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

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Published this week, pv magazine July leads with an in-depth report on the trials and tribulations of China’s Hanergy Thin Film, so if you’re not yet a subscriber then it is well worth signing up to gain full access to the report, plus all of the other juicy content packed inside this month’s issue.

For you non-subscribers, there are three further appetite-whetting articles for you to enjoy, for free, right away…

Better than grid parity

Christian Roselund undertakes a thorough and thought-provoking examination of the U.S. utility-scale solar market, exploring how the industry is becoming cost-competitive under its own steam.

Despite numerous support policies delivered under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) adding vast amounts of PV capacity to the U.S. grid, some 5.5 GW of large-scale solar PV contracts have been awarded in recent years outside of the RPS umbrella.

Is the U.S. solar industry on the verge of out-competing other electricity sources on price, and if so, how will the impending ITC scale back in 2016 impact on PV’s growth? Some experts believe that the ITC phase-down will be a mere bump in the road as solar accelerates to become better than grid parity.

"All of these [solar] projects that are being procured are happening because it makes sense from an economic lens," said GTM Research Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman. "I think what this means is that solar has become a resource that is not viewed as a renewable resource, but as a conventional generation resource."

Have tracker, will travel

As solar tracker manufacturers become more active in international markets, buoyed by tumbling costs, the issue now on the agenda for many leading suppliers is quality and financing. Although tracker quality has increased in line with price decreases, a global cocktail of varying labor rates, local content rules and shipping costs is testing the robustness of fledgling supply chains.

Overcoming these hurdles will be key to the market’s maturation, because there is a growing thirst for tracker technology in all leading emerging regions, most notably Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, while China is proving alluring for leading U.S. and European tracker specialists.

A further challenge is identifying the most compatible EPC provider in these new regions, which is something that NEXTracker, IdeemaTec and Exosun are each exploring with varying degrees of success. The internationalization is no one-way street, either: leading Asian players such as Topper Sun Energy have begun targeting European and the U.S. markets, bringing further competition to an increasingly crowded sector.

Into reserve gear

That buzzing sound coming from the battery industry is only going to get louder as the sector continues its meteoric rise, spurred by headline-grabbing, populist tech from Tesla and equally supported by a steady supply of innovative storage startups.

Behind the technology, however, lies an industry that is coming to terms with its pivotal role in the new and future energy landscape. Be it better media savvy or storage-specific subsidy support across the U.S., Japan, China and Europe, the evolution has become a revolution in just a few short years.

"There has always been, economics aside, a large part of the global population that would be interested in, and have enthusiasm for, the idea of generating and storing their own electricity and relying on their own sources," said IHS manager for the power and energy group Sam Wilkinson.

The signs all appear positive: efficiency is increasing by about 8% annually, and global prices are expected to fall by around 50% by 2017, dropping to around $250 per kilowatt hour, according to GTM Research. Growth in the U.S. is poised to see around 220 MW of storage added in 2015, with Japan on course to grow by 160 MW, with Citi Group reporting that the global storage industry could reach 240 GW by 2050 if current rates of deployment are maintained.

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