The pv magazine weekly news digest

The largest plants and storage projects in Africa and South America; new bigger tender announcements, rising shipments and increasing production capacities; research on more and more effective PV solutions, and, as usual, even more ambitious pledges and bigger plans for the future. What would Dr. Freud say about this size preoccupation in the PV industry?

Let’s hope that even Freud would put his skepticism aside if he followed the latest PV news coming from Africa. Literally the sunniest part of the world is waking up to the solar opportunities with the largest East African PV plant being constructed in Uganda and the largest battery storage unit to be built in Kenya.

Sun rises in Africa. Finally

Obviously, what is considered “largest” for the region is rather tiny on a global scale. In Kenya, the British company Solarcentury is building three PV plants with a total capacity of 1,154 kW. One of them will include a solar battery storage system that Solarcentury claims will be East Africa’s largest.

The storage system will reduce the long term cost of energy, by allowing the PV system to provide up to 40% of the site’s energy, as opposed to 15% without the battery storage system, Solarcentury’s Senior Design Engineer for hybrid energy systems Andrew Crossland told pv magazine.

The largest solar farm in the region, a 10 MW plant in Uganda, is set to be finished in mid-July. In the country with an 18.2% electrification rate, politicians have finally been pressured to put more effort into power generation, as more and more people moving from the low-income to middle-income category.

Even more ambitious plans for Africa’s “brighter future” have been voiced at Solar Show Africa 2016 in Johannesburg. At the two-day event visitors and experts from various African markets discussed the way to hit some really big goals, such as empowering 600 million Africans without access to electricity.

Ready for more

Latin America, another region that aims to expand its presence on a world PV map, also had some “large” news to announce this week. In Argentina, the government of La Rioja province signs MoU with a German investors to develop three PV plants with a total capacity of 700 MW. The projects are said to be carried out in the next two years and represent an investment of $1.4 billion.

Meanwhile, in Chile solar PV rose to 2.8% in the energy mix. The country now has 1.056 GW of installed solar capacity, and is getting ready to add 2.082 GW between March 2016 and June 2018, with some projects currently under construction.

Finally, 3.4 MW rooftop PV plant – the largest in Mexico and the second-largest in all of Latin America – is under construction in the state of Jalisco. The only rooftop PV plant with a larger capacity in the whole Latin America is a 5 MW project in Puerto Rico. On top of that, in 2015 Mexico installed 100 MW of solar PV in 2015, with over half of the project smaller than 500 kW.

Higher, stronger, faster

Prior to the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue held this week in the German capital, International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) released REmap: Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future. The agency calls for doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030.

According to the agency’s estimations, hitting this target could save the global economy up to $4.2 trillion annually by 2030, as well as saving four million lives a year due to reduced air pollution.

Speaking of the pollution and the global emissions cutting plans, on Monday UK’s energy minister Andrea Leadsom addressed the government with the proposal to “enshrine” the Paris goal for net zero emissions by 2050 in British law.

However, two days later, the announcement Britain’s budget for 2016 demonstrated further tax relief for fossil fuels and a tax raise for renewable generators, making experts doubt if the government is taking its own commitments to the climate goals seriously.

When less is more

Panasonic battles for even bigger presence in the global PV market. The Japanese tech corporation has joined the Solliance R&D project to aid further development of roll-to-roll production of flexible perovskite solar cells. Phanasonic has recently achieved a world-record efficiency for its HIT solar module, and now it planning to conduct a series of feasibility studies and, eventually, bring mass-produced PSCs to market.

The never-ending search for more efficient PV solutions is about to reach new heights this year, says the seventh edition of the International Roadmap for Photovoltaics. The research finds that average crystalline silicon (c-Si) module prices declined from US$062/Wp in 2014 to $0.58/Wp in 2015. It concludes that further cost reductions in PV manufacturing can be achieved this year by increasing Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) of the existing installed capacity; more efficiency use of materials; the introduction of specialized end products for specific niches; and improved module power and cell efficiency on a cost-neutral basis.

Furthermore, regarding installation costs, more good news are coming from the U.S.: a newly published report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has revealed that solar system costs fell by 17% across last year. Soft costs fell a massive 37% in the fixed-tilt segment last year, and 23% for tracking projects, as more advanced installation practices are becoming the norm.

Store it for life

Storage continues to be one of the biggest concerns in the rapidly expanding solar PV world. For the first time, Solar Energy Corp. of India is asking bidders in the forthcoming 750 MW Andhra Pradesh solar tender to include some kind of storage capacity in 100 MW of projects. This will make it possible to transfer generated electricity from one state to another.

The upcoming auction will potentially open up the Indian market for many of the world’s leading battery technology providers such as Tesla, Panasonic, Sonnen and Samsung.

All the way across the world from India, German-American Younicos continues to raise funds for its hybrid renewable energy storage project on the Portuguese island Graciosa. The first of its kind storage system, once completed, will allow the island to be totally powered by renewable energy. It will only require some back-up power during prolonged periods of unfavorable weather.

Meanwhile in Germany, SMA has unveiled its new high voltage Sunny Boy Storage 2.5 inverter, which can be coupled with Tesla’s PowerWall. The battery can be connected to a standard solar string inverter and also to a home or businesses mains grid connection.

Solar in a nutshell

If a guidebook “Solar for Dummies” ever to be written, it would definitely include some of this week’s news stories, as they perfectly sum up what PV technology is capable of in a nutshell.

Solar Impulse, the legendary solar-powered aircraft is ready to resume its round-the-world trip after being grounded in Hawaii for eight month. And as it is getting ready to return to the skies, five 100% solar-powered buses arrive to London and soon will be trundling along the busy streets. Some might doubt if solar vehicles will be able to survive the lack of sun and the insane diving conditions of the British capital. But the developers, China’s BYD company, seem rather confident of success. They say the buses can run for up to 190 miles of typical urban driving and be recharged in about four hours. Just how cool is that?