The pv magazine weekly news digest

Sometimes summertime is a rather languid time of year as feet ease off gas pedals throughout many threads of society. Not so 2016. As the summer solstice looms into view, the world barely seems able to catch its breath.

In Europe, it’s all about soccer, Brexit, and next week’s Intersolar exhibition in Munich.

In North America, soccer is also a hot topic, given that the U.S. is not only hosts of the Copa America tournament, but doing rather well (at the time of writing, at least). Across other leading economies, summer’s fever pitch appears to be reaching heady heights, while even Down Under, where it’s now officially winter, reports of shark attacks and – yep – a looming general election serve to keep newsdesks busy across the land.

The world of solar has kept up with this breathless global pace of activity, churning out plenty of its own headlines this week, the starkest of which has been the news that bankrupt U.S. firm SunEdison has taken on $300 million in new financing.

Modified terms of the firm’s debtor-in-possession agreement will enable the company to better support its ongoing operations, minimize disruption to current projects and allow easier operational changes that are deemed necessary. This new loan, backed by many of the world’s largest lenders, is a welcome respite for SunEdison, and follows the news that Adani Group is considering purchasing some of the company’s Indian solar assets.

The future’s bright

While SunEdison is far from hobbling out of its financial blackhole, the chink of light is to be welcomed. More broadly, however, solar’s very own future looks increasingly secure – as three major reports published this week appear to testify.

The first, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), caught the eye for two reasons. In its New Energy Outlook 2016 publication, BNEF suggests that the global energy storage market will grow to be worth $250 billion by 2040, with 25 GWh of storage capacity being installed around the world over the next 12 years.

This is an ambitious forecast, considering that there is less than 1 GW of storage devices operating on world grids combined today. However, there are some large-scale battery projects currently in development, notably a 100 MW facility in Long Beach, California, being developed by Edison International.

"Batteries will get a boost as costs drop and developers see the chance for lucrative new revenue streams," said Julia Attwood, storage analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "Batteries could offer a whole range of services to the grid — they have the flexibility that will allow renewables a larger stake in energy generation."

The expected fall in the cost of lithium-ion battery technology will drive this scaling-up of the market, the report said.

The same report also contained one other head-turner: until 2040, BNEF suggests, solar will attract 30% of all energy generation capacity investment, adding that the costs of solar PV generation per MWh will fall by 60% by that date, making it the world’s cheapest form of energy.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) pretty much concurred with BNEF’s report, issuing a few days later its own report, The Power to Change: Solar and Wind Cost Reduction Potential to 2025, in which it expects a 59% solar PV price reduction as early as 2025.

Globally, average solar prices per kilowatt hour (kWh) are expected to drop to between $0.05 and $0.06 by that date, provided – IRENA added – that the right policy frameworks are maintained in more mature markets, and introduced in emerging markets.

And finally, a report by GTM Research suggests that the global PV inverter and MLPE market could grow to 90 GW annually by 2020.

Emerging markets make their play

Amid the bold and rosy global projections came two tangible good-news-stories this week, too – and both in markets still deemend ‘emerging’. Granted, India will end 2016 as the world’s fourth most dynamic in terms of new installations, but the news that ABB had connected the leviathan 648 MW solar plant in Tamil Nadu still warmed the heart.

Owned by Adani, the huge solar array is the world’s largest, and will not only do its primary job of delivering clean solar energy to thousands, but will also act as a beacon of what’s possible when political will and vision meets international expertise and investment.

In Rwanda, an altogether smaller – but perhaps no-less pivotal – project was completed. At 2.68 MWh, Tesvolt’s energy storage system is the largest off-grid battery in the world, and will be connected to a 3.3 MW solar PV plant as part of an agricultural project in one of the world’s poorest countries.

"In Rwanda, the power supply fails three or four times a day for between 5 and 45 minutes," explained Simon Schandert, Director of Engineering at Tesvolt. "For this reason, an important criterion in the call for tender was that the storage system is able to absorb electricity from the 3.3 MW PV power plant and release it again as quickly as possible. Only very powerful off-grid storage systems can supply the necessary emergency power several times per day, and there are only a few storage systems on the market which meet these requirements."

Also in the news…

Those clever Swedes announced this week plans to have the country 100% renewable by 2040; Germany’s Planet in Green signed a 100 MW PPS for solar in Iran, and Zambia’s solar tender saw winning bids for as little as $0.062/kWh – which is the lowest price yet for PV in Africa.

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