In Depth

  • Reuters gets it wrong, again: Yingli Solar denies story about South African PV factory plans

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 23 November 2010, 02:07

    A Yingli Solar spokesperson has denied reports that it plans to site a PV production facility in South Africa, contradicting a recent Reuters story claiming the company had decided to spend US$435 million to build a solar manufacturing plant in the country.

  • Meaningless metric: XsunX’s lack of independent verification undercuts CIGS efficiency claims

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 19 November 2010, 22:53 | 6

    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.

  • Applied Materials: the first PV equipment supplier to trend at the US$1 billion revenue level

    Guest Blog | By Finlay Colville - 18 November 2010, 09:43

    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.

  • AC-DC conundrum: Latest PV power-plant ratings follies put focus on reporting inconsistency (update)

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 12 November 2010, 16:34

    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.

  • AC-DC conundrum: Latest PV power-plant ratings follies put focus on reporting inconsistency (update)

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 12 November 2010, 15:11 | 1

    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?

  • Flexible PV survivor: Uni-Solar banks on efficiency, cost, BOS improvements to weather the storm

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 10 November 2010, 12:08 | 4

    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%.

  • Fab pragmatism: Solyndra’s shutdown of Fab 1 may be just what the cost doctor ordered

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 04 November 2010, 15:52

    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.

  • Tough times ahead for solar inverter companies

    Guest Blog | By Ash Sharma - 04 November 2010, 10:02

    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.

  • Monocrystalline innovation: Transform Solar thinks big by going really thin

    Chip Shots Blog | By Tom Cheyney - 02 November 2010, 16:16

    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.

  • Solar bonanza turns into a nightmare for investors in the Czech Republic

    Guest Blog | By Jaroslav Dorda - 30 October 2010, 17:50

    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.

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  • Photovoltaics International 25th Edition

    In this issue we offer some insights into what the next wave of photovoltaic technologies may look like as that upturn gathers pace. Industry observers have been in broad agreement that the major next-gen PV technology innovations won’t happen straight away. But there’s also little doubt that the search is now on in earnest for the breakthroughs that will come to define the state of the art in the industry in the years to come.

  • 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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