The PV Expo Japan kicked off in Tokyo and put the spotlight on the country's impressive solar growth, which some expect to wind down this year. Day 3 of the confab proved the most popular as Nobuhiro Watanabe, head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) renewable energy promotion office, was greeted like a star as attendees crowded into the standing-room only venue for hsi keynote speech.
In Brussels, SolarPower Europe's 11th Solar Market Workshop got off to a positive start with an upbeat assessment of solar power development in Europe, where solar capacity grew by 15% last year, with 8 GW connected to the grid.
Deutsche ACCUmotive, the battery subsidiary of German auto giant Daimler, will begin construction of a new 500 million ($544 million) lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility this year in the state of Saxony. The factory will produce batteries for electric and hybrid Mercedes-Benz and Smart cars, along with stationary storage products for commercial and residential customers.
In exclusive news, pv magazine reported that SolarEdge was poised to become the global market leader in the residential inverter segment this year. The company shipped its 10 millionth power optimizer last month, corresponding to more than 2.7 GW of inverter capacity deployed by the company. It is now set to topple SMA as the leading inverter supplier to the global residential segment in 2016.
Meanwhile, a new Deutsche Bank Market Research report found that the retail price of electricity is likely to continue its upward trend despite falling oil and gas prices. While long-term low gas prices would inevitably slow electric price increases over time, fuel price declines cannot offset other capital investments, particularly in transmission and distribution (T&D), according to the report.
In related news, GTM Research predicts that more than half the 12 GW of utility-scale solar PV that expected to be installed in the United States this year will be outside of state renewable portfolio standard requirements. Only 48% of that capacity will be driven by state incentives. GTM Research expects the other 6 GW to be driven by economics, including both the raw cost advantage due to falling prices and the stability of long-term solar contracts versus fluctuating natural gas costs.
The U.S. state of Oregon passed a bill to phase out coal and set a 50% renewables target by 2040. Oregon Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill into law, which will also create a community solar program. The law would require the state's two large investor-owned utilities to procure at least 50% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040.
In China, polysilicon imports hit a record high in January. According to data from Chinese customs, the import of polysilicon reached a new record volume of 12,388 tons, 19% more than in December, despite tariffs on foreign polysilicon. The top three countries of origin were South Korea, Germany and Taiwan.
In Japan, Panasonic claimed the world record module efficiency title by a full 1%, achieving 23.8% aperture efficiency using its heterojunction HIT technology on an 11.5-square-centimeter research module.