pv magazine weekly news round-up: Aug 15-22

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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 late August brought the usual bout of ‘Out of Office’ replies and cooler temperatures, winds of change began to blow gently through some segments of the solar industry. As ever, eyes glanced askance at China and the U.S., with each PV behemoth generating a series of interest-piquing headlines.

In the U.S., figures from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) revealed that every single kilowatt of new energy generating capacity added to power grids across the country in July came via renewable energy sources.

Such a blanket dominance of new capacity additions was encouraging, but solar’s 21 MW lagged way behind wind, which saw its U.S. capacity grow by a massive 379 MW. Within solar, however, it was the unheralded states of Indianapolis, Masschusetts, Vermont and Maryland that led the way, comprising four of the five largest solar arrays connected that month.

A broader solar PV landscape is more than welcome, but California cemented its position as the leading solar state when, on August 15 it hit a new peak generation record for utility-scale solar PV and CSP, topping 4.813 GW of solar energy at 12:03pm. According to the California Independent System Operator, that figure amounted to 14% of the state’s total power demand. However, across the month, solar energy met just 5.1% of state demand – down from 6.4% in June.

Over in China, leading solar company JinkoSolar held back its second quarter financial results until this week – and for good reason. The company revealed soaring revenues, with net profit tripping YOY to $22.3 million and sales rising by 38%. JinkoSolar said that its international operations and growing downstream business were the driving forces behind such a strong performance.

"We gained considerable momentum during the quarter," said company CEO Kangping Chen. "We expanded our geographic reach, secured financial support from globally respected financial institutions for our downstream business, and solidified our position in important emerging markets where we have made strategic investments, such as South Africa and Latin America."

Expansionary tactics were not restricted to JinkoSolar as China’s state-owned Chinese National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced the signing of an agreement with Saudi energy research center King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K. A. CARE) for the cooperation and development of renewable and nuclear energy in the Middle East Kingdom.

The Saudi government is aiming to add 41 GW of solar PV capacity by 2032, and has enlisted Chinese expertise and guidance to help it get there. Whether Saudi Arabia can finally come good on renewable pledges it has been making for some time now, however, remains to be seen.

The road to R&D

If the devil makes work for idle hands, he obviously hasn’t gotten around to the solar industry quite yet. According to NPD Solarbuzz, solar companies forced to idle manufacturing capacity or delay the construction of fabs following the overcapacity crisis of a few years back have used their downtime constructively, pushing standard module efficiencies to new heights.

The analysts claim that the power rating of industry standard 60-cell multicrystalline silicon-based modules could top 275 W within the next year as focus switches to R&D in the wake of new facility construction delays and perennial industry pressure to improve. "To move existing silicon-based cell capacity further forward now requires new technologies to be implemented, which has the potential to drive solar manufacturing into the first widespread technology buy cycle seen within the industry," mused NPD Solarbuzz VP Finlay Colville.

Over in Germany, the Technical University of Munich released a study that suggested Asian developers are now leading the way when it comes to energy storage systems, far outpacing U.S. and European rivals.

The Monitoring Innovation in Electrochemical Energy Storage Technologies: A Patent-based Approach report offered a withering takedown of European and American battery storage efforts, stating that they had fallen far behind Asia where companies "apply for a substantially higher number of patents". The report also found that the lithium segment is extremely dynamic, with the number of patent applications for lithium batteries soaring over the past few years.

Meanwhile, perhaps in an attempt to light a fire under Europe’s one-bar-remaining battery industry, German testing group TÜV SÜD unveiled its new Renewable Energy Storage Systems certificate – a process that will allow examination of the safety and performance of stationary battery storage systems.

OZ regression, UK obsession

In opposite ends of the English-speaking world, solar power enjoyed mixed fortunes this week. The U.K. – bright young thing, for once – continued to confound doubters that such a grey, windy, cramped island could embrace solar by adding a couple of big-ticket utility scale plants to the grid.

The 70 MW of PV capacity added by Eco Energy World helped swell installed U.K. capacity beyond last week’s show-stopping 5 GW figure, while a 3.8 MW array at a Toyota car plant in North Wales proved the diversity and appetite for solar that exists in the country. Still, coalition Prime Minister David Cameron was unmoved, telling the Solar Trade Association (STA) that while he loves solar, he will not renege on plans to cut the subsidy for large-scale solar plants next April.

If only Australians were waking up to such a meek trim. Instead, Prime Minister Tony Abbott seems intent of shaving the lot off – his government’s decision to begin the complete abolition of the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) was met with howls of derision by opponents, with the Australian Solar Council leading the charge.

"Tonight, over 500 solar heroes have come forward to send a clear warning to the Abbott government," said the council’s CEO, John Grimes. "We love solar, solar saves us money on power bills and we will vote to defend the RET!" Battle lines are being drawn all over this vast country, so it will be interesting to see how this particular struggle for the future of Australia’s energy pans out over the coming weeks…

And finally…

Trina Solar company president for Europe, Ben Hill, spoke exclusively to pv magazine about the company’s tailored approach to EU markets. Hill remarked that the power plant business in Europe has shrunk dramatically, steering Trina Solar towards higher efficiency products and more direct pathways to market, particularly in Germany.

In India, Andhra Pradesh state governors announced that they are aiming for 5 GW of solar PV capacity by 2019, and hope to transform the sate into “a solar power generation hub, providing all necessary support through a new solar policy to be announced soon.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), citing a "ministerial error", lowered the anti-dumping tariffs imposed on Taiwanese solar cells and modules by up to half. Motech saw its duties tumble from 44.18% to 20.86%, and Neo Solar Power emerged with a 24.23% rate after previously suffering tariffs of 35.89%.

August 15-22: 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.