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.
In this guest blog, Edwin Koot, founder of solarplaza.com, discusses the growing trend of the ever-increasing size of utility-scale PV power plants and the implications facing the industry as both the scale and number of such projects are set to increase.
When Stion started looking for sites to establish its first volume production plant, Mississippi was not even on its radar. After vetting some “100 different opportunities, state and local flavors and locations,” the San Jose-based thin-film PV module company had “narrowed the list down to a half-dozen or so pretty quickly,” including Texas, Virginia, Michigan, and California, according to CEO Chet Farris. But then Pierre Lamond of Khosla Ventures (a VC investor in Stion) provided an introduction for Farris with the current governor of the Magnolia state and former chairman of the Republican Party, Haley Barbour. Less than five months after an initial meeting between the two chief execs, Stion has agreed to—and the Mississippi state legislature approved—an incentive-laden deal for the CIGSSe firm to build its factory in Hattiesburg.
What do the California Solar Valley Ranch (250MW AC) and Agua Caliente (290MW AC) projects have in common? The obvious link is NRG Solar, which recently agreed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in equity investments and eventually buy the pair outright from SunPower and First Solar, respectively. But arguably the most important commonality the two projects share is this: both deals hinge on whether or not they get financing assistance from the Federal government in the form of a DOE loan guarantee.
Alan King of Canadian Solar notes that while the extension of the U.S. Treasury’s 1603 cash grant program has positive implications for the solar industry in 2011 and beyond, there’s much work still to be done to increase PV’s percentage of the country’s overall energy portfolio.