The pv magazine weekly news digest


The big news in solar this week was, of course, Tuesday’s confirmation of the U.S. International Trade Commission’s (ITC’s) decision to hike rates on Chinese-made solar products featuring Taiwanese cells being shipped to the States.

Notwithstanding the predictable buzz of interest when the news broke, the development hardly came as a surprise to the industry with one analyst noting it would have been a far bigger shock if the American Department of Commerce had not firmed up the countervailing duties (CVD) and anti-dumping duties (AD) already provisionally applied.

The decision to make the final tariffs even more aggressive is largely academic as, with the latest duties significantly more punitive than those imposed on all-Chinese products in 2012, those dastardly manufacturers using the Taiwanese workaround will simply repatriate their manufacturing operations, as GCL-Poly appears to have done today (Friday) by reversing its decision to sell off its wafer and ingot-making businesses in Jiangsu.

Mexico appeals to Chinese

The big winners? Well, nobody really, as Chinese firms will move quickly to target the burgeoning U.S. market by off-shoring manufacturing to Mexico, on SolarWorld America’s doorstep.

The big losers? The Taiwanese companies relying on the two-year gravy train of supplying cells to Chinese module manufacturers. The all-Taiwanese manufacturers saw the ITC reduce tariffs on their goods but are still predicted to turn their back on the U.S. in favor of Japan, where the snap election called on Sunday gave Shinzo Abe a mandate to continue his spend, spend, spend and devil-take-the-hindmost ‘Abeonomics’ splurge.

Leighton Buzzard in the glare of the pv world

There was good news this week on the storage front with the U.K. unveiling Europe’s largest battery storage project in what is surely the biggest thing to happen in the Bedfordshire town of Leighton Buzzard since the London-to-Birmingham Grand Union Canal opened.

The GBP18.7 million, two-year trial of the 6 MW Smarter Network Storage project will showcase how renewables can be better integrated into the grid and was opened by none other a dignitary than Parliamentary under-secretary of state for climate change Amber Rudd. Well, the South West Bedfordshire parliamentary constituency is not a marginal seat in the forthcoming general election, after all.

Batteries are a Christmas must-have

Still on batteries and good news, the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar)… alright then, it’s the Bundesverband Solarwirthschaft – announced this week the cost of solar storage batteries has dropped by around a quarter since June.

The organization said that, with 15,000 German households already using solar batteries to power their homes, including at night, applications for low-cost solar battery system loans from the state-owned KfW development bank are flying off the shelves faster than Cabbage Patch Kids in 1983. Really? Sigh. KfW is from the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, or Reconstruction Credit Institute.

Equipment sector PERC-ing up

Swiss solar equipment manufacturer Meyer Burger says things are looking up for a battered solar manufacturing equipment industry with India in particular offering cause for optimism.

CEO Peter Pauli paid a recent trip to the country and clearly liked what he saw. He says his company can help the small Indian solar manufacturing sector beef up its act and take on overseas rivals.

And to prove it’s not all wishful thinking, the company today announced $12m-$15m worth, or 700 MW, of orders for its MB-PERC manufacturing upgrade equipment from ‘Asia’. A Meyer Burger double-whopper, if you will.

What’s in a name?

It has also been an eventful week for U.S. wafer manufacturer SunEdison, or for their publicity department at least.

The company closed on a $117 million solar fund as well as on financing for 81.7 MW of projects in Honduras in a week which also saw the company awarded 350 MW of solar projects in the latest Chilean power auctions.

Helped by the fact auction rules for the first time did not bind bidders to commit to supplying power 24 hours a day, that was a big win for the U.S. firm.

Was it the news of this $700 million investment by SunEdison that captured the weekly digest’s attention, or the claim renewables are 10-25% cheaper than fossil fuels in the natural resource-strapped nation?

Sadly not, rather it was the messenger that drew our gaze, SunEdison having appointed a CEO for its Chilean business who was born to be a force in the photovoltaics industry, step forward Mr Alfredo Solar.