The pv magazine weekly news digest


German utility E.ON and inverter giant SMA announced this week they will lead a 5 MW modular battery storage project, which it is claimed will be the world's largest, at Aachen University in Germany.

Aside from the unsettling fact the project – which has secured €6.7 million ($7.5 million) funding from the German government – seems to have been named after a personalized car registration plate, the biggest question arising from the announcement of the M5BAT scheme is exactly who will be turfed out of the two floors it will occupy in the university building in question.

Given Aachen's rich history as the seat of government for Charlemagne's Franco-German empire, it is to be hoped history students will not be affected. The university could always get rid of any PPE undergraduates hanging around – or whatever the German equivalent of New Labour training is.

More grist to the anti-EU mill

The UK's solar sector was potentially handed another reason to get on the anti-EU bandwagon this week, as the referendum on membership promised by prime minister David Cameron by the end of 2017 hoves slowly into view, with Chinese authorities devaluing the yuan like there's no tomorrow.

Claims on Tuesday that a fall in the value of the currency was a one-off were rapidly undermined by a further two falls on successive days before a rise today (Friday), possibly because some Communist Party high-up has a spread bet on.

The kicker for Europe is that, as the rest of the world sees China's bargain basement panels fall even further in price, the minimum price agreement imposed by the EU – and set to last until the end of this year, at least – means there will be no benefit for the UK or the rest of the 28-nation bloc.

And that was not the only news to emerge from China, with a trio of industry groups – not surprisingly all connected to solar – not content with a gargantuan 100 GW 2020 target for solar, called for the authorities to double it. The most surprising revelation was the prediction that such ambition would be needed because nuclear and hydro are expected to miss their 2020 targets. In a country where failure to toe the line can have disastrous consequences, that outcome seems unlikely.

The rise and rise of PERC

SolarWorld CEO Frank Asbeck's mission to conquer the world with PERC cells is gathering steam with the company's HELENE research project targeting 22.5 per cent cell efficiency by the end of 2017.

Few would bet against that goal with the same project, run jointly with the University of Konstanz, having broken its own efficiency world record with a 21.7 per cent efficient cell in the middle of last month.

How the wheel has turned as far as radical thinking is concerned in a university city where, a smidgeon over 600 years ago, Czech philosopher Jan Hus was burned at the stake – for heresy.

Hawaii and Scotland make strange bedfellows

When the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA, exactly. Why is there an n? What's wrong with AREA as an acronym…) studied ten of the world's renewable energy storage markets to find best practice examples to implement Down Under, the results were surprising, to say the least.

Although Germany and California were highlighted as having the ‘most thorough' energy storage markets, it was Hawaii and Scotland that caught the eye of the Aussies.

Aside from comprising an unlikely qualifying group in any of the world's sporting disciplines, ARENA (or, more correctly, AREnA) theorized it could learn lessons from Hawaii thanks to the island state's high cost of electricity. Scotland, on the other hand, offered parallels because of its approach to off-grid … and possibly because of some confusion surrounding Crocodile Dundee, although pv magazine cannot confirm that.

India's heroic failure

India will fall short of its ambitious 100 GW of solar by 2022 target but the 75 GW in cumulative capacity that will be in place by that stage will make up 22 per cent of the populous nation's anticipated energy demand, according to a report published by Cleveland's Institute for Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis this week (IEEFA… now that's a more sensible acronym).

Whilst it was not quite clear what connection there is between Cleveland and the Indian market at this stage, pv magazine is always keen to end the weekly digest on a high note and the prospect of India emulating the rapid take-up of solar being seen in China and Germany has to be good news for the industry – the Union government will probably be hitting those targets on the back of a tide of ultra-cheap, yuan-devalued Chinese panels, though, so nobody let on to SolarWorld, okay?

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