The pv magazine weekly news digest

Belectric has a large portfolio of built utility-scale solar farms globally.

Welcome to the first pv magazine weekly digest of 2017! We hope you all enjoyed a well-earned festive rest, and are ready to face the new year with renewed gusto for what promises to be a pivotal 12 months for the solar industry.

While the past few weeks were relatively quiet – a reflection of the solar industry easing at one off the gas – there were a couple of standout headlines that caught the attention of our readers.

Chief among these is the report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) that solar is on course to become the world’s cheapest source of energy within the next decade.

Last year was another breakthrough year for solar energy, as prices tumbled to levels that would have been barely believable just 12 months previous. Amongst the most dramatic solar headlines of 2016 were three significant solar price world records being broken, first in Dubai, then in Mexico, and finally in Abu Dhabi, where a jaw dropping bid of US 2.42 cents per kWh was entered in a tender for a utility-scale project in the UAE.

This has given way to revitalized enthusiasm that solar PV will be the most prevalent energy source of the future, as analysts have scrambled to update forecasts for average solar prices in the coming years; with exciting results. Fresh 2017 analysis from leading market analysts BNEF has now predicted that the average global price for solar power could be less than coal within just 10 years, which is actually not so unbelievable, considering that it is already cheaper than coal in some parts of the world.

One of the main drivers for the drop in solar power prices is the progress of the technology used in the manufacturing process and for the balance of systems. This is enabling huge increases in solar efficiency when modules are placed in areas with the same levels of solar irradiation. This trend is likely to continue, as large swaths of investment is going into research and development in the industry.

Spain to auction 3 GW of clean energy
Further good news emanated from the sunny shores of Spain this week as the government announced details of a new 3 GW renewable energy auction.

The Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda has sent the regulatory proposal of the tender to the CNMC, it announced in a statement. The rules and specific date of the proceedings will be outlined in a later resolution.

The government also indicated that the winning projects in the auction would be required to be operational by 31 December 2019. These proposed projects will all contribute to Spain’s goal of reaching 20% renewable energy by 2020. In 2014 it had already reached 17.3% renewable energy.

In order for the winning projects to be realised within the stipulated time period, “various intermediate milestones and a system of guarantees and controls are being contemplated,” said the ministry. The auction will be technology neutral and the mechanism will be competitive.

Comtec and Longi strike agreement
Comtec Solar has been scaling back some of its activities for over a year now, with the most recent asset sale a means for it to cease its poorly performing Comtec Malaysia subsidiary. Chinese company Longi has swooped in to acquire Comtec Malaysia’s assets for a reduced fee, with the assumption that it will take over the debt that had arisen within the subsidiary.

The asset transfer agreement is for target property, totaling RMB 145,700,00, and target equipment, totaling RMB 54,300,000, which includes all the machinery, equipment, furniture, computer hardware, and vehicles, at the property. The agreement was concluded on 30 December 2016, with further details of the agreement due to be circulated amongst shareholders no later than 24 January 2017.

GCL eyes Vietnam
Both U.S. tariffs and the EU’s Minimum Import Price agreement have provided strong incentives for Chinese PV makers to move production overseas, and Southeast Asia has been a prime destination for the largest manufacturers. In recent years JinkoSolar, Trina, Canadian Solar and Yingli have all established production in either Thailand or Vietnam.

Last week GCL-Poly joined the ranks of Chinese manufacturers that have announced production in Southeast Asia, with plans for 600 MW of annual PV cell production through a partnership with Vietnam’s Vina Solar.

According to a financial filing (in Chinese), GCL’s Systems Integration subsidiary is investing CNY 222 million (US$32 million) and will supply production and test equipment for the cell lines. These will be located in existing Vina Solar facilities in Vietnam, and Vina will operate the cell lines. 330 MW of this capacity will be for passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) high-efficiency PV cells.

And in other news…
Innogy has completed the acquisition of solar and battery specialist Belectric, China announces it will invest $361bn in renewables between now and 2020, and Vortex finanalizes the acquisition of 365 MW of U.K. solar from TerraForm Power.