From the Mag: A selection of stories from the March issue

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Published this week, the March 2015 edition of pv magazine places particular focus on the changing face of manufacturing across the global solar landscape.

Subscribers can read the magazine in its entirety here, but each month pv magazine also releases a handful of articles for the enjoyment of our non-subscribers, three of which are featured here…

Our U.S. correspondent Garret Hering took a close look at the returning trend for PV manufacturing in the U.S. this month, examining just how important that ‘Made in the USA’ stamp really is for the solar industry.

Right across the nation there appears to be a growing appetite to boost PV manufacturing in the U.S., from SolarWorld Americas’ expansion of its Hillsboro fab from 380 MW to 530 MW to Wacker Chemie’s creation of a $2.4 billion polysilicon plant in Charleston, Tennessee, expansions are underway in all four corners of the country.

"U.S. solar manufacturing has had a strong revival," Lidija Sekaric, manager of the technology-to-market initiative within the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sunshot program, told pv magazine. "And with a strong market in the U.S., manufacturing is going to remain strong."

According to DOE data, announced capacity additions through 2018 will push U.S. PV manufacturing capacity up to almost 4 GW – with a growing emphasis to expand even further in the coming years.

Solar’s U.K. battle

Market and policy expert Ilias Tsagas shone his solar torch at the U.K. electricity market for this month’s issue, leaving no stone unturned in the quest to determine just how solar power fits into the the country’s electricity market reform (EMR).

In what was billed as an effective means for decarbonizing the U.K.’s wider economy, there have been accusations within the solar industry that the EMR simply makes it harder for solar PV to plug in, tending to favor more established technologies such as onshore wind instead.

And with support schemes such as the Renewable Obligation (RO) and the Contracts for Difference (CfD) increasingly competitive, solar’s relative naivety when it comes to lobbying decision makers has left it out in the cold.

"Offshore wind led the way here," said Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at the University of Oxford. "It is an order of magnitude more expensive than onshore wind, and early on its corporate interests lobbied for two ROCs. It was a masterly demonstration of lobbying techniques."

Despite solar’s best efforts ("we did everything we could to promote solar," said the Solar Trade Association’s Leonie Greene), the EMR still appears to favor big international players, whereas PV in the U.K. is largely the domain of small-to-medium-size enterprises.

Regardless, solar’s inherent innovation, scalability and increasing affordability will see the technology force its way further into the discussion in the future, no matter how uneven any future government makes the playing field.

Leasing to own

Among the residential sector, the solar leasing model pioneered by SolarCity has transformed solar PV unrecognizably, but the U.S.’s commercial and industrial rooftops have had little in the way of support.

However, pv magazine’s Eckhart K. Gouras explores the opportunities offered by LFC Capital’s Solar Ownership Program, which combines leasing and ownership in what could prove a winning formula for further growth in this sector of the market.

LFC’s operating lease allows the lessor to monetize Investment Tax Credits (ITC) by passing through a substantial portion of the system’s value to the company/lessee in the form of subsidized lease payments. Coupled with low cost of ownership and savings offered between 40% and 50%, such a scheme could prove pivotal in lowering the barriers to the solar commercial rooftop segment in the U.S. in the near future.

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Every month, pv magazine produces the world’s leading publication for the solar PV industry, covering a wide range of topics in the most in-depth and insightful manner possible.

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