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Solar’s Sword of Damocles – the current precariousness of PV module prices – swung violently in the wind this week, brushing against the leading regions and players and sending a couple of seismic shivers down the spines of arguably Germany’s two most prominent solar brands.

Both SolarWorld and SMA lowered their 2016 financial forecasts this week. The reason given for the former was, unsurprisingly, the insidious influence of Chinese companies dumping below-cost modules in the market and triggering another global price decline.

Inverter specialists SMA was more nuanced, citing “a significant increase in price pressure” across EMEA and North America as the reason for lowering its outlook.

But back to SolarWorld. The German-headquartered company said that it will increase its module shipments for the year, but was unequivocal in its criticism of actions by Chinese suppliers it perceives as pernicious. “Domestic demand for installations in China collapsed due to the reduction of FITs in Q3 2016,” said a SolarWorld press statement. "In return, Chinese manufacturers have offered their inventories at dumped prices on the global market, which has resulted in a global price decline."

SolarWorld is famously a vocal supporter of EU trade measures against Chinese companies, which resulted in the introduction of a Minimum Import Price (MIP) undertaking. However, a growing number of firms are opting to leave the undertaking, claiming that they can now face the EU’s tariffs and still supply the European markets at favorable rates.

SMA said that it has enjoyed a successful third quarter, but strongly hinted that the end-of-year performance for the German inverter firm is likely to be weaker than the preceding three quarters because price pressures in the value chain.

Tesla teases

Ahead of tonight’s announcement – which will be covered live by pv magazine’s sister site pv magazine USA – Tesla revealed earlier this week further details of its solar module production partnership with Panasonic. According to reports, Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory will produce a combination of Silevo’s Triex and Panasonic’s Heterojunction Intrinsic Thin Film (HIT) technology modules, with the latter company overseeing production at the site to ensure a combination of the best of the two technologies.

Further details on how exactly this will be achieved are sketchy at the moment, so over to you, Mr. Musk…

Researchers push Perovskite efficiency

Scientists working in collaboration at Stanford University and Oxford University this week pushed the perovskite solar cell efficiency to 20.3% – and in doing so perhaps solved the problem of perovskite stability and durability.

The researchers claimed in a recent edition of the journal Science to have created a solar cell that replaces the silicon cell with one made of perovskite crystal instead. So, instead of adding a thin layer of perovskites on top of a silicon cell to increase efficiency, which is where most of the prominent research is currently focused, this method uses purely perovskite crystal to construct the cell.

The perovskite crystal can be made with tin or with any other abundant elements, and is printed on glass, but can even be done on plastic. Two cells are then stacked next to each other, working in tandem to generate electricity from solar energy.

"Perovskite cells can be processed in a laboratory from common materials like lead, tin and bromine, then printed on glass at room temperature," explained postdoctoral scholar at Stanford and co-lead author of the report Tom Leijtens.

IEA ups renewables forecast

The International Energy Agency (IEA) this week increased its renewable energy forecast for 2021 by 13%, hailing the impressive progress made in particular by PV manufacturers in helping to drive down costs.

The IEA’s report looked at the positive influence of pro-solar policies in the U.S., Mexico, India and China, and managed to yank out this headline-grabbing nugget in the process: in 2015, half a million solar PV panels were installed every single day. Suffice to say, that figure soon captured the attention of the mainstream media the world over.

According to the IEA, global renewable capacity will grow by a further 825 GW by 2021 – and while that sounds like a hefty figure indeed, the Energy Watch Group (EWG) has today once again criticized the IEA for aiming its projections too low.

On the road… again

Solar roadways, much like that "half a million solar panels" headline, do wonders at attracting global attention to the industry. But time and again the solar sector itself has been dismissive of the technology, claiming – with plenty of justification – that it is just a superfluous gimmick taking attention and funding from far more serious progressions in PV.

But the French government evidently has not been listening, and this week began construction on the first kilometer if its planned 1,000km solar-powered roadway. Developed by Colas, the Wattway panels work just fine and are certainly fit for purpose – the wider question being: are solar roads actually necessary?

Still, a solar addition is a solar addition, and while there was some confusion over the actual output potential of the road, its emergence should be welcomed.

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