The pv magazine weekly news digest: Oct 18-25

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The weather may have turned in Berlin but here at pv magazine Towers we remain indefatigably dedicated to shining some sunshine into your life by collecting all the juiciest solar stories of the week, adding a pinch of salt and serving them up as the weekly news digest. Enjoy.

With retailers now routinely kicking off their Christmas and New Year sales as soon as the first advent calendar doors are ripped open the solar industry, it seems, is following suit.

This week’s weekly news digest is all about the solar sale; prices have been slashed in the grand solar giveaway and – in Austin, Texas at least – everything must go.

Leading the way in the rush for festive custom was U.S. polysilicon maker SunEdison, which will be able to manufacture poly for less than $6/kg – $2/kg less than its most bargain basement rivals – with the help of a $2 billion factory being mooted in China, and maybe another in Saudi Arabia. Think of it as buy one, get one free.

That, at least was the confident prediction of SunEdison president Ahmad Chatila as he discussed the possibility of opening a Chinese plant that would churn out 20,000-30,000 metric tonnes of poly every year using the company’s shiny new fluidized bed reactor technology that has proven so successful at its fab in Ulsan, Korea.

The prospect of a plunging price tag for the raw material needed to make panels may have been one of the factors behind predictions this week that the cost of solar energy will continue to fall.

Solar energy cost to keep on falling

A report published by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says the price of solar fell between 12% and 19% last year and is set to have fallen a further 3% to 19% this year.

And the good news is, the solar clearance sale is set to continue for the forseeable future according to the report’s authors.

Good news for the renewables brigade worldwide that, but such predictions are likely to prove a double-edged sword in the Texan state capital where utility Austin Energy – which we, at pv magazine would have a lot more respect for if it changed its name to Austin Powers – is already cursing its luck for leading the charge to solar by signing costly long-term PPAs some years back, at least according to the utility’s PR machine.

Utility resists renewables target

City councillors told the power company back in August it must generate 65% of its power from renewables by 2025 and replace an ageing 600 MW gas-fired plant with the equivalent amount of solar.

But, citing its costly existing solar commitments, Dr Evil, erm sorry, Austin Energy wants that demand reduced to 50% renewables plus a new, more energy-efficient gas-powered plant and the news solar is getting cheaper by the day is hardly likely to encourage the utility to sign any new PPAs in any kind of a hurry.

With thoughts turning to the pantomime season, Austin Energy’s heel-dragging over renewables edges out Australian PM Tony Abbott to the pv magazine villain of the week award, the solar bête noire Down Under now training his climate sceptic sights on large scale solar.

LDK update

At least investors in LDK Solar, or, to give it its correct PV media title, ‘debt-saddled LDK Solar’, had some bright news concerning the company’s planned restructuring.

Holders of senior notes in the Chinese manufacturer which were supposed to pay out this year voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to back a proposed restructuring of the former leading light of Chinese solar, although the alternatives weren’t specified by the LDK press releases announcing the various provisional liquidation and Chapter 11 bankruptcy developments.

With the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands set to mull the restructuring plans on November 6, simultaneously with the Hong Kong High Court on November 7 for the international-timeline-straddling company, and with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the District of Delaware set to give its two penn’orth on November 21, at least LDK’s lawyers and provisional liquidators can look forward to the festive season with some relish.