On December 10, 2010 the Czech President Vaclav Klaus approved a retroactive solar tax for solar power plants in the Czech Republic
When Abound Solar’s engineers calculate yields on the company’s 65MW panel production line, they take an “all-in” approach, from the beginning of the front end to the hindmost portions of the back end. The fast-following thin-film firm counts every sheet of TCO-coated glass against the overall yield, once the panes enter the noisy Loadinator washing tools every 30 seconds or so at the start of the manufacturing flow.
Contract manufacturing has become a burgeoning trend in the PV processing arena, with companies like SunPower, Q-Cells, MEMC/SunEdison, BP Solar, and Day4 Energy among those pushing varying portions of production out of their own doors to partners like Flextronics and Jabil. The latest outsourcing move comes from Amonix, which said it has signed up Flextronics to take on its production needs, although it turns out the EMS firm will be taking care of business mostly within the concentrator photovoltaics systems company’s own facilities. The press release provided a paucity of details about the deal, so I reached out to the CPV company and its CEO Brian Robertson, who filled in some of the missing info in an exclusive email interview.
Organic photovoltaics may have significant potential upside in the long run, with its ability to work in all manner of light spectrums and form factors, but for now, the thin-film stepchild is looking for market niches to exploit. Since it may be years before OPV can hope to compete in efficiency, cost, and reliability/lifetime in the major off- and on-grid commercial sectors, the Konarkas and Solarmers of the world need to find differentiating avenues for revenue generation so they can continue to develop the technology and ramp nascent production facilities to some sort of scale.
One of the longest-running gold standards in the high-end photovoltaics game has been the attainment of 40% conversion efficiencies on production-scale III-V solar cells. Not champion efficiencies, achieved on custom-made devices produced in a laboratory setting, but real-world conversion numbers reached on terrestrial-market cells running through an actual manufacturing line. With the news that Spectrolab has hit 39.2% with its new C3MJ+ cells, that 40% benchmark may be only several months away. In the wake of the recent announcement, I spoke with Russ Jones, the Boeing Defense, Space and Security unit’s CPV business development director, who provided more details on the new cells as well as the venerable solar company’s technology and production status, progress, and roadmap.
Thanks to First Solar, cadmium telluride has made thin-film PV a market force to be reckoned with. A small handful of second-generation CdTe players have started their commercial pushes, led by Abound Solar, which is shipping megawatts of modules monthly, and followed by GE-backed PrimeStar Solar, scheduled to begin early volume production in the first half of 2011. Another CadTel wannabe contender that has been staying quiet recently is Calyxo, the German-based manufacturer ramping its first line and girding itself for life after Q-Cells ownership.
Southern California Edison’s solar PV project continues to gather momentum, as the third rooftop system, a 1MW array equipped with more than 16,000 First Solar CdTe panels and Satcon inverters, is sending juice to its friendly neighborhood distribution circuit from the top of a Rialto warehouse. The program now kicks into high gear, as 11 more installations—10 on various rooftops in San Bernardino County and one ground-mounted PV plant in Portervillle—will come online with dispatchable electricity by early next year, according to the utility. Included among the list of distributed-generation solar stations is one particular site that will become the largest rooftop system in North America when it’s plugged in.
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.
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.
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.