So much for that slow, languorous summer where not much happens. There has been little unwinding in the solar sector, what with the recent SolarWorld-Hemlock case, Indias continued boldness and a raft of new technological developments that threaten to elevate PV to previously unseen heights keeping industry heads a-chatter.
Rolling on from last weeks major news story, SolarWorld is expected to feel concerted pressure to reach an agreement quickly in its dealings with Hemlock following the court ruling in favor of the polysilicon manufacturer.
IHS Senior Research Director Ash Sharma spoke to pv magazine about the case this week and suggested that the worst of the damage is already done. The best thing SolarWorld could do now, he advised, is strike a resolution. And quickly.
Its pretty damaging whats happening with the case. Theyve got 300 million in bonds due, which is probably going to be accelerated. Theyre going to struggle to get further loans or bonds elsewhere now, with this ruling against them, so they know they need to find a solution to this pretty soon.
SolarWorld has shown a great reluctance to change its position in relation to the solar trade cases involving the U.S. and China. Even if it was willing to change its position, there is no guarantee that it would impact the rulings of either country in relation to the case.
I would say based on the indications from SolarWorld over the past couple of years, they seem very stubborn over the trade case and it doesnt look like they want to negotiate at all, based on the rhetoric coming from the company, Sharma commented. The other thing to consider is that its really in the hands of the chamber of commerce at the moment.
Its not really up to SolarWorld to drop the charges now, what they could do is initiate a process not to extend it, but that could take some time. There could even be another western manufacturer that decides to pick up the case and try and proceed with the claim against the Chinese producers. Its not done and dusted in any sense. It would take more than Hemlock and SolarWorld coming to an agreement on this.
India keeps on rolling
A more agreeable solar landscape is shaping up in India, where the secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) this week confirmed that the country is looking to double its large-scale solar target to 40 GW by 2020, up from 20 GW currently.
The move comes after an unexpected slowdown in the countrys rooftop sector, and is supported by a growing interest among the countrys leading fossil fuel companies to try their hands at solar and other clean energies.
Solar imports into the country have increased drastically over the past year, rising from $752 million in 2014-2015 to $2.3 billion in 2015-2016 despite certain regulations that stipulate a degree of domestic content for some phases of solar development.
Still, the creation of 10 Solar Zones will go some way to addressing this domestic need, all the while ushering India further along the path towards solar superstardom.
Australia storing it up
Exciting news came from the land Down Under this week as Lyon Group announced plans to build the worlds largest solar-plus-storage project in South Australia over the next two years.
The project will combine a 100 MW solar array with a 40 MW battery storage facility, and could be operational by early 2018, the group said. The first stage of what is known as the Kingfisher project 20 MW of solar PV plus a minimum 2MW battery storage is expected to be running late next year.
The project is one of the finalists in the Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding round for large scale solar, which is expected to allocate monies to 10 or more projects when decisions are announced next month.
Solar costs set to plunge
In a recent research note from the Intersolar North America trade show, Deutsche Bank Research Analyst Vishal Shah predicts a combination of rising capacity from Chinese suppliers, coupled with a slow-down of U.S. demand.
Shah states that most tier 1 and tier 2 Chinese PV module suppliers are adding an average of 500 MW of incremental annual module capacity in Southeast Asia in order to avoid paying tariffs on U.S. modules, and notes that Talesun alone brought on 800 MW alone in June in Thailand. The result will be at least 4-5 GW of new tariff-free capacity to supply the U.S. market in the second half of 2016.
This capacity will not be coming online at an opportune time. Shah notes that Deutsche Bank previously expected 15 GW to be installed over the course of 2016, but as only 4 GW was installed in the first half of the year, the overall volume could be only 10-12 GW. Over the next few years the picture improves, and Shah notes increased project development activity in the U.S. South and Midwest.
Regardless, the result of these two trends increased supply and reduced demand is crushed prices. Shah estimates that monocrystalline silicon module prices in the United States are currently at $0.53 per watt in the United States, but expects module prices to end the year at less than $0.50 per watt.
It is no secret that NASA is right at the tip of the cutting edge of scientific innovation and for many years it has been pioneering the use of solar energy, famously powering the International Space Station (ISS) itself. A crew aboard the ISS is continuing this spirit, by testing out a new 3D solar PV cell, which it hopes will be show a higher efficiency than current solar cells.
The investigation was planned and is being led by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where they developed the NanoRacks-Nano Tube Solar Cell. The cell has 3D tubes incorporated into its design that trap sunlight that hits the cell from any direction, and uses an earth abundant photoabsorber material, copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS).
The investigation will focus on whether this groundbreaking 3D design will be able to absorb sunlight more efficiently, both on earth and in space, by continually changing the angles of the array, to see if this can accelerate electrical characterization opportunities. It will also explore the effects of space on the solar cells, to see if it accelerates degradation, while also determining if CZTS can be used as a photoabsorber in a 3D PV array.