pv magazine weekly digest

The future’s bright, the future’s solar, at least according to the New Energy Outlook (NEO) 2015 report published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) on Tuesday.

According to the NEO, solar will outstrip all other power sources for energy investment in the next 25 years, with a whopping $3.7 trillion invested up to 2040, by which time some 14 per cent of the world’s energy will come from the sun.

According to BNEF, that will add up to a further 3.4 TW of solar generation – 1.7 TW of which will be from rooftop installations, with the U.S. and Europe leading the small scale advance and 1.8 TW from utility scale in non-Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for BNEF, refused to be pessimistic when our gaffer [Ed: ah, that’s editor in chief to you] Jonathan Gifford pointed out, in rather curmudgeonly fashion, that 14% of the world’s energy mix in 2040 isn’t that much, and she explained, once coal and nuclear plants are built in the developed world we are stuck with them for their useful lifetime, they won’t just disappear.

On the plus side, added the ever-optimistic analyst, the NEO is a business-as-usual report which could prove a conservative estimate, and BNEF expects solar to supply around 20 per cent of the electricity in India and Europe by 2040. She also pointed out duties levied on solar will have zero impact because manufacturing is shifting to the locales needed to evade them.

“If you are building large scale solar, go to the developing world, if you are building small scale, look to the roofs,” concluded Jenny, on a defiantly optimistic note.??

Chinese module and storage manufacturer BYD, at least, seems to be a glass-half-full type company and is planning to double its module manufacturing capacity to 2 GW this year with a further GW coming online next year.

The company made the headlines this week with news of the commercial debut of BYD’s EVA-free module. Why should we be excited about such a surfeit of acronyms? Because the absence of EVA extends the performance life of the new ‘2.0’ module to 50 years, according to its maker.

BYD’s new product embeds solar cells in liquid silicon, rather than EVA, which degrades with the penetration of moisture so the 2.0 should enjoy a much longer life. With the company also releasing two new storage solutions, if only they could put the word Tesla in front of them, they would have a license to print money.

Leaving aside the fact the phrase ‘leading German solar players’ is something of an oxymoron, and with BNEF having predicted solar tariffs are essentially pointless, three German energy companies have called for the abolition of the minimum price agreement applied by the EU to imported Chinese solar products.

Not surprisingly, however, there are no solar manufacturers joining the call from Europe to abolish tariffs on modules, solar glass and on the German-made polysilicon shipped to China to make the products in question.

German poly maker Wacker, panel wholesaler and EPC contractor Baywa and energy utility MVV have taken fright after the belligerent voice of pro-tariff lobby group EU Prosun made a pre-emptive strike to get the agreement setting minimum prices for Chinese products extended by up to five years. The agreement is set to expire on December 6 and EU Prosun has called for a review of the arrangement in the fall, hoping the EU will extend the current agreement while any, inevitably lengthy, review takes place.

It’s essentially the same back and forth we sat through a couple of summers ago but, thus far at least, EU Prosun has always managed to shout loudest.

But rather than end the week on a bum note, we’ll finish with some good news from Britain as lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery maker Oxis announcing it expects to bring its product to market by the end of March.

The Oxford-based company says its batteries are five times more powerful than conventional lithium-ion batteries as well as being lighter, safer, maintenance-free and cheaper – the company is predicting a battery cost of $250/kWh by 2020 thanks to the cheaper cost of sulfur.

Maybe that 14% figure will prove a trifle unambitious after all…

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