Thursday, March 31, 2011

Switzerland Welcomes Cleantech Industry: EMPA

Swiss companies are investing heavily in cleantech and energy efficiency technologies, as the country beings to realise the potential of the industry, according to a new study.

Environmentally friendly technologies are becoming increasingly important to Switzerland as an economic and research hub, the study by Empa found.
Empa is the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technologies and is one of the project partners of the report.
The study found that investment in cleantech and energy efficiency technologies was increasing across the board, making Switzerland now a leader in innovation.

Recent findings by the Business Research Centre at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich looked at the economic mechanisms involved in generating and expansing energy efficient technologies. It concluded that Swiss companies channeled, on average, between five and seven per cent of their total investment into energy efficient technologies.

As such, the Swiss economy is now using clean technologies on a wide-scale.
‘As far as R&D is concerned, Switzerland is indeed top notch,’ Gian-Luca Bona, director of Empa. ‘But it takes much more for Swiss industry to be able to take advantage of the ‘big business’ that cleantech is likely to become.
‘We need to transfer research results much more effectively into innovative – and marketable – technologies.’

The study found that the proportion of investment in energy efficient technologies is particularly high in the paper and electrical engineering industries, with 12 per cent of spend being directed into this area.

Meanwhile, power supply companies allocate some 48 per cent of their entire investment into such technologies.

Empa said the principle driver behind this proportion of investment – regardless of the size of the power company – was high energy prices and environmental factors.
One of the most notable deals in recent weeks to impact the region has been the business unit of Siemens, which has secured an order for its energy efficiency technology from Viessmann, which has operations in the country.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cincinnati Zoo Completes 6,400 Panel Solar Canopy

The Cincinnati Zoo has finished installing a four-acre solar canopy that it calls the largest publicly accessible urban solar project in the country.The zoo has installed 6,400 solar panels, totaling 1.56 MW, over its concrete parking lot.

The $11 million array will provide about 20 percent of the zoo’s energy needs, generating enough electricity to power 200 homes a year, and will provide shade for nearly 800 of the 1,000 parking spots available at the zoo’s main entrance.

The zoo said the panels will save it millions of dollars off of its electric bills.
“When we talk about the unknown future of energy policy and energy rates, we can know that 20 percent of our load is locked in and accounted for,” senior director of facilities, planning and sustainability Mark Fisher (pictured) said.

The zoo’s annual electric bill is about $700,000, reports.
Melink Corporation developed the installation and will own and operate the panels. The project was supported by PNC Bank, the local non-profit Uptown Consortium, National Development Council and the zoo’s electric utility, FirstEnergy, with funds from federal renewable energy and economic development tax credits.

Melink will sell the electricity for about eight cents a kWh, about what the zoo currently pays FirstEnergy, but the price will be locked in for seven years, said.
“Nowhere else has an array of this magnitude been placed in such an urban environment, allowing our visitors, and the general public at large, to be able to see first hand what solar photovoltaic energy is all about,” Fisher added. “The education potential of this advanced energy project is off the charts.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Solarbuzz presents annual PV Market report: Global Growth of 139% on Solar Photovoltaic (PV)

From our friends at Solarbuzz: Worldwide solar photovoltaic (PV) market installations reached a record high of 18.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. This represents growth of 139% over the previous year, according to the annual PV market report, Marketbuzz® 2011, issued today by Solarbuzz, a California-based solar energy consultancy, and a part of The NPD Group.
The PV industry generated $82 billion in global revenues in 2010, up 105% Y/Y from $40 billion in 2009. Companies throughout the PV chain successfully raised more than $10 billion in equity and debt over the last 12 months.
In 2010, the top five countries by PV market size were Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Japan, and the United States—representing over 80% of global demand. European countries represented 14.7 GW, or 81% of world demand in 2010. The top three countries in Europe were Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic, which collectively totaled 12.9 GW. In 2010, the Japanese and US markets grew by 101% and 96%, respectively. In all, over 100 countries made some contribution to soaring global PV demand last year.
Worldwide solar cell production reached 20.5 GW in 2010, up from 9.86 GW a year earlier, with thin film production accounting for 13.5% of total production. Producers in China and Taiwan continued to build share, and now account for 59% of global cell production, up from 49% last year. The top two cell manufacturers in 2010 were Suntech Power and JA Solar, who tied for the first position, followed closely by First Solar.
The Top 8 polysilicon manufacturers had 145,200 tonnes per annum of capacity in 2010, while the Top 8 wafer manufacturers accounted for 45% of global wafer supply. The excess of production over market demand caused crystalline silicon factory gate module prices to drop 14% in 2010, significantly less than the 38% reduction of the previous year.

After addressing 2010 outcomes, the Marketbuzz 2011 report sets out three scenarios for supply, demand, and prices over the next five years. By 2015, Solarbuzz projects the European market share to fall to between 45-54% as North America and several Asian markets grow rapidly. The US will be the fastest growing major country market over this period. Over the next five years, factory gate module prices are projected to drop between 37% and 50% from 2010 levels.

In the short term, assumptions about the immediate policy environment remain critical to outcomes over the next 24 months.
“The industry has now entered a phase of tightening incentive terms across important European markets. Cuts in unit tariffs will be far more rapid than the industry’s pace of cost reduction,” said Craig Stevens, President of Solarbuzz. “While some key markets will decline in size as a result over the next two years, the US, Canada, China, and Japan are some of the major countries that still offer growth potential. In addition, the rush to beat mid-year tariff reductions will ensure strong first half 2011 demand performance in Italy and Germany.”
Stevens added, “Planned manufacturing capacity expansions will ensure the industry has adequate cell supplies over 2011 and 2012. However, the potential for excess supply taken together with already planned subsidy cuts will make both years challenging for the industry.”

The new Marketbuzz 2011 report sets out 2010 industry outcomes and provides a forecast for the 2011–2015 period, including a preview of market developments, policies, supply requirements versus manufacturer plans, factory-gate prices, manufacturing costs, and gross margins. All of the essential data is included for companies to navigate the abrupt changes in Y/Y growth rates over the next five years.

Change of Plan: UK to Halve Large-Scale Solar FIT

The UK government has triggered the reduction of financial support for larger scale solar projects under the feed-in tariff (FIT) incentive scheme that it launched last April.

It has proposed to lower the support for all new photovoltaic installations larger than 50kW, meaning projects that would have received 30.7 pence per kWh will now receive between 8.5 pence and 19 pence per kWh.

Projects of between 250kW and 5MW will receive the lowest rates of 8.5 pence per kWh, while projects of between 50kW and 150kW will get 19 pence per kWh and all capacities in between will get 15 pence per kWh.

Due to a lack of uptake by farm-scale solar and anaerobic digestion projects, the government has raised the tariff for anaerobic digestion projects to 14 pence per kWh for projects below 250kW, with installations of up to 500kW getting one penny per kWh less.

The consultation follows the government’s launch of a fast-track review of the FIT for projects over 50kW after planning applications were made for solar projects with a combined capacity of 169MW. The government said it is concerned that large projects could soak up the funding that would otherwise finance smaller solar schemes or be used to subsidise other renewable energy projects.

UK Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said, ‘I want to make sure that we capture the benefits of fast falling costs in solar technology to allow even more homes to benefit from FITs, rather than see that money go in bumper profits to a small number of big investors.
‘These proposals aim to rebalance the scheme and put a stop to the threat of larger-scale solar soaking up the cash. The FITs scheme was never designed to be a profit generator for big business and financiers.’

PV FIT schemes in Germany, France and Spain have been reduced sharply over the past year.
The government has promised not to act retrospectively on existing FIT contracts and said those that are already accredited will not be affected.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Expected Decline of German Solar Market: According to Phoenix Solar

German solar systems integrator Phoenix Solar has issued a stark warning that the country’s solar market, currently the world’s largest, will decline from 2011 onwards.

‘Phoenix Solar anticipates stagnation in the global market in the current financial year,’ the company said in its earnings statement.
‘The German market was once again global leader in 2010 but is likely to have reached its maximum market volume, and will decline from 2011 onwards.’

Phoenix brought in revenues of €635.7m in 2010, a 34 per cent rise on the previous year’s figure of €473m and the highest the company has ever recorded.
Its earnings before interest and tax were €36.4m, triple the €12m it made in 2009. Net earnings were €24.0m, or €3.42 per share. Phoenix’s management proposes a €0.35 dividend, subject to approval by its board.

But the company declined to offer a forecast for 2011, given regulatory uncertainty gripping the sector.
Germany cut feed-in tariffs ahead of schedule in July and October last year. Italy has also said it will cut subsidies early, while the UK is debating a similar move.

Article source:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Floating Solar Panels: New Solar Technology test

A collaboration between an Israeli and a French company has resulted in the design of a solar panel prototype that floats on the water. Solaris Synergy of Israel and EDF Group of France have partnered to test a new silicon solar cell module that is said to be the first floating concentrated photovoltaic system.

Solaris Synergy
Source image: Solaris Synergy

The system is based on a floating platform in which individual modules can be placed and arranged. Each module produces what is said to be 200 kilowatts of electricity, which we assume is dependent upon the configuration of CPV panels in a given module. The two companies are using concentrated solar technology in order to reportedly limit the amount of space the system needs in order to produce a usable amount of energy. The design process began in March of 2010, and is expected to be implemented in testing in September of this year.

The tests will be conducted at Cadarache in the south east of France, due to its location to the electric grid and a hydro-electric facility. The water-basin of the hydro-electric plant will be the surface on which the solar modules are tested. According to scientist Dr. Elyakim Kassel, the coordinator of the projected dubbed AQUASUN, there are many benefits to using an already established water-basin for the floating solar system:
First, the project will not have to use or purchase land, and instead can implement water that is already being used for another purpose. Second, the cooler temperature of the water will help the overall efficiency of solar cells. 

The testing phase is expected to last nine months, during which the team will note water levels, cost, and efficiency. The companies hope to report their findings to the market in June of 2012.

Article Source

US Solar Industry Saw Impressive Growth in 2010

The market value of the US solar industry grew by 67 per cent to $6bn in 2010, from $3.6bn a year earlier, according to research by GTM commissioned by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

A total of 878MW of photovoltaic (PV) capacity and 78MW of concentrating solar power were installed in the US over the year, while 65,000 homes installed solar heating systems.
Installations more than doubled over 2009 figures, in contrast to the broader economy, which grew by less than three per cent.

The SEIA said the expansion was driven by declining costs, greater economies of scale, industry expansion into a wider number of states and improved installation practices.
Another growth driver was the Treasury’s 1603 programme, a set of tax credits and grants for renewable energy installations, which was due to expire at the end of 2010 but has now been extended for another year.

‘The US PV market saw a breakthrough in 2010 and is emerging as a global demand centre for both suppliers and project developers,’ said Shayle Kann, managing director of solar at GTM Research.
‘This report shows that solar energy is now one of the fastest growing industries in the US.’

Cheers for the Green energy efforts!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

UK’s First Citywide Solar Potential Mapping Project

In a first for a UK local authority, Bristol City Council have awarded Blom UK, and their German partner Sun-Area, the contract to provide a detailed, interactive solar potential map of the entire city. 

The map will be integrated with their website to allow local property and business owners to find out if their buildings are suitable for solar PV or solar thermal (hot water) panels.

Bristol’s decision to award a solar potential mapping project to Blom UK and Sun-Area follows a Government announcement at the end of 2010, of a grant of £260,000 towards the city’s green plans. The city is one of 30 pioneering councils across the country to receive money to help develop its climate change plans and share best practice with other councils.

As the first council to undertake a solar potential mapping project, Bristol will use the experience gained and any lessons learned to create detailed guidance for other Local Authorities who are interested in undertaking similar schemes.  It is hoped that in this way, local authorities up and down the country can encourage property owners to adopt solar panels, saving money and reducing their carbon output.

When announcing the grant last year, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “Local Councils can play a vital role in cutting carbon because they have unrivalled local knowledge, experience and influence. We want to tap in to this, so we have awarded just over £2 million to be shared between 30 pioneering councils to work with individuals, businesses and communities to find the best and most effective ways to reduce emissions and stimulate their local economy. The results of the project will decide what works best so other councils across the country can benefit and learn.”

Blom UK’s solar potential map will provide a detailed analysis of every building in the city, taking into account the orientation, height, pitch and shape of each roof, as well as shading from obstructions including trees, buildings and terrain.  The resulting map will provide information on the suitability of each building for the installation of either solar PV or solar thermal panels.

Managing Director of Blom UK Dave Fox said “We are thrilled to be working with our partner Sun-Area on this pioneering project.  As the first council in the UK to undertake a citywide solar potential mapping project, Bristol City Council is demonstrating their commitment to reducing carbon across the city, whilst providing residents with a way to find out if they can save money by fitting solar panels.”

Article Source

Forecast PV Marketshare 2015: USA And China On The Top (IMS Research Interview)

Sam Wilkinson is one of the analysts in the PV Research Group at IMS Research. IMS Research is a leading provider of market intelligence to the global electronics industry and has been providing research and statistics on the industry for over 20 years. IMS began researching the PV market in 2006 and now cover almost every part of the PV supply chain in great detail.

IMS Research: USA and China likely to become the worlds largest PV markets before 2015
What are your expectations for the global PV market in 2011 to 2012 (in terms of new GWs)? IMS Research estimates that global installations will increase by around 20% in 2011, to between 20-22 GW; however, this is very dependent on how the market reacts to the changes in France and Italy. It’s possible we see a big pull-forward in demand again, but also possible that demand stalls and prices come down rapidly. Inventive reductions during, and at the end of 2011 mean that installations are likely to be roughly flat in 2012.

What do you expect to be the leading PV markets in the coming years? We forecast that the largest PV markets (in terms of installations) in the next four to five years will be USA, China and Germany. Generally we see the global market diversifying and becoming less depending on just one or two markets – which of course will help stabilise demand.

What are your forecasts for the German and Italian PV market? And what other European PV markets will play a dominant role till 2015? Following what has been an incredible two years for the German market, with installations estimated to have reached around 7.5 GW in 2010, we are seeing the incentive reductions start to take effect, and predict that installations will begin to decline in 2011, and again in 2012. That said, we don’t see Germany disappearing off the map or crashing altogether and believe that it will continue to install significant amounts of PV over the coming years.

It is currently very difficult to make a solid forecast for installations in Italy, as new information regarding its feed-in tariff is being released all the time. Based on the shipment information that we have collected (from inverter and module suppliers), we believe that genuine completed installations in 2010 were between 3-3.5 GW. We predict that there will be a surge in installations until the end of May when the current feed-in tariffs will finish. Currently, the rates that will be offered after this date are not available and there is still a chance that annual installations will be capped. Until this information is confirmed, it is very difficult to make a forecast. Although, it is certain that the new incentives policy will be designed to reduce the installations. 

The Chinese PV industry is growing tremendously. Not only are the existing giants expanding their capacity, new entrants with huge ambitions are still entering the market. How does this match with the global market growth? Chinese suppliers are carrying out extremely aggressive expansion plans. Chinese module suppliers added capacity very quickly throughout 2010 and capacity in China at the end of the year was over 80% higher than it was at the end of 2009. This growth was roughly in line with total industry demand. However, 2011 looks a little different; aggressive capacity expansions are continuing and Chinese suppliers are forecast to add a similar amount in 2011, but in contrast to 2010, installations are not predicted to grow at the same rate.

It is also significant that a number of other large Asian electronics suppliers are entering the market. Companies like LG, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor are able and willing to spend large amounts of capital and plan to quickly add capacity over the next few years.

What will the solar industry look like in five years’ time? Isn't the solar industry likely to follow the wind-energy industry in the near future, with more than 90% of the market shared among only ten major manufacturers? With incentive levels in the largest markets being quickly reduced over the last year or so, and further reductions likely, there will certainly be increased pressure on PV module prices. The leading, and surviving, companies will therefore be those that are able to reduce their costs in order to offer attractive prices whilst still maintaining a healthy margin. It is likely than only a small number of the hundreds of suppliers active in the market today will be able to achieve this.

Where in the supply chain (silicon to module) do you see the highest potential for further cost reductions? As I previously mentioned, cost reduction is key to companies in a market that is ultimately aiming to reduce prices to the point where it no longer relies on subsidies and incentives, and can compete with conventional energy sources.

On the crystalline side, a clear strategy of some of the larger suppliers is the move to vertical integration. It is not difficult to see that the cost structure of a fully integrated module supplier (manufacturing polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules in house) has the potential to be significantly lower than a non-integrated one. A non-integrated module supplier’s cost structure could include the margin of a cell supplier, a wafer supplier and a polysilicon supplier, as well as the extra transportation costs etc. involved with the purchase of each item.

What module price development do you expect this and next year? Will the ASP for c-Si modules hit €1/Wp in 2012? Following some increases in price during the second half of 2010, due to the high demand and short supply of modules, IMS Research predicts that prices will begin to fall again throughout 2011 and 2012. We predict that some crystalline modules will reach the €1/W milestone during 2012. Some thin film modules will reach this price this year though.

Europe seems to focus more on residential PV applications with their FiT support mechanisms. In the USA on the other hand, utility scale projects seem to drive the market. What is your view on the market segments that will drive the demand in the coming years? IMS Research predicts that utility-scale PV systems will represent an increasing proportion of installations over the coming years, for a number of reasons:

Firstly, some of the largest markets in a few years time will be ones that favour large utility-scale projects, such as China and USA.

Secondly, the high volume nature of large utility-scale plants once again leads to lower prices and costs, on a per watt or per kWh basis at least.

In your opinion, where will the solar industry and markets be in 2015? We predict that the largest end markets (geographically) will be USA, Germany and China in 2015. However, as I mentioned earlier we see full vertical integration becoming more and more common in the market, and we are likely to see a number of cell, module and wafer suppliers becoming their own ‘end customer’ and increasingly being involved in developing systems themselves.

Article Source

Monday, March 7, 2011

US Defense Forms Green Energy Efforts

The US energy and defence departments are to take fresh steps to strengthen national security through the development of advanced clean energy technologies.

The move comes as Middle Eastern unrest has caused oil prices to rise to pre-credit crunch levels, in turn leading to many to call for the US to tap into its oil reserves.

The agreement signed between the Department of Energy and Department of Defense said national enhance security will be increased while also the Obama Administration’s plan to transition to clean energy is implemented.

Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary of Energy, said, ‘Advances in innovation are helping to solve our military challenges, protect our troops, and enhance our national security. At the same time, these efforts have the potential to yield spin-off technologies with both military and civilian applications that will help create jobs in the US and speed America’s transition to a clean energy economy.’

The departments said alongside renewable energy deployment, energy storage technologies and grid security will also be in focus.

The application of these within the US military will be of particular focus.
‘Our joint efforts in everything from advanced vehicles to energy storage to grid security are protecting our men and women in uniform, promoting America’s economic prosperity, and improving our environment.’

Article Source:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

African Teachers Use Solar Power Whiteboards

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Republic of Senegal has given CyberSmart a grant to finance a pilot program which uses solar-powered, interactive whiteboards in rural classrooms.
The innovate design forgoes the need for infrastructure, relying on a low cost solar energy system, the specifics of which have not been announced, most likely because the company’s product is still patent-pending.

The interactive whiteboard is complimented by a ‘Smartpen’ that allows teachers and students to interact with the content on the screen, and, according to the company’s website [pdf], affordable USB drives are being adapted for wide-scale use. In order to be effective, all of the components are transportable so that the tools can be shared with educators in a variety of locations.
Nearly 1.5 billion people lack access electricity, the largest populations living in developing Africa and Asia. Without the ability to learn with the help of adequate technology, children in the poorest areas of the planet will be left further behind in modern development. Cybersmart’s whiteboard is currently being tested in four schools in the Western African nation among teachers instructing students in elementary and middle school.

Hopefully, more and more companies like CyberSmart will find support for similar global projects that can bring information to people regardless of their location. The more energy efficient, sustainable, and low cost these tools are, the better chance they have of being implemented all over the world. And the more people who are educated, the greater possibility of a future student finding the next scientific breakthrough that will better all of our lives.