pv magazine weekly news digest

The sporting world has given journalists an easy cache of clichés within which to delve when summarizing events from often totally unrelated industries. From horseracing to golf, popular phrasings from popular pastimes have peppered the lexicons of the lazy, the time-pressed or the inspirationally bereft reporter for decades.

But sometimes – Friday afternoons, mainly – such analogies are apt. The week in solar has been a real humdinger, with the fleet-footed industry gearing up to land a telling blow on its energy rivals – many of which have already dropped their guard and are ready to throw in the towel.

Carbon’s corner is already preparing the smelling salts after a bruising report from Deutsche Bank suggested that the energy war was already over, with solar set to become the dominant electricity source within the next 15 years.

A 175-page report by Deutsche analyst Vishal Shah suggests that the industry will generate revenues of $5 trillion by 2030, adding 100 million more customers and increasing its share in the global energy mix from 1% today to 10% by 2030, and around 30% by 2050.

"Over the next 5-10 years, we expect new business models to generate a significant amount of economic and shareholder value," wrote Shah. With oil prices on the ropes, solar at grid parity in half of the countries around the world, and cost-competitive storage moving up the divisions every week, solar is well on course to become the undisputed heavyweight of the energy industry within 15 years.

The gloves are off

Too meek for too long, solar came out fighting on a number of fronts this week, not least in terms of cost, with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi predicting that PV will be at grid parity in 80% of the globe as early as 2017.

With growing energy demand necessitating global investment of $48 trillion over the next 20 years, solar is jabbing away at its competitors towards center stage, and will play a key role in meeting this demand over the next few years.

Saved by the bell

Floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee is all well and good, but the U.S. industry’s determination to guard against low blows has seen it all-but shut-out Chinese Tier-1 module suppliers from its market.

A report this week from GTM Research found that the U.S. is the highest-priced market for solar components from China’s leading companies owing to the stinging AD and CVD duties imposed, hiking average module prices to $0.72 cents per watt in the final quarter of last year.

China’s leading suppliers may be unable to break through the U.S. defense, but Tier-1 manufacturers have enjoyed breakthrough success in a range of emergent markets, not least Chile, where costs per watt for Chinese modules are just $0.56, according to the report.

Southpaw stance

The emergence last year of the U.K. as a serious solar competitor on the world stage had threatened to be short-lived following the government’s announcement to remove attractive RO subsidies from solar developers.

However, the market’s ongoing maturation means that the U.K. is far from dead on its feet; rather, a noticeable shift from ground-mount to commercial rooftops is beginning to take shape as the market dodges the intended blows from government and develops a series of innovative ways to stay competitive.

Nowhere was this new approach more evident than at this week’s Ecobuild exhibition in London, which demonstrated the U.K.’s thirst for residential financing solutions, technical innovation and regulatory stability.

Energy in reserve

Critics of solar have always questioned its ability to stay the course. “The sun doesn’t shine at night”, shriek the naysayers, but the industry has long moved past such transparent attempts to sully its name, and this week once again proved how drastic innovations in energy storage have become.

A new report from Lux Research found that lithium ion battery technology is way ahead on points when it comes to grid-tied storage, with the technology accounting for 90% of proposed grid storage projects in 2014.

The U.S. leads the way in this field, with 418 MW of storage across 250 projects under its belt, and U.S.-based wholesale generation developer AES Corp. confirmed this trend as it announced a $25 million deal to acquire Main Street Power, a storage and distributed power operator.

Sharp blow

Towards the end of the week, it became apparent that not every company was clamoring for a piece of PV, however, as it emerged that Japanese tech giants Sharp was stepping up its efforts to offload its solar business.

pv magazine understands that the company’s entire solar operation has become unprofitable, and in an effort to avoid a further bloody nose, is looking for the quick offload, although Sharp itself declined to confirm these rumors.

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