Top 10 PV Tech news stories of 2013

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

Looking back over 2013, it’s clear the year was a transitional one. A key takeaway has been the recovery in end-market demand that has restored manufacturing utilisation rates to almost 100% for tier one PV module manufacturers and the opportunity for many but not all PV module manufacturers to return to operating profits in the second half of the year.

Actual overcapacity as well as perceived overcapacity have effectively been dealt with, primarily through numerous companies exiting the sector, others in financial distress cutting capacity and overall demand from key growth markets such as China, Japan and US absorbing much of the bankable capacity that exists at major tier one module suppliers.

As a result, PV module ASPs have stabilised and a cautious phase of capacity expansions is underway for many tier one suppliers, which has started to bring relief to equipment and material suppliers after several extremely difficult years.

The industry is ‘officially’ in an upturn and one that could easily turn into a major boom in 2014.

Another transition for the industry in 2013 was the increased momentum by module manufacturers to move downstream to become PV energy providers (PVEPs), following the success of the business model by the likes of First Solar and SunPower.

It seems only a few years ago that the business model of being a fully integrated PV manufacturer was seen as the best model for market success, yet the transition to PVEP status by the very same leading integrated companies is also spurring higher levels of manufacturing outsourcing, suggesting business models are also very much in a transition phase.

PV Tech traffic

With respect to PV Tech’s website traffic in 2013, the PV industries most popular website saw visitor traffic top the two million mark for the second year in a row, up over 100,000, a 7% plus increase from the previous year. Unique visitor levels increased by nearly 25% compared to 2012, while actual page view numbers declined around 8%, all according to Google Analytics.

Increased traffic from emerging markets was principally behind the growth, offset slightly by some decline in traffic from European countries such as Germany and France, though these countries remained in the top 10 rankings as in previous years.

In total, the PV Tech website received visitors from 225 countries around the world in 2013, according to Google Analytics. Here, in reverse order, are our top 10 most-read stories of 2013.

Top 10 story review

Two heavily reported subjects throughout the year included the ongoing ‘solar shakeout’ and the EU anti-dumping case against China. However, these did not dominate in the top 10 rankings.

On a company basis, some familiar names that had appeared in previous listings emerged again but in respect to very different subjects.

10 Exclusive: Error leaves at least 16 Chinese manufacturers in EU trade limbo

The tenth most popular story in 2013 did cover the EU anti-dumping case but was actually in respect to its conclusion and subsequent issue over PV Tech’s exclusive findings that a number of Chinese module producers that had been shipping products into the EU were mysteriously missing from the official EU documents.

Over 16 companies were not listed and therefore had not been provided new customs reference numbers, effectively stopping them from importing into the EU unless they paid import duties as they would also not receive a shipment quota that had been agreed with Chinese authorities.

Strangely, since the administrative ‘error’ was covered in early August, that situation remains in limbo. Even today there is also no public information on how the shipment quota system was shared out to those originally on the list.

9 World’s largest battery storage system to be installed in Japan

A subject never appearing before in the rankings and one of the emerging developments for the PV industry, battery storage was the ninth most popular story.

The story concerned news that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) would install the world’s largest battery system at an electrical substation in Hokkaido, which had an expected storage capacity of around 60MWh. The project would be completed in March 2015.

8 Suntech executives reportedly detained by Chinese police

In eighth place was a just one of numerous stories this year about the Suntech saga and its subsidiary entering bankruptcy in China. Part of the solar shakeout series, the story was about news reports from China that Dr. Shi, the ousted executive chairman and then current CEO, David King, had both been detained by Chinese police, a week after the news broke of Wuxi Suntech being forced into bankruptcy proceedings by a swathe of Chinese banks.

The Suntech Power Holdings saga continues today, although with the Shunfeng rescue of Wuxi Suntech, a major part of the saga has potentially been concluded.

7 Bill Gates gives boost to renewables storage

Putting Bill Gates and storage in the same headline was bound to gain people’s attention and that was exactly what happened with the seventh ranked story when PV Tech covered the news that the billionaire Microsoft founder had been an investor in a US$35 million funding round of Aquion energy, a Pittsburgh-based firm that is developing a new water-based battery system.

Since the story broke in April, Aquion has only recently announced a micro-grid technology collaboration with Siemens.

6 PV module costs to fall to 36c per watt by 2017: GTM Research

A topic that in one form or another tends to garner high traffic year-on-year relates to product pricing and cost trends. This year the sixth most popular story concerned a longer range PV module costing forecast from GTM Research.

The market research firm noted that China's tier one PV module manufacturers were on track to cut production costs to US$0.36 (cents) per watt by the end of 2017, a reduction of 14 cents from costs at the end of 2012.

The expected cost reductions were attributed to technology innovations and the increased use of automation in the manufacturing process.

With the general expectation of a technology buy cycle sometime in 2014, it will be interesting to see if the industry actually meets or even exceeds this figure before the end of 2017.

5 SunPower sold out in Q1 2013

Providing hard facts on a recovering industry and a perfect example of key players’ transition to the PVEP business model, the fifth most popular centred focused on SunPower’s first quarter financial results released in early May. A significant turnaround in its financial situation and the revelation the company was effectively sold out, a situation that is expected to continue through 2014, set the industry scenario since then.

Later in the year, SunPower continued to mirror industry developments with the announcement that it would build a new leading-edge production plant for next generation ‘Maxeon’ solar cells.

4 Fire risk fiasco as Dutch government warns over 650,000 Scheuten Solar modules

The fourth ranked story is one that the industry should never repeat. Product design issues within Scheuten Solar’s module junction box had been behind a series of rooftop fires stretching back several years. The scale of the fault was attributed to around 650,000 ‘Multisol’ modules distributed between September 2009 and October 2010, primarily across Europe.

The exclusive and in-depth feature was a collaboration between PV Tech and sister website, Solar Power Portal UK (SPP UK), reporting comments from the experts dealing with aspects of the problem.

The story was by a wide margin the most read on the SPP UK website and combined with PV Tech’s traffic was the most read story of 2013 across the Solar Media website portfolio.

Not surprisingly, the owners of Scheuten Solar were later forced to close down the company as it proved impossible to repair the damage to the reformed company’s brand image.

3 SunPower lifts lid on new record 21.5% efficient X-Series solar modules

A topic that always attracts high traffic is that of record cell/module efficiencies. In the past SunPower has received a top 10 ranking based on this topic and returns this year at number three. SunPower claimed in April that its new X-Series modules provided approximately 8 to 10% more energy per rated watt when compared with conventional crystalline-based modules and had a conversion efficiency of 21.5%.

2 Bosch shuts down solar division; total loss amounts to €2.4 billion

The second most viewed story featured another solar shakeout development, this time in regards to Bosch exiting the sector by the end of 2013. The rapid and significant price declines due to massive overcapacity in the industry, despite its own efforts to reduce production costs, were given as the key reasons for the industry exit.

The news reverberated around the world and not least in Europe, especially at a time when every European-based manufacturer was feeling the financial effects of more than two years of fierce competition from China-based rivals.

Recently some good news has meant that the production facilities and staff will be transferred to SolarWorld with the hope it will be a new start and boost to regaining its market competitiveness. The story on that development is waiting to be written.

1 First Solar to manufacture copper-based crystalline silicon solar cells

Finally, we have arrived at the most popular story on PV Tech in 2013. Normally, we get a sense of the big stories and certainly these appear in this year’s rankings but it was a surprise that the top story garnered significantly more page view traffic than even the higher ranked stories this year.

The story literarily rocked the industry when First Solar, the world’s leading thin-film manufacturer and PVEP, announced the acquisition of little-known start-up, TetraSun and would be aggressively ramping its copper-based advanced monocrystalline cell technology.

Though not a seismic shift in First Solar’s module manufacturing, as CdTe remains a central part of its business model, it could prove seismic for its tier one rivals in the future. The company is already placing equipment orders for the new venture and we should gain further insight next year, which is obviously going to be of great interest to readers.

With the most viewed story this year featuring leading-edge solar cell technology that will ramped to production shortly, it is hoped that technology innovation and sustainable capacity expansions will dominate industry trends in 2014.

Thin-film manufacturer First Solar's acquisition of TetraSun was the biggest PV Tech story of 2013.
28 July 2021
LONGi has launched its Hi-MO N module, the company's first bifacial module with N-type TOPCon cells, designed to deliver ultra- high value and lower LCOE to utility-scale PV power plants. This PV TechTalk Product Series webinar will provide an overview of the module’s technology and how the introduction of n-type technologies will provide efficiency and performance gains for solar project developers.
29 July 2021
This free webinar will explore the ongoing opportunities in the UK solar PV market, looking at global technology trends and how they apply to the UK. Join us for an overview of the project pipeline and forecast for deployment over the coming years. We'll be looking at the types of modules available and being used in the UK and presenting a case study on the deployment of bifacial modules in this market.
19 August 2021
The utility-scale PV market is poised for exponential growth and yet the industry still has many fundamental opportunities to improve on standards and best practice. Tracker shade loss has been one of those topics that deserve more attention, but has been typically handled by derate factors rather than trying to accurately forecast the loss over the life of the system. Join Nextracker’s subject matter experts, Aron Dobos and Neelesh Umachandran, and Rounak Kharait, director of solar energy assessments at DNV, for a webinar about why shade modeling matters and recommendations on what the solar industry should do about it.
25 August 2021
Energy Next is a new industry exhibition focusing on the latest renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, which will be held for the first time in 2021 in Sydney, Australia alongside the Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit, the peak gathering of leaders driving Australia's energy transformation. Organised by the same people behind Australia’s largest clean energy event, All-Energy Australia, Energy Next will give visitors two days of access to key suppliers in the industry, free-to-attend professional development and industry workshops, and networking opportunities to better understand clean energy issues and solutions and learn about the latest developments in this transformational, dynamic sector.
25 August 2021
The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste takes place in Fortaleza, Brazil. It addresses leading local and international experts on solar power and renewable energy in the region. The Summit’s mission is to provide in-depth education, enable high-quality networking opportunities, expand the use of PV technologies at regional and national level and strengthen the local PV industry. The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste is organized by Intersolar South America - Latin America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry: Solar Promotion International GmbH, Pforzheim, Freiburg Management and Marketing International GmbH (FMMI) and Aranda Eventos & Congressos Ltda, São Paulo as co-organizer.
25 August 2021
Join us to hear directly from the CTOs and heads-of-research from the top-20 cell/wafer producers to the PV industry today. The event will focus on predicting the key metrics underpinning the next big shift to n-type with answers to the key questions: When will the transition to n-type happen? Which companies will be first to 10 GW capacity and production? Who will be the key equipment suppliers for the new production lines? Which n-type process flow/architecture will emerge as the front-runner? What will polysilicon purity and wafer thickness levels look like for optimized n-type manufacturing? What will the upstream poly/wafer supply-chain look like in 5 years from now?

Read Next

July 26, 2021
A solar-wind-energy storage hybrid project is to power a Madagascan mine after Rio Tinto signed a power purchase agreement with independent power producer CrossBoundary Energy.
July 26, 2021
The pace of climate action in the US is “wholly unacceptable”, according to the director of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Programme Office
July 26, 2021
Support for distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar, community solar and battery storage could save Californian ratepayers US$120 billion over the next 30 years, according to a new report
July 26, 2021
Oil and gas giant Eni has acquired 1.2GW of Spanish renewables from Madrid-based European private equity manager Azora.
PV Tech Premium
July 26, 2021
Boris Farnung and Keith Punzalan of VDE and David Moser of EURAC’s Institute for Renewable Energy take a look at the positive impact comprehensive quality assurance measures can have on the early stage of a project’s lifespan, exploring yield assessments, LCOE projections and the critical need for high quality components.
July 26, 2021
US utility giant NextEra Energy added 1.84GW of renewables and energy storage projects to its backlog in Q2 2021, but its Energy Resources division reported a fiscal loss of US$315 million.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events, Upcoming Webinars
July 29, 2021
Webinar
Upcoming Webinars
August 19, 2021
At 9am (PT) | 6pm (CEST)
Solar Media Events
August 25, 2021
Solar Media Events, Upcoming Webinars
October 6, 2021