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


The Solar Superheroes take center-stage in September, pitting their wits and skills against the dirty might of coal in Act 1 of our special two-parter that reaches its dramatic denouement next month.

Subscribers and non-subscribers alike can enjoy the entire saga right here for free, and as ever those who are yet to subscribe to pv magazine can have their fill of three fascinating articles featured in this month’s publication.

Will the ITC be extended?

The date has long been circled in calendars throughout the boardrooms of solar companies right across the U.S. – January 1, 2017. This is the date when the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is set to fall from 30% currently to just 10%, sparking widespread concern that the thriving U.S. solar industry may suffer a seismic downturn immediately afterwards.

Christian Roselund explores this topic in depth and finds that – an initial short-term impact notwithstanding – naysayers and doom mongers may, in fact, be overly pessimistic. The solar industry in the U.S. is pulling hard for an ITC extension that some in the industry believe is not only unnecessary, but could actually prove counter-productive to solar’s long-term strength.

Jigar Shah, a respected and outspoken voice throughout the industry, told pv magazine that solar’s reliance upon a tax benefit of this type brings its own costs and limitations. "The federal ITC is difficult to monetize by even the largest companies," Shah said. "Tax equity providers routinely charge 10-12% for their tax equity when overall project financing for solar power is less than that."

One of the critiques has been the limited number of tax equity investors. And while Shah acknowledges that the pool of tax equity investors has grown in recent years, he does warn of problems on the horizon when the solar market spikes next year.

Further, an extension of the ITC would merely be kicking the can down the road; delaying something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. A slow phase out has been mooted by the industry, which may prove the most sensible solution for all involved, experts argue.

Higher voltage, lower cost

The trend for using 1,500 V components in order to lower balance of systems (BOS) costs has gained supporters across various strands of the solar value chain, but is far from being a benchmark. Not quite yet, anyway.

Charles W. Thurston looks at those EPCs that have begun the slow transition towards 1,500 V component-based installations, examining which specific technologies have already successfully adapted to higher voltages, and what the cost benefits are.

The article looks at how Europe has led the way in this transition, but notes that the U.S. market is catching up and will likely drive the trend more widely. However, there remain a few roadblocks to fuller adoption, namely conflict with NEC building codes in the U.S. and lack of UL regulation for many 1,500 V components.

PERCs for all solar cell manufacturers?

The perks of PERC have been well-known for many years, but the global economic slowdown that bedeviled the solar industry between 2010 – 2012 served to suppress demand for PERC equipment.

Solar companies were reluctant to take the risk, invest in new tooling or generally rock a solar boat that had been listing for years. Now, however, demand for PERC equipment is returning – but many previously robust supply chains are struggling to keep up.

Götz Fischbeck caught up with the experts at Meyer Burger to discuss the challenges of responding to this renewed industry clamor for PERC technology, with a wider look at recent research into PERC’s susceptibility to light induced degradation (LID) and the related cost benefits of properly treated multicrystalline PERC cells compared to their standard counterparts.


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