pv magazine's weekly news round-up: Aug 8-15

Every Friday, pv magazine will round up the biggest and best stories from the past week and package them here in one easily digestible news nugget. So kick back, fire up the coffee machine and get up to speed with the latest comings and goings in the global PV industry.

What we learned this week

As first half financial reports hopped hot off the press production line seemingly every day, it was the first half performance of leading global PV markets that caused the biggest stir. China cemented its position as the world’s PV powerhouse, adding 3.3 GW of solar capacity in the first six months of 2014. However, despite eclipsing all other markets, that figure was some way short of approaching the halfway point towards 13 GW for the year – a target the government confidently pitched at the beginning of 2014.

Elsewhere, NPD Solarbuzz confirmed that the U.K. had now reached 5 GW of installed solar capacity, shooting it to sixth-place overall as the nation rushes to bring large-scale solar plants online before next April’s removal of the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme for installations of 5 MW or more.

The British government’s decision to scrap the scheme appears to be at odds with public perception following a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) public attitude tracker that found 82% of British households favor solar as their preferred choice of energy – a result that came as no surprise to the U.K.’s Solar Trade Association (STA), policy analyst Leonie Greene told pv magazine.

"Time and time again the public pick solar power as their favorite technology. This is reflected in the fact we have over half a million solar homes across the U.K. today, and growing. The scale of public support makes it nonsensical that solar power is being singled out for punitive treatment by DECC. Solar farms have not dented the very strong public support for solar, and indeed polls specifically on solar farms show they are the single-most popular local energy development," Greene said.

"If government provide a stable policy to grid parity for solar, the public’s love of this technology will be rewarded in full."

Japan’s solar love affair shows no sign of descending into the sort of passive aggression-tinged, "nuclear would never have said that…" type relationship that can afflict some blossoming unions: the market is on course to grow by as much as 11.9 GW (AC) this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Data from the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) showed that more than 1 GW of capacity was added to the grid in April, with more than half comprising small-scale (10 kW to 1 MW) installations. "Providers of residential systems are now focusing on small-scale commercial applications with the capacity of 10 kW to <50 kW," said Izumi Kaizuka from RTS.

Back to black?

Many leading solar companies published their first half financial results this week, with the overriding trend wholly positive for most. Germany’s centrotherm delivered strong revenues of $104 million, but believes a difficult second half lies ahead. The story was similar for SolarWorld, which despite enjoying a 53% shipment increase expects overall annual revenue to come in below expectations.

Singulus cited order delays as a reason why the company’s return to profit has been delayed in H1, but CEO Stefan Rinck said that the company is "well positioned for several investment projects with our products, and we expect additional, larger order intake in the second half of 2014, which together with the existing orders should still make earnings contributions in the current year."

Meanwhile, Canadian Solar reported extremely strong Q2 results, driven by record shipments of 646 MW propelling its revenue to $626 million for the quarter. The company also revealed a pipeline of 1.3 GW, of which approximately half of that capacity is penciled in for Ontario, Canada.

ReneSola also posted impressive shipment growth for Q2, posting a net profit of $800,000 after losing $21.1 million in the same period for 2013. AEG Power Solutions managed to narrow its Q2 loss to just €9.2 million, while Spain’s Abengoa had the Americas to thank for boosting its net profit, with the company generating more than 65% of its revenue from North and South America. Meyer Burger, meanwhile, filed a loss for H1 despite increasing its sales 43% year-on-year.

New markets on the up

Complementing solar’s encouraging growth in the more established markets, as well the return to form for some of the industry’s big-hitters, was the news that a number of previously unheralded (or slow-on-the-uptake) markets have begun to cause a solar stir.

Turkey – touted for a long time as the next big thing in PV – is laying the foundations for a multi-GW market over the next decade, advisors at cleantech analyst firm Apricum told pv magazine.

"Right now there is a 2 GW project pipeline for unlicensed PV applications in Turkey, of which at least 1 GW is very serious," said Apricum senior advisor Deniz Polatkan. "I anticipate that the market can surpass as much as 10 GW by 2023."

BNEF reported too that Mexico and Central America are on the cusp of rapid PV growth, with Mexico alone on course to add 100 MW this year. The Central American region will see 193 MW of new solar PV capacity, rising to more than 450 MW in 2016, said BNEF’s experts. Energy reforms announced this week in Mexico should also benefit the solar sector, many experts believe.

In the U.S., solar fever finally infected ‘ol Mississippi, with the state ruling that it is no longer opposed to net metering while also lining up Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for solar and wind projects to the tune of 100 MW.

And finally…

China continued to prod the U.S. by first asking for an extra week in which to strike a deal in the ongoing solar trade war (a request subsequently granted by the U.S. Department of Commerce), before today announcing that it will close a loophole next month whereby U.S., EU and South Korean polysilicon providers can no longer supply Chinese manufacturers via the country’s "processing trade" rules. The decision is set to benefit those companies that enjoy low duties, Johannes Bernreuter of Bernreuter Research told pv magazine.

Suntech snapped up 30% of U.S. storage company Powin Energy in a bold move into the American battery market; Saudi Arabia announced that it could soon offer solar PV LCOE between $70 and $90 per MWh, and Enphase Energy signed a three-year supply deal with Vivint Solar.

August 8-15: That was the week that was. Be sure to follow @pv-magazine on Twitter for continued updates and breaking news, and check back next Friday for the next pv magazine weekly news roundup.