May 29, 2012 – Vol.17 No.11
SEVEN DAYS OF SOLAR 5-13-12.
Solar is already competitive with daytime conventional power in some nations, and common perceptions about the lack of competitiveness of solar photovoltaic power are misleading and out-of-date, according to a new research paper published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance:
The paper, Reconsidering the Economics of Photovoltaic Power, looks at the implications of the sharpest falls in the prices of PV technology in recent memory. Average PV module prices have fallen by nearly 75% in the past three years, to the point where solar power is now competitive with daytime retail power prices in a number of countries. It also examines the metrics generally used to measure the economics of solar power against alternative power generating technologies, and finds they are often inadequate, and may introduce bias against the deployment of PV technology.
The authors' aim is to inform policy-makers, utility decision-makers, investors and advisory services, in particular in high-growth developing countries, as they weigh the suite of power generation options available to them. The paper is being submitted for publication in the peer-reviewed literature.
Among the conclusions of the paper are:
--- The shift in prices of solar technology carries major implications for policy and investment decision-makers, especially when it comes to the choice of generating technology and the design of tariff, fiscal and other support policies.
--- Many observers and decision-makers have yet to catch up with the improvements in the economics of solar power that have resulted from recent PV technology cost and price reductions.
--- Recent reductions in PV prices are likely to be sustainable. While overcapacity has caused severe pain for manufacturers, the price falls are primarily a reflection of reductions in manufacturing costs, not solely a reflection of stock liquidation and other short-run factors.
--- Commonly used estimates for PV power's competitiveness - including the concept of "grid parity" - are often misleading, given the complex realities of the electricity system.
The paper was written by 10 authors with exceptional insight into the economics of solar power. They are Morgan Bazilian and Ijeoma Onyemi of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization; Michael Liebreich and Jenny Chase of Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Ian MacGill of the University of New South Wales; Jigar Shah of KMR Infrastructure; Dolf Gielen of the International Renewable Energy Agency, IITC; Doug Arent of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis; Doug Landfear of AGL Energy; and Shi Zhengrong of Suntech Power Holdings.
During the week beginning May 13, 2012, this publication received news announcements regarding more than 2.5 megawatts (MW) of solar projects completed and 5.5 MW of projects under construction.
--- GreenVolts has announced the commissioning of three solar projects for the City of Somerton, Arizona. The company’s fully integrated concentrating photovoltaic modules now provide 416 kW of power required for Somerton’s water treatment, public safety and water supply applications.
GreenVolts systems perform best in these regions, such as the Southwest United States, with high DNI (direct normal irradiance, a measure of amount of strong, direct sun) areas. GreenVolts has focused on serving customers in this area, now adding the City of Somerton to several installations recently completed in Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
--- MAGE Solar modules now supply 1.4 GWh of clean, reliable energy per year to six housing projects that were part of a revitalization plan for New Orleans. Among the buildings now with solar power are the iconic American Can and Blue Plate buildings with 63 kW, and the city’s River Garden Apartments and the Bonne Terre Apartments in Houma with a combined 564 kW of solar energy spread out over 69 individual rooftop applications and 26 parking canopies.
--- Independent Solar Developers has announced that they are the first company to install, commission and operate a 480 kW concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar field that provides both energy and shade to a cattle feedlot. This achievement underscores Independent Solar Developers’ commitment to a new era for agriculture and renewable energy.
A solar field large enough to power 100 homes is generating energy for feed production and providing shade to livestock while significantly reducing the utility bill
--- Nanosolar has completed a 1 MW ground-mounted solar installation at Camp Roberts, the largest of California's National Guard training facilities, located in San Miguel. The installation is part of the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) Energy Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), which is testing various green technologies to identify viable solutions to address rising energy costs and minimize the reliance on fossil fuels. The DoD spends over $4 billion annually on electricity use, accounting for more than 90 percent of the federal government's energy use.
The installation, which is comprised of 4,992 of Nanosolar's thin-film panels, will be used to test the capabilities of the solution for producing energy in areas where solar irradiance is above average. At Camp Roberts, strong annual insolation of 1892 kWh/m2 is typical. The project was installed in an area of flat, unused land.
Founded in 2002, Nanosolar aims to produce the world's lowest-cost solar panels through the use of its proprietary CIGS (Copper, Indium, Gallium, Selenium) printing technology. The company uses a unique high-throughput, roll-to-roll printing process to coat aluminum foil with proprietary CIGS inks, while avoiding the use of high-cost vacuum deposition processes.
It also has a novel metal wrap-through (MWT) back-contact design that enables it to produce cells more efficiently. This design offers Nanosolar customers a panel that offers high mechanical and electrical stability, which enables easier installation at lower total cost. With manufacturing capacity of 115 MW, Nanosolar is currently producing 230W panels with 11.5 percent module efficiency and expects to be at 14 percent in 2013.
--- The Scottsdale Unified School District (Arizona) and SunPower Corp. are installing 5.5 MW of high efficiency SunPower solar power systems at 11 District schools. The systems are expected to reduce the District's electricity costs by $25 million over the next 25 years.
SunPower is installing the systems on rooftops as well as on solar shade structures in parking lots, taking advantage of underutilized space and providing needed shade. The systems use high efficiency SunPower solar panels, the most efficient panels on the market today. All systems are expected to be complete and operational before the end of September.
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