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.
It’s hard not to notice when an elephant walks into the room. Likewise, the entry of several big-time global technology and materials players in the solar PV game has been duly noted among industry observers. Two newly minted participants—Taiwanese LCD giant AU Optronics and Korean conglomerate Hanwha—have emerged as potent, deep-pocketed contestants. The companies made major pushes at SNEC, where I caught up with AUO’s James Chen and Hanwha SolarOne’s Mohan Narayanan.
On March 3rd, 2011 a group of 22 Czech Senators filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against a new Czech PV law, which introduces a 26% tax on solar energy production. The Senators are afraid of the impact of solar arbitrages against the Czech Republic in the near future.
While walking the floors of the SNEC exhibit halls, a recurring theme popped into my mind: who were all these Chinese companies? Despite the Suntechs, Yinglis, LDKs, and other few-dozen names familiar to most solar industry folks, a prodigious plethora of second-tier/emerging firms do business in the People’s Republic that most non-China hands have never heard of. The big question is, which of these heretofore “unknown” Chinese companies have a shot at surviving the inevitable solar shakeout and taking their enterprises global, or at least succeeding in the local market? One possible contestant: TBEA Xinjiang SunOasis. I talked with the company’s senior marketing manager, Hou Yangang, about his company and its ambitious gigawatt-scale expansion plans.
In reporting their first quarter FY’11 earnings on 24 February 2011, Applied Materials (AMAT) announced new quarterly orders within their Energy & Environmental Services (EES) segment (which is dominated now by c-Si PV-specific tooling) of US$668 million, comprised of new quarterly bookings records for each of the key product lines served by AMAT in c-Si manufacturing today: c-Si cell back-end solutions and wafer wire-saws