Climate change deniers, coal lovers and Republicans were left looking more angered and red-faced than usual this week following the announcement of the Obama-approved Clean Energy Plan, unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday.
Aiming to lower carbon emissions by 32% by 2030 based on 2005 levels, the Power Plan should have been met with universal acclaim by any right-thinking American. But the too-much-to-the-right-thinkers in the fossil fuel industry were up in (no doubt carbon-flecked) arms at the proposals, which the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity rather incredulously labeled "illegal", claiming that the plan risked endangering thousands of Americans jobs.
A more reasoned, rational response emanated from Deutsche Banks Vishal Shah, who noted that the expected boost to renewable energy sources will encourage utility-scale solar particularly, and hints towards a possible extension of the 30% ITC which the world and his dog knows is currently set to decrease to 10% as the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2016.
However, the EPAs proposals omitted distributed solar from the Best System of Emissions Reduction (BSER) due to "unique data and technical challenges" that "complicate identifying a technically feasible and cost-effective level of generation", but the EPA did add that it would count solar project that generate metered MWh.
The Power Plan also seemingly gave the cold shoulder to storage, stating: "Storage can be helpful but is not essential for the feasibility of RE deployment because there are many sources of flexibility on the grid." Tesla and other leading storage companies may now embark on a round of "strong lobbying" to oppose the exclusion, suggests Forbes. And what Elon Musk wants, Elon Musk tends to get.
Well dont you look fab?
Give a man a solar array and he can be self-sufficient for life. Give a man a solar panel production facility, however, and he can potentially transform the entire energy industry. That man Musk was in the news again this week as SolarCity the company he helped to set up with his cousins the Rive brothers announced two major milestones.
The first was a typically whoop-holler-backslaps-all-round topping off ceremony at the companys Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York state, where dignitaries and those involved in the ambitious project gathered in the obligatory brightly colored hard hats and hoped the cameras would not point their way. Most failed. But their wider, collective achievement is impressive the fab is now ready for its internal kit-out, and will welcome Silevo machinery over the next few months before beginning commercial operation of the companys high efficiency solar panels early in 2016.
But why stop there? Unlike the earliest Tesla vehicle, Musks range extends far and wide. All the way down into Mexico, in fact, where SolarCity has just acquired Ilioss a solar lease and finance provider that has been making waves quietly in the growing Mexican market. With SolarCity now adding its weight, marketing savvy and hands-on installation prowess to the sector, expect Mexican solar to soar soon enough.
How low can you go?
The Indian state of Telangana this week held a 2 GW tender the largest single PV allocation in the country and, amid tough competition, received a bid of $0.08 per kWh from SkyPower for a 50 MW solar PV project the lowest ever strike price for Indian solar.
Well, joint-lowest. SkyPower has also agreed the same price for a further 50 MW solar plant in the state of Madhya Pradesh. This aggressive round of bidding by the Ontario-based developer was at odds with the general trend, noted Bridge to India, with most bidders aiming for higher tariffs based on generous allotted commissioning times of 18 months.
Tech a chance on me
Lower solar costs are not only being driven by expansion hungry solar developers, however. Lux Research reported this week in its latest silicon solar cell and module roadmap that new and emerging technologies are set to play a leading role in bringing down solar module costs in the near future.
PERC, n-type and bifacial cells will drive this cost-reduction trend, which could see modules priced at $0.48/Wp by 2020, while efficiencies will also increase during that time to 24%, claimed the report.
An old stomping ground
Hands up who remembers Germany? You know, that large, green, rather sensible country nestled at the heart of Europe? Used to be a big deal in the solar industry? Well, despite its recent market depression, renewable energy led by solar PV and wind is now doing exactly what it was designed for: not the chance to gather for fancy trade shows or huddle around a laboratory staring at a piece of silver metal, but generate actual, usable, useful, affordable energy.
July was a record month for the combined efforts of solar PV and wind, surpassing 11.7 TWh of electricity according to Fraunhofer ISE, making it the best month ever for Germanys renewable energy generation. Sehr gut, Deutschland!
Keep it in the home
Amid the incessant talk of yieldcos, PERC efficiency, bifacials, tenders, bids and more jargon than you can quiver a twig at, it was good to be reminded that solar PV is essentially changing the way the world produces and consumes energy with every passing day. Deutsche Banks latest solar sector update served as a similarly timely reminder, reporting this week that residential solar remains the most attractive sector in the U.S., pointing to the strong growth of SolarCity and SunPower in recent months. TerraForms acquisition of Vivint Solar was further proof of the robustness of residential, said that man Vishal Shah again, who added that system costs could fall a further 40% over the next couple of years.
But but solars expensive, right? And difficult to integrate into the grid? And unreliable? Even unwanted? Weve heard it all before, coal cheerleaders, and youve been proven wrong time and time again. Let it go. Let it go and embrace the sun you may just find that you enjoy it.