The pv magazine weekly news digest


R-WE nearly there yet? Storage – the great "savior of solar" (copyright: nearly everybody) – has been tantalizingly on the cusp of cost breakthroughs for what seems like years.

Amid incremental technology improvements, flashier packaging, better marketing and more and more rooftops with solar panels affixed but FITs flat, batteries have steadfastly refused to board the train marked "Lowest Cost Possible – and fast".

Why the reticence? There are numerous reasons why cost reductions in storage have not been as steep as many experts had hoped, among them a lack of voluminous investment from larger backers. Which is why the news this week that German utility RWE had reached a deal for its renewables arm, Innogy SE, to purchase belectric Solar & Battery struck such a chord with pv magazine readers.

innogy announced that the acquisition for the German solar and battery specialist is costing somewhere in the ‘high double-digit million euro range’ and is expected to be fully completed by the beginning of 2017.

The company has said that the purchase sets the correct course for future growth, as it looks to expand its decentralized and renewable energy business in the face of a changing global energy industry. This fits in with news coming from RWE earlier this year that the profitability of its nuclear, coal and gas energy plants decreased by 45%, while its operating profit in the renewable energy sector more than doubled during the same period.

"With innogy we are creating the innovative, decentralized and sustainable energy of the future," commented RWE AG and innogy SE CEO Peter Terium. "The agreed acquisition of Belectric Solar & Battery fits this strategic orientation perfectly. Smart battery storage solutions make generating electricity from renewable both more efficient and more secure."

Belectric is considered to be the perfect acquisition for the company, considering its extensive experience in the design, installation, operation and maintenance of utility? scale PV plants, and in development of battery storage solutions. In total, the company has developed and installed over 1.5 GWp of solar PV.

Down Under leads the charge

Residential-scale battery systems are perhaps the most ‘graspable’ concept for the layman when they think about solar+storage. And with more than 5 GW of rooftop PV installed already, Australia is the perfect place for home batteries to prosper.

Enphase Energy certainly seems to think so, launching this week its much-awaited AC battery in the Australian and New Zealand markets. Enphase already has around 10% market share in Australia, and sees expansion there as a strategic priority, encapsulating New Zealand as part of that approach. Indeed, such has been the demand from both countries for the product, Enphase has revised upwards its production plans based on volume projections from distributors.

The company now expects to ship 70,000 batteries in the two countries over the next 12 months.

Weighing a mere 18kg, each 1.2 kWh AC battery unit is easy to install and can be right-sized to ensure each system matches the unique energy needs of every household. The battery is a key component in the Enphase Home Energy Solution, which is an integrated architecture combining solar panels, the battery, Enphase microinverters and a cloud-based control software system.

Indian PV appetite grows

A few days ahead the hotly anticipated Renewable Energy India expo, a steady drip-drip of positive PV news stories have emerged from the country, not least the revelation that Adani Enterprises expects to begin construction work on a 1.2 GW solar component fab before year end.

The total cost of the project is expected to be Rs 2,000 crore ($429 million), with the second phase due to commence in April and expand the fab’s capacity to 2 GW once operational by June 2017.

"Our plan is to set up the country’s largest vertically integrated manufacturing facility to support the solar power ecosystem of India and create an end-to-end solar power play from manufacturing to generation," Vora told reporters at a press conference in Mumbai.

To develop the fab Adani has set up Mundra Solar PV, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that will handle the investment and commissioning of the facility. “This facility will vertically integrate all aspects of solar panel production on site, including polysilicon refining, ingots, wafers, cells, PV backsheets and panels, with a broader ecosystem involving extended supply chin for raw materials and consumables,” Vora added.

The Adani exec also said that the company could explore the possibility of exporting 30% of its India-made solar components to the U.S. and Europe, should the demand arise.

SunEdison and SolarCity

Rumors started circulating late last week that GCL-Poly Energy Holdings’ parent company Golden Concord Holdings Ltd. was planning to acquire some of SunEdison’s business, and confirmation has arrived in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. Now GCL-Poly Energy Holdings – already the world’s largest manufacturer of solar-grade polysilicon – will add SunEdison’s polysilicon business to its portfolio, expanding the company’s production capacity even further.

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Within the filling, SunEdison and three of its manufacturing businesses are listed as sellers, including subsidiaries SE Products Singapore Pte., MEMC Pasadena Inc. and Solaicx Inc., while 65.25% of the outstanding shares of SMP Ltd, will also be purchases as part of the transaction. The businesses are involved in the manufacturing of polysilicon, ingots, and solar cells.

The price that the two parties have agreed on is $150 million, however, $50 million of that will be funded into escrow accounts and distributed back to GCL “if certain post-closing conditions are not satisfied,” according to the filling. The closing of the deal is due to be completed by 30 November 2016 – although this can be extended until 31 March 2017 – otherwise either of the parties is able to cancel the deal.

SolarCity, on the other hand, is hopeful that the proposed merger with Tesla Motors goes through without a hitch. This week, however, there was one, tiny, hitch – the small matter of a $400 million value miscalculation.

Tesla’s regulatory filing showed that Lazard double-counted $400 million of the company’s projected indebtedness under its revolving credit facility, which led to an equity value of between $14.75 and $34.00 per SolarCity share. However, with this extra $400 million of debt taken away from the company, the real valuation range should be $18.75 to $37.75 per share.

Lazard picked up the mistake, which was listed as a “computational error” earlier in the month and reviewed it with the Special Committee, set up for the merger, on 24 August. However, according to the filing, the error will not change the previously agree purchase price of $25.37 per SolarCity share, which will be paid for with Tesla Stock.

And finally…

It is now more than a month since the Solar Impulse aircraft completed its historic round-the-world journey, touching down in Abu Dhabi after circumnavigating the world using only the power of the sun. A hell of a lot of work went into making this possible, and this week pv magazine heard from Kokam, the Korean battery specialists that provided the battery cell technology required to store the sun’s energy and power the aircraft at night. Also in the news this week was BBOXX, a London-based provider of off-grid solar solutions that secured $20 million in funding to help its westward expansion across sub-Saharan Africa.

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