pv magazine weekly news digest

The first major victim of the rise of Asian inverter makers was announced this week with American manufacturer Advanced Energy opting to wind down a solar inverter business which claimed the third largest share of the global market in 2013.

The extent of the struggles facing manufacturers trying to resist products with a ‘Made in China’ label was reflected by the fact the parent company will take a $260 million-$290 million hit from the closure after being unable to find potential buyers for its AE Solar Energy business.

According to IHS figures, Advanced Energy could claim 4% of the global solar inverter market two years ago but the business’ demise follows the announcement, earlier this year, that inverter giant SMA was shedding a third of its global workforce to remain competitive.

And the main beneficiaries from AE’s imminent demise? China’s Sungrow, Huawei and TBEA of course.

All-conquering U.S. solar leasing company SolarCity has tweaked its Homebuilder Program to include … you’ve guessed it, the solar accessory of the season: a Tesla Powerwall.

The Homebuilder Program offers purchasers of new-build homes the chance to add a solar system to their property without raising the purchase price and is now offering a generation and storage system that includes a Powerwall and monitoring and control, with SolarCity claiming it can be altered in future to harness the opportunities offered as utilities roll-out smart grids.

Given the fact the SolarCity offering includes an inverter, it’s a shame the announcement didn’t come a few hours earlier as far as Advanced Energy is concerned.

Never mind Mayweather v Pacquiao for the fight of the century, what about Branson versus Ecclestone? Even if the match-up would be more reminiscent of Jurassic World.

It’s easy to scoff at serial entrepreneur Richard Branson’s claim that the new all-electric Formula E racing series which culminated in London last weekend will overtake, pardon the pun, Bernie Ecclestone’s corporate monster Formula 1 in popularity ‘within four or five years’.

Perhaps the zillionaire founder of the Virgin brand was getting overexcited ahead of the final Grand Prix at Battersea Park in London which saw Nelson Piquet Jnr crowned as world champion, but his optimistic prediction that in 20 years’ time, every new car in the world will come with a battery may not be too far wide of the mark.

And when you consider this a man who conquered the world on the back of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, it takes some nerve to bet against him.

Some 60,000 fans saw the final race of a motorsport series which began in Beijing last year and the race itself was entirely solar-powered for the first time, even the cars weren’t.

Cheap Chinese inverters may be making life difficult for the traditional powers but in our very own free download of PV game-changers, the Chinese presence is only slight, amounting to inverters recently unveiled by Sungrow and Huawei, unless you count the Zeversolar business owned by SMA.

By contrast there was a power system, including inverter, developed by SMA as well as various other inverters produced by SolarEdge (Israel), Kostal and two products from Kaco (Germany), ABB (Switzerland) and Fronius (Austria).

My gaffer Jonathan assures me there is no relevance to the numbering system used in our catalogue so it must be purely coincidental that number 1 is, inevitably, the Tesla Powerwall.

The US could be powered by clean energy

A study by Stanford University has called for the U.S. to accelerate renewable power generation to account for 80-85% of the nation’s energy mix within just 15 years and for the States to be powered entirely by renewables by 2050.

Doing so, claims the report, would save each U.S. citizen around $260/year and would reduce per capita health and climate costs to the federal government of $1,500/year and $8,300/year, respectively.

In a best-case scenario, PV would account for 38% of the nation’s 100% renewables mix, split between 30.8% from utility-scale installations, 4% from residential rooftops and 3.2% from commercial and public rooftops.

That scenario would entail 46,480 new utility-scale plants being built as well as a further 75 million rooftop systems. One can only imagine what SolarCity – and possibly Advanced Energy – must make of those figures.