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It’s not just in low-budget cartoons where race leaders seemingly toy with one another at the front of the pack – edging forward, falling back, purring along neck-and-neck before some calamitous, ACME-inspired accident sends one competitor sprawling off a cliff.

The solar industry has embarked on an equally edifying race to higher efficiencies over the past decade, but this week brought a similarly cartoonish spectacle. In the green and yellow car came SolarCity, scooting into view and blaring from its speakers that it had pushed PV module efficiencies to new heights – 22.04% efficiency based on mass production technology to be exact.

This was enough to edge SolarCity ahead of its rivals, including SunPower – "SunPower always welcomes others to the efficiency race," read a SunPower statement – but only for a day. Flashing by in a blur of blue and white, Japan’s Panasonic quickly took the lead, announcing on Tuesday that it had achieved a module-level efficiency of 22.5% for its latest mass-production ready panel.

"The new panel efficiency record demonstrates once again Panasonic’s proven leadership in PV and our ongoing commitment to move the needle in advanced solar technology," crowed Panasonic’s Daniel Roca.

So there you have it: you wait ages for a record-breaking solar panel to come along and then, like a pair of streamlined, solar-powered buses, two arrive at once.

SunEdison cuts the fat

Rumors first began on Monday that global renewable energy giant SunEdison was planning to streamline its business operations, including cutting its workforce by around 10%.

A day later the company confirmed that 15% of its global staff would be losing their jobs as the company incurred charges of between $30 – $40 million for restructuring, due for Q4 2015 and Q1 2016. “These charges primarily consist of severance and other benefits to terminated employees, most of which are expected to be paid out by the end of the fourth quarter of 2016,” said a SunEdison filing.

Then on Wednesday the company held an investor presentation in which it outlined its plans further. This presentation revealed that the company is to halt the transfer of assets to its two yieldcos, opting instead to hold more projects in warehouses. Another move sees SunEdison exit the U.K. market on the back of changes to the FIT, as well as halting the$700 million purchase of Latin American Power and preparing to go “line by line” to ensure its acquisition of Vivint Solar is as streamlined as possible.

The company was keen to stress, however, that despite three days of negative headlines, the fundamentals of its business remain healthy.

Nip the MIP

The tumult in Europe’s solar market is rooted in many factors. Various contributory market pressures have contributed to the market’s downturn, many unavoidable and/or cyclical. But one – the self-imposed duty on solar PV products from China – has caused undue harm to the industry, argue Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), and there have been renewed calls this week to scrap the minimum import price (MIP).

"The current situation has seen the levels of solar installations drop dramatically in Europe, from 17 GW in 2012 to under 7 GW in 2014," wrote the 14 MEPs. "This has impacted jobs in the solar sector, falling from 265,000 in 2011 to around 120,000 in Europe today. We believe that European duties on Chinese solar products, and the price undertaking, contributed to this slowdown in annual growth of installations in Europe."

The MEPs received the backing of SolarPower Europe but not, predictably, that of EU ProSun, which initiated the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy complaint and told pv magazine that SolarPower Europe had influenced the MEPs’ actions.

"The market was already broken a year before the introduction of the measures, and this was solely due to the political decisions in the EU member states, where solar subsidies were often drastically cut," EU ProSun president Milan Nitzschke said.

M&Ms, but no peanuts

Modi and Merkel met this week to discuss ways for Germany and India to develop closer trade ties. Given both nations’ prowess in solar PV – the former an old hand, the latter an energy-hungry new arrival – solar was high on the agenda during the discussions.

Reports from the German economic ministry revealed that Germany is preparing to invest more than $1.6 billion in funding to ensure the Indian solar industry reaches its potential – a not-insignificant amount given Germany relative solar silence back home in recent years.

"I admire German leadership for clean energy and commitment to climate change," said Indian Prime Minister Modi. "This is an area where we have convergence of ideas."

Also in the news…

A report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) found this week that the global average LCOEs for onshore wind and crystalline silicon solar PV have fallen from US$85/MWh and $129/MWh in H1 2015, respectively, to $83/MWh and $122/MWh in H2. LCOEs for coal, gas and nuclear, on the other hand, recorded increases in most parts of the world.

In both the Americas and EMEA region, for instance, nuclear LCOEs rose to $261 and $158/MWh, respectively (BNEF did not provide the H1 figures). Commenting, Seb Henbest, head of EMEA at BNEF, said, "Our report shows wind and solar power continuing to get cheaper in 2015, helped by cheaper technology but also by lower finance costs. Meanwhile, coal and gas have got more expensive on the back of lower utilisation rates, and in Europe, higher carbon price assumptions following passage of the Market Stability Reserve reform."

Enphase Energy has announced in a SEC filing that it has signed a six-year deal for Japan’s Eliiy Power to exclusively supply its battery cell and battery management units for the Enphase AC Battery. The development and supply agreement cements the relationship between the two companies, which have collaborated since 2014 on the development of the new Enphase AC Battery. The AC Battery will be rolled out to the Australian market later this year before being introduced in the U.S. and select markets in Europe in 2016. A modular battery built using Eliiy’s lithium-based technology, a typical system provides 1.2 kWh or energy storage and 275/550 W power output.

Hot stories from pv magazine Deutschland and pv magazine Latinoamérica

The top German news stories on our sister site included the report on "black sheep" module manufacturers, news of Germany’s €1 billion solar pledge to India and the country’s call for tenders for the final large-scale PV auction of the year.

Leading our Latin American coverage was news that Costa Rica is inviting tenders for a solar PV plant of between 3 MW to 5 MW in capacity, followed by a report on new self-consumption PV installations in Spain’s Canary Islands and SkyPower’s $1 billion deal to build 500 MW of solar in Panama.

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