Weekly news round-up


You can almost smell the weekend by the time pv magazine‘s weekly round-up lands in your in-tray. We’re almost there and once again we’re spoiling you by rounding up the tastiest bits of PV news from around the world this week for all you laggards unwilling to pore over our unsurpassed coverage in real time. Enjoy.

India was abuzz with – well – bees, as consultants Bridge to India and solar company Tata Power Solar published a report analyzing what form of solar installations would prove best for the country.

Although the adjective-intensive ultra-mega scale projects the nation’s politicians are currently besotted with – ‘solar elephants’ in the curious parlance of the study – could achieve an LCOE of INR6.6/kWh ($0.109/kWh) within the ten-year scope of the study, that would deliver energy costs of only INR8.4/kWh ($0.14/kWh) upon reaching the consumer.

The report’s authors argue this landed cost of power (LCOP) figure, payable by the consumer, is more relevant as a measure of cost than the traditional LCOE figure related to generators.

According to the report, large rooftops (solar pigeons) could match that LCOE and deliver an LCOP of INR6.7/kWh ($0.11), for the cheapest power, and create more employment opprtunities, although not as much as those ‘solar bee’ residential rooftops, which could deliver 325,000 jobs and amount to 25 GW of capacity by 2024, all of which means utility scale projects in India – solar horses – could be heading for the knacker’s yard as India adds up to 145 GW of new PV.

All this in a week that saw Mr Modi’s government decide not to introduce anti-dumping (AD) tariffs by sticking their fingers in their ears until the appropriate deadline passed.

Gigafactory oversupply

Tesla’s swanky new battery ‘Gigafactory’ came in for some stick this week with Lux Research predicting the $4 billion fab will end up supplying 50% more batteries than the company’s electric vehicle sales justify.

Lux says the much-vaunted project (it’s being built in Reno but ssssh! Don’t tell anyone) will shave only $2,800 off the cost of a Tesla, not enough to draw people away from traditional gas guzzlers and leaving Gigafactory development partner Panasonic with ‘razor thin’ margins on its projected $1.4 billion investment.

So much for the solar naysayers. When the big financial institutions get behind solar, you know you’ve cracked it and this week, Zurich’s UBS Bank announced to investors that traditional fossil fuel power plants will face extinction within the next 20 years.

UBS’ tip as the best alternative for energy investors? You’ve guessed it solar, said the world’s biggest private bank in a sea-change verdict that had lefties like us slavering at the prospect the rest of the world’s investors would follow the lead, herd-like, given out by a financial powerhouse with $1.5 trillion worth of assets.

Austin goes solar

The city fathers in Austin, Texas have already jumped the gun by pledging to replace the output from an aging gas-fired power plant with 600 MW of utility scale solar – no mention of horses, here – as part of a pledge to make solar the default energy source in future.

SAGging spirits at German developer Solarstrom were relieved with the news Shunfeng Photovoltaic International, the Chinese powerhouse that bought the hapless Wuxi Suntech last year for $483 million, was extending its global shopping spree.

Solarstrom, forced into insolvency by a €20 million ($25.9 million) bill in December has been snapped up for a reported $85 million with a guarantee all jobs will be retained.

The ‘government’ installed by pro-Russian rebels in the Ukrainian region of Crimea has threatened to nationalize the assets of Austrian solar developer Activ Solar in the region, citing the company’s ‘huge’ debts to the Motherland.

Coup for Putin

Bad news for the European developer but quite a coup for Mr Putin, who has successfully persuaded the world’s financial institutions that renewables are a better bet than fossil fuels (see above) with his actions in Ukraine and threats to starve the EU of energy.

Those stubborn utility scale workhorses are still driving the Japanese solar market but there were rumblings from the UK that a decision by the coalition government to grant guaranteed renewables support only to wave and tidal power would hit solar hard.

Anyone would think there’s a general election looming and wealthy Tory voters were interested only in generation they can’t see or hear – but we’re not that cynical at pv magazine.

And finally… Northern California brewer Bear Republic has gone energy neutral with the installation of a rooftop solar system at its brewery in Cloverdale using Enphase’s American Made equipment. Let’s all raise a glass to that. Cheers!