From the Mag: a selection of stories from the May issue

Published this week, the theme for the May edition of pv magazine is large-scale solar, looking at the opportunities that exist around the world to produce better, cheaper and more reliable PV energy at a grand scale.

For subscribers to the magazine, the entire issue is available to read online here, but for everyone else, the following three articles are yours to enjoy for free.

Indonesia overview

PV policy expert Ilias Tsagas turns his solar microscope to Indonesia this month, asking whether incumbent president Joko Widodo – who swept to power in July last year – has the gumption to sustain his early-tenure promises to provide more support for the country’s renewable industry.

"Thus far," Ilias writes, "Widodo has kept his promise." The government has removed the subsidy for widely-used premium gasoline, and is steadily shifting investment towards more alternative, renewable energy sources.

However, Widodo’s wishes can only do so much. Structural business and market deficiencies continue to bedevil Indonesia’s energy landscape, and it is likely to require far more blanket political will to engineer a change for the better.

Still, as economic growth drives demand for more electricity, sun-drenched Indonesia has cottoned-on to the potential of PV – with the International Energy Agency (IEA) applauding the country’s feed-in tariff (FIT) and attempts at reforming what was traditionally a conservative, protectionist energy landscape.

Intelligent PV plants

Rapid growth in the Chinese utility-scale solar sector had led, in some quarters, to accusations that quality had suffered in the rush to grow. A second phase in China’s large-scale PV evolution, however, appears to be taking a more considered course, with smart controls being adopted as developers seek to lower their O&M burdens.

pv magazine’s China correspondent Vincent Shaw went to see one such large-scale solar park in China that has adopted intelligent controls, namely Huawei’s smart PV system – designed to improve monitoring, slash man hours and enhance security, yield and many other facets that can elevate a solar park’s performance.

According to Huawei, around half of all large-scale solar parks built in China since the end of 2014 have some sort of smart technology installed – a ratio that is among the highest in the world. This trend is expected to grow strongly in China over the next few years as the market looks to accelerate its growth even further.

SolarCity’s microgrid

Death, taxes, and destructive tornados hitting the U.S. eastern seaboard every summer – as certainties go, that third one’s an accurate addition. Such is the regularity of these extreme weather events that many municipalities, hospitals and rural communities in these regions have begun to explore the possibility of installing their own backup power source.

Enter solar. Or, more specifically, SolarCity, which has rolled out its new GridLogic microgrid across North America with the intention being to offer secure, solar-powered microgrid backup to customers prone to suffering power outages.

This Solar as Insurance Policy approach has gained traction right across the eastern states, and is even being sought in many island nations where the alternative to aging or unreliable grid power is expensive and polluting diesel. In the U.S., a number of state-backed initiatives are helping with the development of microgrids, and with news of the recently launched Powerwall from Tesla turning heads, the Holy Trinity of energy security, storage and independence is that one step closer.

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