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On this day last year the world learned all about solar selfie modules – a great idea that, sadly, doesn’t appear to have taken off. It was the same story in 2014 when those salmon-scented modules failed to find an audience. But this year’s innovation does, at first glance, appear to hold some promise – the Solar Tanel is not only affordable, aesthetically pleasing and portable, but it actually might be something people will want to use again and again.

What do you mean, "It’s not real, it’s just an April Fools’ joke?" Well, eagle-eyed readers unmoved by today’s whimsy can instead sink their teeth into this week’s news roundup, which covers a fairly broad array of markets, companies and technologies. So, we’d better get a move on…

Mexico goes big

The Mexicans do not, it seems, do anything by halves. The nation’s inaugural electricity auction following its energy reform saw more than 1.7 GW of solar PV capacity awarded, with Enel Green Power, SunPower, Alten and Recurrent Energy snapping up 56% of the 4,019 GWh on offer, with EGP alone taking approximately 42% of the volume awarded.

The median price of PV projects awarded in the auction was just $45.15/MWh, which comes close to wind’s $43.90/MWh and represents an extremely positive step forward for solar in the country. Most of the PV plants awarded will be located in Mexico’s north and central regions, specifically in the states of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato y Coahuila. In this first electricity auction the single long-term counterparty is Mexico’s state utility CFE. The projects awarded are expected to enter into operation in 2018.

This first electricity auction attracted much interest. Already in the first phase, participation was very high, with 109 bidders which submitted 468 technical offers. After obtaining prequalification, 69 bidders presented financial bids.

Debt net closing on SunEdison

SunEdison continues to lurch from one crisis to the next, with this week providing no let-up in the battering the company has been taking in recent months. On Tuesday it was reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was investigating alleged "falsehoods" in the company’s liquidity claims, looking specifically into claims made last August by SunEdison that it had more than $1 billion in cash to hand and was looking to form a warehouse investment vehicle alongside a fund managed by Goldman Sachs Group.

And then on Thursday the company revealed in a regulatory filing that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was also investigating its operations, In particular seeking information on financing activities relating to the (ultimately terminated) acquisition of Vivint Solar as well as the activities of an unnamed "non-executive employee" who has since left the company.

Huawei shoots to top spot

On the same day that German inverter giants SMA published a glowing set of 2015 financial results, a report by GTM Research revealed that China’s Huawei had usurped its European rival to become the world’s largest inverter brand in terms of MWh installed.

The data showed that Huawei outperformed all other inverter suppliers in 2015, pushing SMA into third-place behind Sungrow in the installation charts. In terms of revenue, SMA was able to cling on to top spot, but Huawei and Sungrow are certainly closing in. Other notable trends include the soaring rise of SolarEdge and the further consolidation of the top ten suppliers, which accounted for 75% of all global shipments.

"No matter how you view the numbers, the market is growing increasingly concentrated among leading suppliers in major markets," Said GTM’s Scott Moskowitz. "These same vendors are taking advantage of global supply chains and additionally supplying growth markets in Latin America, South Asia and the Middle East."

Tesla arrives in the UK

While there may be some dispute over whether this was the first “proper” install of a Tesla Powerwall in the U.K., there can be no denying the buzz that the battery is generating in a solar market that is undergoing the growing pains of maturation.

Fitted to a home in Essex, the 7.2 kW Tesla Powerwall + SolarEdge StorEdge solution was added to an existing 4.5 kW rooftop solar array in what was certainly one of the first such installs in Europe. pv magazine learned that the installation process was relatively straightforward, and has slotted in seamlessly to the home’s energy generation system.

"The fact that we can set up the system with the StorEdge, and come away and check the following day that it is running online, is invaluable when your teams are working past sun-down at busy periods,” said SolarTherm UK’s installation manager Matthew Jackson.

Ikea comes back to solar

For a while there, it looked like Ikea may hold the key to solar’s penetration in residential markets. In the U.K. the Swedish furniture retailer used to sell solar panels directly in store, but last year ended that practice amid falling sales and the rather unholy alliance with beleaguered thin film maker, Hanergy.

Now, though, the company has announced ambitious plans to roll out solar sales points in its British, Dutch and Swiss stores in the first half of 2016 following a successful trial.

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"Ikea’s ambition is to help and inspire their customers to live a more sustainable life at home and the residential solar program is one step on the way to reach that ambition," said Håkan Nordkvist, Head of Sustainability innovation at Ikea. "Last year there were 770 million visits to Ikea stores worldwide and the company sees that as a great platform to fulfill our ambition and for people to be able to live a more sustainable life at home."

Ikea will work with different solar component suppliers and installers in different markets, tendering for services and products on a market-by-market basis. It has selected the three quite varied initial markets which allows the Swedish firm to assess how solar sales works in different regulatory environments.

"Ikea performed a pilot program in UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland to understand if residential solar would fit naturally into the minds of Ikea customers," Nordkvist continued. "The three countries were selected based on many criteria, among others the difference in regulatory environment and maturity of their solar market."

Geo-PV-thermal on the go

The ribbon-cutting ceremony of the world’s first triple hybrid power plant featuring Nevada's governor and Italy's Prime Minister took place this week in Fallon, Nevada.

Stillwater 2 Geothermal Plant, owned by Enel Green Power North America, began providing energy for NV Energy utility back in 2009. In 2011, the Italy-based Enel first announced its plans to equip the 33 MW geothermal plant in Nevada with 89,000 PV panels to compensate for the reduction in output due to high temperatures during summer midday hours.

In May 2012, the U.S. Energy Department recognized the dedication of the Stillwater geothermal project, which received $40 million in tax support under the Recovery Act. The new hybrid geothermal-solar power plant began operating at the end of the last year.

Today Stillwater plant has a total capacity of 61 MW, including 33 MW of the original baseload geothermal, 26 MW of solar PV and 2 MW of solar thermal power generation. 2 MW solar thermal power plant was added to the facility in 2015. It is expected to extend the life of the geothermal reservoir used for the power generation.

And in other news…

Energy storage development in Ireland remains purposely technology-agnostic and this, together with the strong drivers behind storage in the country, is transforming the country into Europe’s energy storage lab, as highlighted a recent workshop. Over in the U.S., Massachusetts’ solar industry has begun to step up the pressure as net metering caps bite.

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