In 2010, 5.53 GWp were installed in September alone. Market experts currently estimate that the total additional installations in 2011 will amount to 5.5 GWp. This would mean that the German market would be in a state of regression for the first time, at 25% below the installation rate of the previous year.

  • Solar short takes: Nonidyllic idling, chief executive outburst, big CIGS, CPV powering CPV

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 17 November 2011, 02:10

    The solar PV space, like most industries, has many stories and factoids that are overlooked or underreported among the often cataract-like torrent of news and commentary. Still catching up after a brief hiatus, the latest edition of the blog zeroes in on some signals among the recent noise, such as SolarWorld’s upcoming temporary factory closure, Trina Solar’s boss on the record for better or worse, Q-Cells vs. Solar Frontier in a CIGS shipment match, and a comparison of two solar companies’ PV plants powering their own factories.

  • PV equipment backlog becomes an US$8 billion elephant in the room

    Guest Blog | By Finlay Colville - 15 November 2011, 11:05

    While delivering GW-levels of manufacturing equipment during 2H’11 that is already surplus to market requirements is bad enough, excessive tool backlogs pose yet another worry that needs to be factored into revenue guidance for 2012.

  • Damage control: NRG responds in vigorous fashion to clean energy story in New York Times

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 14 November 2011, 21:16

    The term “gold rush” is often synonymous with get-rich quick schemes characterized by a fair share of shady or outright illegal shenanigans, or at least the phrase is used to indicate a lucrative opportunity for those with the acumen and wherewithal to cash in. Although long a cliché, the term still has a way of focusing attention and raising eyebrows. Given the clusterfrak of solar industry controversies over the past few months—from the Solyndra debacle to the internecine pissing match that might lead to a US-China “trade war”—and shall we say “inconsistent” mainstream media coverage of said sector, the New York Times page-one lead news feature on Nov. 12, with the website headline of “A Gold Rush of Subsidies in Clean Energy Search,” set off another peal of alarm bells this weekend. One of the companies targeted, er, spotlighted in the story, NRG, was in full-damage control mode before the weekend was over, issuing its own multipoint “fact sheet” rebuttal to the NYT piece. For the most part, it provides solid, detailed responses to specific passages and inferences in the NYT report.  I thought it worth sharing—at least most of it—in this edition of the blog.


  • Photovoltaics International 29th Edition

    Forecasting the evolution of a young, dynamic industry is by definition an uncertain business, and solar is no exception. Rarely, if ever, do the numbers broadcast by any of the various bodies involved in the PV prediction game tally, and even historical deployment rates remain the subject of hot debate. The paradox is that getting forecasts broadly right is going to become increasingly important over the next few years, particularly for those involved in producing the equipment that will support whatever levels of demand come to pass.



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