The pv magazine weekly news digest

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PV on a shopping list

This week started with the exiting news for all solar lovers. On Monday, IKEA opened “Solar Shop” in three of its U.K. stores and online, offering homeowners to purchase their own solar systems.

Is there anything that could boost customer interest for residential solar more than selling PV at IKEA? Hardly, considering that this magical place can make even the ugliest paper boxes and plush stuffed crocodiles look like the most important things in your house.

IKEA’s own research found that 33% of homeowners in the U.K would like to invest in solar panels. The study also showed that the average homeowner in the U.K. could cut up to 50% of their electricity bills if they installed solar panels.

IKEA has recruited one of the world’s oldest solar companies, Solarcentury, to be its business partner in the initiative and provide essential expertise. The systems that are offered by IKEA are paid off in approximately 11 years, and will continue to generate free energy after that.

The flight continues

More good news arrived from California, as the Solar Impulse 2, world’s first solar-powered aircraft successfully completed Pacific crossing, racking up a number of world records along the way. The Hawaii to California leg of the journey took 62 hours and 29 minutes, with the Solar Impulse flying at an average speed of 65,39 km/h.

The solar world’s beloved experiment started in 2015, when the aircraft took off in Abu Dhabi, aiming to complete round-the-world sun powered flight. Due to serious battery damage, Solar Impulse was grounded in Hawaii for seven month. Finally, last weekend, the aircraft returned to the skies.

In mid-flight across the Pacific Ocean, one of the pilots Bertrand Piccard spoke to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, just as 175 countries were signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

At the side event of the New York meeting, International Solar Alliance (ISA) launched its first two initiatives, aiming to ensure affordable financing for solar projects and scale up solar applications for agricultural use.

Energy ministers of France and India, the two countries behind the ISA initiative, confirmed their plans for $1 trillion of investments into solar by 2030.

Solar’s Bollywood stars

Beside its commitment to the ISA initiative, India continues to raise its solar ambitions, making experts wonder if the country is actually going to meet these goals. Within couple of days this week, the country has announced a number of large projects, which are expected to result in over 1 GW of new PV.

Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) is planning to double the country’s rooftop PV capacity by tendering 500 MW of grid connected rooftop solar in several regions across the country. At the same time, Indian government’s Union Cabinet grants approval for a 200 MW solar plant in Rajasthan.

On top of that, a utility-scale solar developer SkyPower announced that it has struck an agreement with Indian Sterling and Wilson, which is now to provide EPC and O&M services for SkyPower’s seven PV projects in India, with the total capacity of 350 MW.

1 GW of PV in Iran

Iran is another country that is aiming for large growth in its solar sector. After all, it has ideal conditions for solar energy generation, as 80% of its vast territory has 300 days of sunlight a year, with solar irradiation in those regions between 1640 to over 2000 kWh/m2 annually.

Recognizing the solar potential of the country, Italian companies Genesis and Dynkun have signed a memorandum of understanding with officials from the northwestern Qazvin province for 100 PV plants of 10 MW each. The facilities are due to be constructed over the next 9-10 years.

The projects will be funded by foreign investors. Total costs are expected to reach US$1.5 billion.

More to store

Energy storage news starring Tesla and U.K.’s Powervault. The most well known player of the global energy market is likely to grow even bigger, according to the analysis by GTM Research.

The analysis based on a regulatory filing by Tesla Motors calculates that the company expects to supply an American energy service provider SolarCity with 116 MWh of its lithium-ion battery products for behind-the-meter use in 2016. This is more than this entire market segment represented in 2015.

As shown in its 14A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla estimates that it will sell US$44 million in energy storage products, including its Powerwall residential battery system and PowerPack product, to SolarCity in 2016.

Meanwhile in the U.K., energy storage company Powervault is launching a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to accelerate production and roll-out of its new range of home energy storage systems.

Powervault’s energy systems range has capacities between 2 kWh – 6 kWh, with the price range between US$3,656 – 7,313 (inc VAT). Presenting its product to the market as simple and affordable, the company is aiming to become the premier home energy storage company in the U.K.

Q1 highs and lows

As most of the companies announce that their Q1 results are to be filed next week, American First Solar has already reported its 81% year-over-year revenues increase to $848 million, at a 19% operating margin.

The PV manufacturer ran at 100% capacity utilization during the quarter, producing 774 MW of modules. Due to aggressive module technology improvements, First Solar has increased its average module efficiency to 16.2%, with its lead lines running at 16.4%.

However, there is more bad news expected, as the global PV market enters Q2. The dust has not yet settled after SunEdison’s bankruptcy last week, but analysts are already looking for the next weakest link in the chain.

China’s Tier-1 PV producer Yingli Solar filed for a 15-day extension for the publication of its 2015 full year financials. The delay has triggered concerns that the Chinese giant could be on the verge of bankruptcy. The company estimates that its net loss in 2015 was in the range of RMB 5.8 billion ($890 million) to RMB 5.9 billion ($900 million), increased from a net loss of RMB 1.3 billion in 2014.

Yingli’s debt continues to mount, and its initial concern is $216 million worth of notes due May 12 that Yingli says will be "very difficult" for it to repay.

More news arrived from China this week, indicating that polysilicon spot prices in the country have risen above $20 per kilogram. Taiwanese market analysis firm EnergyTrend expects prices to continue rising through the first half of May.