The pv magazine weekly news digest

Should the sun ever stop shining (Our British readers might know the feeling) then it’s reassuring to know that all of mankind would be in the same boat.

Sure, the sun’s demise would spell the end of the solar industry, but then it would also mean the end of all life as we know it. There is, at least, some comfort in that.

Thankfully, that big ball of burning gas in the sky isn’t due to clock out of service for another couple of billion years, so we’re good for now.

Slightly less reliable have been pv magazine’s web servers this week, which suffered an-as-yet-unidentified malfunction on Thursday, rendering our website mute for an interminably long time. We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your patience – normal service was resumed today.

Nobody likes volatility

Having learned that it is never nice to be shaken from one’s comfort zone, we can sympathize (somewhat) with the oil industry, which is continuing to suffer at the hands of its own self-imposed volatility. With prices per barrel threatening to go as low as $40 as the week came to a close, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reported that the ongoing tumult on the markets could well play into the hands of the U.S. solar and renewable industry.

Despite there being very little direct link between the price of oil and the performance of solar markets, a "second-order impact" is set to serve as a direct stimulus to both the U.S. economy and its relation to renewable energy investment.

"Consumers have more money in their pockets. Maybe the industry can get a boost," mused BNEF head of research for the Americas region, Michel Di Capua. Savings in 2014 amounted to $14 billion for U.S. motorists, and could rise to $75 billion this year. According to pv magazine’s own research, that sum could theoretically purchase an additional 25 GW of solar PV based on an installed price of $3,000 per kW.

ITC extension

With solar in the U.S. going great guns, it almost seems unfair that President Obama has sought to make the industry’s investment climate even more attractive.

Almost, but not quite. After all, fossil fuels have had it their own way for a while now, so the news that the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is to be extended "permanently" was greeted warmly by the U.S. solar industry.

The announcement was made as part of the new budget unveiled at the beginning of the week, and was applauded by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), with SEIA CEO Rhone Resch calling it "a major investment in America’s future".

"The ITC has changed the U.S. for the better," Resch added. "The solar industry employs nearly 175,000 Americans, pumps $15 billion a year into our economy and offsets more than 20 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions."

The budget also called for a 45% boost in solar funding, amounting to $336.7 million for the DOE’s SunShot solar program this year. SunShot director Minh Le told pv magazine that such an increase was "healthy".

Germany installed 1.89 GW of PV in 2014

Less healthy were former PV world-leader Germany’s annual installation figures for 2014. Limping in at 1.89 GW, Germany remained the fifth-largest solar market for the year, but has seen its growth stripped right back after leading the pack for many years.

Germany topped more than 7 GW of new PV annually in both 2010 and 2011, and more than 7.2 GW in 2012, but the industry has suffered in recent years as Europe generally – bar the U.K. – has slowed its solar investment.

Sharp continues its solar pullout

A sharp exit it may not be, but the prolonged edging away from PV undertaken by Sharp continued this week as the company sold its Recurrent Energy subsidy to China’s Canadian Solar for just $265 million.

The loss-making deal is a stark reflection of Sharp’s wider difficulties, Ash Sharma of IHS told pv magazine, revealing: "This is a reflection of Sharp’s difficult financial position rather than the company viewing solar negatively. Generating cash in the short-term appeared to be a driving factor for the deal."

Viewed from Canadian Solar’s perspective, the move is a bold signal of intent from the Chinese company, believes Deutsch Bank analyst Vishal Shah.

"Canadian Solar’s acquisition of Recurrent marks the first major movement into U.S. project development from a Chinese solar company, which we view as a sign of continued strength in the U.S. downstream market," the analyst said.

India’s PV maturation continues

In an exclusive interview with pv magazine, Tata Power Solar CEO Ajay Goel revealed that the Indian government has agreed that around a quarter of all solar installations pledged under its 100 GW target should be from locally sourced components.

The government’s plans also include a strategy to tempt greater foreign investment into India’s solar industry, plus wider scope to bring its domestic manufacturing industry up to speed. However, the country is unlikely to reach 100 GW installed by 2020, as is the aim, with Goel believing that India will miss that target by five or six years.

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