Having listened to more quarterly conference calls from listed companies than I care to mention, two contrasting characteristics are worth mentioning. In the PV industry, players such as First Solar get star treatment. With so many analysts on the call, questions are limited to one and no follow-up. At times, even with that policy in place, not all analysts get a chance to pose a question. However, the reverse can also happen.
In its conference call last night, MEMC called out a Chinese company with “very nice costs” in the context of best-known methods in solar industry wafering. As MEMC ramps its in-house wafering operations after years of outsourcing, we believe the company was referencing ReneSola.
If you thought Italian PV installation figures looked crazy, then you haven’t seen the UK’s! The database run by Ofgem, the UK agency that logs and reports PV installations in the UK, has been experiencing a few problems. They system is not functioning correctly and is showing a not-too-insignificant 47GW having been installed in January alone! Yes, that’s right, 47GW.
Southern California Edison’s grand distributed-generation plan to deck out around a hundred commercial rooftops and a handful of ground-mounted sites with 250MW of solar PV systems by 2014 is gathering steam. With almost 17MW (AC) plugged in so far on top of 10 different warehouses, the utility has entered the realm of double-digit distributed solar megawattage and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As government and business suits raved about the latest set of new systems during the commissioning ceremonies, SCE spokesman Gil Alexander told me that from one of those recently photovoltaicized roofs in Redlands, you could see another rooftop power plant under construction.
New wind power capacity installed in the EU last year reached 9.3GW, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). Even though the solar sector seems sluggish in declaring its installed figures, just the official forecast numbers coming from Germany, Italy, France and Spain alone would result in over 10GW of PV installations in 2010.
Since President Barack Obama signed HR 6523, the “Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011” on Jan. 7, there has been a wave of reporting and analysis about the “Buy American” provisions in Section 846 of the act and what they might mean for U.S. solar manufacturers as well as foreign PV companies with U.S. production facilities. The quality of the media coverage has ranged from accurate and insightful to abysmal and confused, but one particular, widely aggregated piece deserves a closer look because of the plethora of misinformation it contains in a short space.
Much debate and head scratching followed the announcement from Italy’s energy manager GSE over PV installation figures that seemed significantly higher than industry observers had previously forecasted, not least among the PV-Tech editorial team.
A well-telegraphed joint press conference between the BSW (Germany’s solar industry) and Germany’s Environment Minister outlined potential midyear (July 1) feed-in tariff cuts for the German solar industry. Bulls and bears will have equal amounts to hang their hats on, but Germany’s ultimate goal of reducing excess project returns while still stimulating demand to achieve installation goals looks quite possible.
With the New Year gaining inexorable momentum and the Chinese Lunar Spring Festival right around the corner, it’s time for the first Solar Short Takes blog of 2011. This edition features news of U.S. cellmaker Suniva and its ground-breaking use of ion implantation in volume production of high-efficiency solar cells, a few tidbits about First Solar’s engineering focus areas and view of CIGS, an enabling material purification approach for CIGS, calls for papers from two of the leading PV conferences, and a few thoughts on a certain Korean-Chinese company’s (re)branding.
“Making CIGS is kind of like baking a cake; they all have flour, eggs, and milk. But we don’t tell you everything in the recipe,” quipped Stion CEO Chet Farris. In his company’s case, the cinnamon and nutmeg can be found in the constituent ratios, molybdenum back-contact secret ingredients, a nontraditional approach to depositing the transparent conductive oxide, and other ways of sweetening its copper-indium-gallium-sulfur-(di)selenide thin-film photovoltaic confection. The pastry analogy doesn’t end there: the upstart’s roadmap calls for a tandem-junction CIGSSe device, a veritable high-efficiency layer cake.