The pv magazine weekly digest

"Alright pop-pickers? Been a good year for Trina Solar, eh? Not ‘alf." As old Fluff Freeman might have said were he to analyze the latest rankings for the world’s biggest solar module suppliers.

Aside from U.S. company SunPower, which entered the top ten of the IHS and Solarbuzz global ranking for the first time, there were all the usual suspects but with a change at the top of a top five again dominated by Chinese giants.

Trina Solar claimed the coveted top spot after Q3 financial updates were reported, shipping a monstrous 1 GW of modules by the end of September, pushing former top dog Yingli into second place and all set to smash its rival’s records for full-year and quarterly shipment figures by the end of the year.

The explanation for Yingli’s marginal decline – that the company is now intent on maximizing profitability – says much about the grab still being made by the Chinese ‘big beasts’ for world domination.

First Solar, the highest-placed U.S. supplier, slipped one place from seventh to eighth in the rankings.

Oil price plummets

With the price of oil tanking worldwide, doom-mongers have pointed out the resulting affordability of the black stuff will dent the progress of renewables only to be met by a vociferous response from solar cheerleaders, including ourselves at PV Towers, naturally.

Analysts have seemingly queued up to point out the decline in oil prices – exacerbated by OPEC nations intent on maintaining supply levels – will only serve to stress the volatile nature of the fossil fuel in the longer term.

Such a rollercoaster ride, and implicit threat to energy security, will serve to drive governments into the arms of the renewables brigade say solar supporters at risk of according far too much intelligence and far-sightedness to the world’s politicians.

Whether drivers at the pumps will take such considerations to heart is quite another matter and EV makers such as Tesla may be in for a stormy ride as long as crude continues on its current trajectory.

German solar in the doldrums

With UK solar booming ahead of the dash to get projects plugged in by the March deadline to be eligible for ROC payments, your weekly round-up correspondent wouldn’t want to indulge in schadenfreude but the latest figures from Germany‘s Federal Network Agency show the former solar powerhouse is on the rocks.

With only 75.43 MW of solar installed in October, installations were down on the 140 MW seen on August and 110 in September as the nation posted its first double-digit MW rise since March 2009 – so much for an Oktoberfest, it was more of a … erm … whatever the German is for damp squib.

The decline is undoubtedly not helped by the fact rooftops over 500 kW in size now have to sell energy direct to the market as merchants – only 12 of October’s 5,367 installations were over 500 kW in size and, with FIT payments reducing by 0.25% last month, there is no obvious hope of a resurgence on the horizon.

250 MW project in Mojave Desert

There was good news, however, from California this week, where the top U.S. state by number of advanced energy employees saw a 250 MW CSP plant power up.

The parabolic trough project, by Spanish firm Abengoa, is one of four such CSP projects to come online in California and Arizona in the last 14 months with a total generation capacity of 1.13 GW – more than the average nuclear reactor.

German solar not in the doldrums

And before we leave you to enjoy your weekend, what was that we were saying about the Germans being on a downward spiral?

With analysts speculating on how a future of self-consumption, distributed generation and renewable dominance will batter traditional utilities, E.ON, Germany’s largest utility proved that once again the Germans are ahead of the curve by announcing plans to wash its hands of its non-renewable generation assets by spinning them off into a separate company.

Shareholders greeted the news with a 6% rise in the company’s stock despite the fact E.ON will book a €4.5 billion ($5.6 billion) impairment charge on its conventional, hydro and gas storage assets – as well as its Southern European facilities – as part of the turnaround.

The dramatic new strategy will see the surviving E.ON dependent solely on renewable energy, distribution and direct services as Germany’s leading generator shows the world the way ahead into the energy mix of tomorrow… and they won the World Cup to boot.