This week, the United States celebrates the achievement of 1 million PV installations. The social media campaign #MillionSolarStrong launched by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is marching across the world in millions of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts.
A report by SEIA and George Washington Universitys (GWU) Solar Institute estimates that there are currently 942,000 residential installations, 57,000 PV installations at businesses, non-profits and government agencies, and 1,500 utility-scale PV installations in the United States. This is a 1,000-fold increase in 15 years.
Unlike the 1-million milestone that took 43 years to reach, SEIA and GWU predict that the country will achieve 2 million solar installations within the next three years. They further expect 4 million in 2020, and a million PV systems installed annually by 2025.
Supporting the analysts expectations, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a $25 million funding to assist the development of between 10 to 15 software and hardware solutions designed to integrate much solar energy on to the grid.
Meanwhile, SolarPower Europe prepares to hold a celebration event to mark the achievement of another solar record, 100 GW of grid-connected PV installed in Europe.
Under three cents
Even though the U.S. solar record has been all over social media for days, pv magazines visitor data strongly indicate that the main attention this week has been drawn to another part of the world.
The Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) has received a world record-low bid of 2.99$c/kWh for the 800 MW third phase of its 5 GW Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum solar project.
All five bids received for the third phase of the DEWA project came in below the winning bid in phase two, set at a then-world-record 5.85$c/kWh. A consortium led by Abdul Latif Jameel of Saudi Arabia, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) of Spain, and Masdar of the UAE submitted the lowest bid of 2.99$c/kWh.
It is 18% lower than the 3.65$c/kWh bid submitted by JinkoSolar of China, and also drastically undercut the 3.95$c/kWh tariff submitted by an Acwa Power-First Solar consortium.
The very next day, GE announced that it would supply 220 MW of LV5 Series central inverters for DEWA’s Dubai solar project.
California demands rooftop PV
Back in the West, the city council of Santa Monica, California voted to require rooftop solar PV systems on all new construction in the city, both residential and commercial.
Santa Monica the fifth city in the state of California to include such mandate, following the cities of Culver City, Lancaster, Sebastopol and San Francisco.
New single family homes will be required to install a minimum of 1.5 watts of solar PV for every square foot of the building, meaning that a 2,000 square foot (186 square meter) home would need a minimum of 3 kW of solar PV. Multi-family buildings, non-residential buildings and hotels will be required to install 2 watts of PV for every square foot of building footprint.
Meanwhile, rooftop PV installations in the U.S. are outgrowing utility-scale plants in many other parts of the world. Los Angeles-based solar developer PermaCity is now planning a 16.4 MW rooftop PV project near the Port of Los Angeles.
Filing Q1 results
Several large PV market players have already filed their Q1 results, indicating their wins, losses and reorganization plans.
Germanys SolarWorld has increased its shipments year-over-year by 62% for the first three months of 2016. However, due to currency fluctuations, the firms profits for 2016 were suppressed in relation to shipments, with EBITDA "almost stable" at 2.1 million ($2.4 million), down from 2.9 million ($3.3 million) in Q1 2015.
Yesterday, California-based PV maker SunPower reported a 13% decline in revenues under GAAP rules, and a net loss of $85 million in Q1 2016. Also, during the quarter SunPower rolled out two modular solutions: the Equinox solution for the residential market and the Helix for commercial installations.
U.S.-based PV and semiconductor production equipment supplier Amtech has registered increased bookings in Q2 2016 and incurred a $1.5 million loss for the quarter. The company expects to register Q3 earnings of $30 to $33 million.
American utility NRG has unveiled a significant reorganization of its renewable energy businesses in its first quarter 2016 results. The company is shifting its Home Solar segment from a full-service solar installer to a model where Home Solar enters into contracts with customers, which they will then sell to third-party solar providers Sunrun and Spruce Finance.
New solar leaders
In its Q2 2016 Global Solar Demand Monitor, GTM Research is expecting a slowdown in what were the two largest solar markets in 2015, as the new leaders emerging on the global stage.
GTM predicts that the Chinese market will decline 5% this year, citing an 11% reduction in feed-in tariff levels and high rates of curtailment. Additionally, it expects the Japanese market to contract 12%, due to cuts to that nations feed-in tariff.
The report is also predicting much bigger gains in two other leading markets: India and the United States. The U.S. market is expected to grow 120% in 2016. Finally, the Indian PV sector might well demonstrate the biggest increase of 127% this year, due to its massive pipeline of projects.
The report makes special note of the Latin American market. GTM expects only 2.8 GW to be installed across the region this year, but forecasts a 28% annual growth rate across the region to 2020.
The prediction might well become reality, considering that Brazils Power Research Company this week granted technical accreditation for 295 PV projects with a total capacity of 9.2 GW for the auction in July 2016.
Earlier this month, Mexicos Secretariat of Energy has approved the call for the second electricity auction following countrys energy reform. In the previous auction, in March, contracts were awarded to roughly 1.7 GW of PV projects.