The pv magazine weekly news digest

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It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for ever since stepping – occasionally – into the weekly round-up hotseat, a perfect example of art eating itself. This week’s round-up of the most popular solar news stories kicks off with… last week’s weekly news round-up.

Last week’s digest featured. No, let’s not go there. It would be too much like shifting slightly in a bathroom with facing mirrors and achieving a Bohemian Rhapsody multiple picture effect, and self-congratulation is such an unedifying spectacle in any walk of life…

Cheap buffet, anyone?

Put the words ‘Buffet’ and ‘cheapest’ into any search engine and you are liable to get a list of cut-price wedding caterers but, nevertheless, let’s start the real hard news this week with the revelation of Warren Buffett’s world record breaking solar energy deal out in the deserts of Nevada.

The NV Energy utility owned by the ‘Sage (see note above) of Omaha’ agreed a price of just $0.0387/kWh for power generated by First Solar’s 100 MW Playa Solar 2 project, smashing his own previously unreported record of $0.046/kWh, set by the same utility for power generated by SunEdison’s similarly-sized Boulder Solar Project last year – he kept that one close to his chest as the rest of the world, pv magazine included, thought DEWA’s $0.0585/kWh ‘six-cent energy’, set in Dubai in January was the gold standard.

As well as the eye-poppingly low figures, our coverage also included two strong contenders for understatement of the year as Bloomberg analyst Kit Konolige confidently stated five-cent energy was "probably the cheapest PPA … ever seen in the U.S." and, in a measured response a British Empire officer would be proud of, Nevada’s Public Utility Commission described the price as "very reasonable."

Nothing to see here!

How can module manufacturers make a profit selling modules at a price that would permit developers to sell power at such a knock-down price?

Maybe we should ask Yingli, the world number one – just like Suntech before it – whose chief financial officer was forced to deny rumors yesterday (Thursday) that it had halted production because of an inability to service debts.

‘It’s untrue,’ railed CFO Yiyu Wang, bringing to mind images of Frank Drebin waving his arms and yelling ‘nothing to see here!’ as a firework factory explodes behind him and adding: "We are in production today…" in what could yet prove a particularly carefully-worded media response.

The fact the Baoding-headquartered mega-giant solar behemoth was tweeting images of shipments bound for Africa as recently as Wednesday only succeeded in recalling to mind Shakespeare’s ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much.’

‘Just a slip of the keyboard, guv’

"A technical error made by inexperienced personnel" – no, not a description of my career to date but the explanation offered by Chinese module manufacturer Znshine to the EU, in an attempt to justify why it had been mislabelling products as made in a third-party country, probably Japan, when they were actually bolted together in China, not to mention invoicing and shipping dates not tallying up with the company’s books.

Not surprisingly, the EU gave short shrift to that explanation and has excluded the Jiangsu-based panel maker from its minimum price agreement after similar punishment was meted out to Canadian Solar (the Chinese company that calls itself… never mind) ET Solar and Renesola in March.

With Chinese solar stocks, indeed all Chinese stocks, going through the floor, and Yingli forced to turn to Twitter to keep the media wolves from the door, it wasn’t a good week in the Far East.

Tesla have released a home storage solution…

But our weekly round-up wouldn’t be our (most-read, readers’ favourite) weekly round-up without the mention of, you’ve guessed it – the Tesla Powerwall.

The ubiquitous – and in solar trade press terms there really is no better definition of the word – Tesla home solar storage system was among the battery technologies on show at Intersolar Europe and cited in the expert analysis of IHS’ Sam Wilkinson this week.

Despite the fact Sam thinks Tesla’s commercial-scale version – the Power Ranger, sorry… PowerToThePeople, erm Powerpack, that’s it yes, ahem! The Powerpack – will be more influential, the analyst was momentarily awestruck as he considered the fact Tesla has taken home storage into the realm of fashion accessory, stating: "People will buy the Powerwall not just for the economics, but because it’s a desirable thing to have."

Sam’s on the money when he sums up how unusual that is for the narrow world of PV and energy storage, adding: "This is interesting for the industry and is not something that we necessarily see very often."

No kidding.

Fortunately Sam was soon back on familiar territory when discussing the attractive features of the far-less-sexy offering from Germany’s Sonnenbatterie and its ‘aggregated depths of discharge.’

So although the PV world is in chaos in China, solar power is getting so cheap they will soon be paying us to use it (they already have in Germany this year) and home storage systems are as fashionable as wraparound TVs and wearable technology. Even the weekly round-up is becoming a must-have. I should start charging.