Sharp Solar, one of the oldest names in the youthful PV industry, has been on a roll of late. The one-time top-dog PV company regained the lead in the revenue race last year, edging out younger upstarts Suntech and First Solar, with more than $2.2 billion in sales. It also held its own in production, claiming 792MW of cell/module output. Earlier this year, the Japanese electronics giant opened one of the largest solar manufacturing facilities on the planet—the Sakai plant boasting 870MW (1GW eventually) of multijunction silicon thin-film manufacturing nameplate capacity.
With the first four Solar Decathlons held in the U.S., intrigue was high for the first European edition held in Madrid this month. In a bid to find out exactly what the competition had in store this year, I travelled over to the Villa Solar just a few days before the closing ceremony to see the offerings first-hand.After 10 days of heated competition, with scorching temperatures beating down all day in the Spanish capital city, the 17 teams’ enthusiasm was on top form. Each house’s designers welcomed me in, eager to reveal all about the design, planning and above all renewable aspects that had been worked into their entry.
To say that the mainstream media and blogospheric mutants have lacked consistency in their coverage of solar photovoltaics would be an understatement. For every reporter or columnist “getting it right” by properly differentiating PV and CSP, or crystalline silicon from thin film, and the like, there’s at least another one misinterpreting, misstating, or flat-out misrepresenting how the stuff works or how much it costs or what a company does or the state of the industry or any number of other journalistic pratfalls.
After a brief hiatus from the blog, it’s time for the latest edition of Solar Short Takes. This time, the roundup and commentary focuses on what will be the largest solar PV power plant in the lower 48, Yingli Solar’s marketing coup and deft touch at the World Cup, words of analytical wisdom from Barclay Capital’s Vish Shah, a few nuggets from PV-Tech’s exclusive video interview with Samsung’s solar energy boss, and TSMC’s entry into the thin-film arena via its investment in CIGS start-up Stion.
eSolar, Inc. responds to my CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) site survey and answers a few questions. The Sierra SunTowers were offline for five (5) days because of a “planned outage” followed by another day due to high winds. Not long after the cross post of eSolar Sierra SunTower Project offline to the PV-tech.org Editor’s Blog, I got a response from eSolar to my questions from the previous week.
There are few places on the planet more suitable for solar power than Arizona. Despite the obviousness of this desert-fried fact, the state trails its large, golden neighbor to the west in the amount of PV and CSP installed as well as megawattage in the development pipeline. But two recently announced programs from a pair of Arizona’s main utility operators—Tucson Electric Power and Salt River Project —would bring a couple of hundred more megawatts online within the next couple of years, and in TEP’s case, provide a distributed test bed for a variety of PV technologies.
Suntech is the solar apple of Shanghai’s eye right now, with more than 3MW of its panels helping power pavilions at the World Expo, news that the company plans to build another gigawatt of production capacity in the city, and the launch of the PV-powered Suntech-Gusheng Solarsailor yacht onto the riverine bustle of the Huangpu.
When semiconductor heavyweights Micron Technology and Aussie power generators Origin Energy said they were forming a 50:50 joint venture named Transform Solar in January, the synergy seemed promising. It wasn’t hard to imagine Micron, masters of silicon-based manufacturing, taking Origin’s thin-silicon “Sliver” cell technology and ramping it into full production mode all the way through moduling, with some nice process enhancement tricks along the way. Plus, the Boise, ID-based microchip mavens could now find something to occupy some of those older fabrication facilities sitting idle.
Partner blogger Ed Gunther from Gunther Portfolio has provided this blog. A tale of two Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Towers generating no electricity? A funny thing happened on the way to Victorville for the Victor Valley College Solar Power Plant Celebration. I decided to stop in Lancaster, California, to benchmark the eSolar, Inc. CSP project I highlighted earlier this year. As can be seen in my photos over two days, one of the Sierra SunTowers is missing the thermal receiver enclosure nacelle, ample or not, and is out of operation. The second tower has an anemic amount of sunlight focused onto the thermal receiver by the heliostat field although it was late in the day.
As solar PV project sizes increasingly reach double-digit megawattage with triple-digit just around the temporal corner, a single-megawatt system doesn’t have quite the allure it had just a few years ago. But sometimes a megawatt’s more than just a measure of installed generating capacity—reaching the million-watt mark can have potent symbolic as well as practical value, especially for a technology transitioning into the commercial realm.