Archive for solar farm

eed-in tariffs (FITs) have spurred the installation of more than three-quarters of global solar capacity. Germany’s FIT – perhaps one of the best-known programs – has led to the development of more than 50,000 MW of solar power and wind power domestically since its inception in 1990.

But despite this roaring success – which has been duplicated on smaller scales in several other countries – FITs continue to fail to make inroads in the U.S. This market instead relies on a patchwork of often inconsistent federal and state incentives in order to make solar power projects work.

Could FITs ever take off in the U.S.? Where have existing local and state FIT programs failed, and what glimmers of hope can they provide? A recent report by John Farrell, senior energy researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), recaps the frustrating path of the U.S.’ FIT programs and makes recommendations for successful future implementation.

FIT programs – generally branded as Clean Local Energy Accessible Now (CLEAN) contracts in the U.S. – currently exist in 14 states. However, installed capacity under all of the programs totals just 132 MW, according to the ILSR report.

Even if the U.S.’ CLEAN programs were built out to their caps, their installed capacity would represent 1% or less of each jurisdiction’s total electricity scales. In comparison, the cap-less German market already has allowed at least 20% electricity to come from FIT sources.

“Experience shows, not surprisingly, that the larger the scale of CLEAN programs, the greater the cost savings,” the report notes. “Germany has nearly a 50 percent price advantage in project-installation costs, due almost entirely to its large, streamlined market for solar.”

Another shortcoming of the U.S.’ CLEAN programs may be their emphasis on large-scale solar projects. Unlike in Germany, where individuals own 40% of the current renewable energy market, few U.S. programs allow participation by owners of residential PV arrays.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) program, for instance, leads the U.S. in terms of installed CLEAN capacity, with two-thirds of the country’s total, but almost all of the capacity was allocated to projects of at least 1 MW, according to the report. A single 30 MW array took up half of SMUD’s capacity.

The ILSR believes that small-scale, locally owned PV projects represent a more effective use of CLEAN programs.

“It is true that larger projects will have lower per-kilowatt costs, although the difference may be minimal,” the report explains. “But many small projects mean [that] many households (and businesses) begin to have an economic self-interest in supporting further renewable energy developments.”

Better administration
All renewable energy incentive programs are dynamic works in progress, and the German government’s ongoing management of its FIT program has not been without controversy. Last year’s boom in PV installations, followed by an announcement of drastic FIT rate cuts, resulted in political wrangling and negotiations that have yet to be resolved.

It is also worth noting that the U.S.’ electricity market and regulatory environment differ from Germany’s – thus making exact duplication of the latter’s FIT program difficult or impossible.

Nevertheless, the U.S. can learn a couple important FIT/CLEAN program management lessons from Germany, according to the ILSR report.

Price differentiation – i.e., providing different rates for different types of technology and project sizes – has allowed various types of renewable energy to grow simultaneously, in addition to allowing more homeowners and their small-scale projects to participate competitively.

At the same time, Germany’s FIT pricing is “all in,” attracting project investors without the need to add other subsidies and partners – and, thus, streamlining investment. U.S. CLEAN contracts, on the other hand, must be employed in tandem with federal and/or state incentives in order to create an attractive investment.

“The reliance on tax incentives constrains U.S. CLEAN programs,” the report says. “Federal tax incentives are subject to the vagaries of congressional politics. Federal tax incentives also increase complexity, as developers often partner with companies seeking tax write-offs, which, in turn, encourages larger projects and increases the overall cost of the project.”

A successful FIT/CLEAN program must also be priced properly. According to the report, the most important feature of Germany’s FIT program has been its “accelerated” price reductions in recent years. In response to market conditions, FIT rates now drop much more rapidly than in the past.

“American CLEAN programs must similarly adapt to a changing market,” the report notes, adding that currently, few U.S. programs offer any year-to-year price transparency, thus making project development more challenging.

With new CLEAN initiatives forthcoming in the U.S. – including programs from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Long Island Power Authority and the State of Rhode Island – now may be an ideal time for intensive evaluation and possible restructuring.

Despite its criticism, the ILSR is optimistic about the future of CLEAN programs in the U.S. and the role that they can play as solar power continues its downward cost trajectory.

“The CLEAN program makes an ideal transitional incentive, one that can be tailored to the needs and capacities of different states and can be phased out gradually as renewable energy costs decline,” the report says.

Photo: A residential PV installation in Germany. Photo credit: Conergy AG

May 31, 2012

By Paul Gipe

A bill to create feed-in tariffs for the poor and the disadvantaged passed the California Assembly on 30 May 2012.

The “Solar for All” bill, AB 1990, passed the House by a vote of 49 to 27 and was reported to the Senate.

The move is the first significant action on feed-in tariffs in California during this legislative session. It is also the first time in North America that advocates for the poor and disadvantaged have called for equal opportunity to develop renewable energy through the use of feed-in tariffs.

Introduced by Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), the bill would create feed-in tariffs for 375 MW of small-scale renewable generation that would be specifically designed for disadvantaged communities.

The bill is sponsored by the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).

CEJA’s bill has received support from some 70 non-governmental organizations that includes a who’s who of the California environmental and social justice community, including Sierra Club California, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), and Environment California.

Though CEJA dubs the legislation “Solar for All”, the bill itself calls for “clean energy contracts” from all “eligible renewable energy resources” in California.

  • Project size cap: 500 kW
  • Program cap: 375 MW by 2020 at a “regular annual pace”
  • Term: minimum of 20 years
  • Program launch: 2014
  • Tariffs: “sufficient to stimulate the market” in low-income communities, create a diverse range of project sizes and achieve the environmental justice objectives
  • Reporting: annual
  • Administration and Rate Setting: Public Utility Commission (PUC) & local public utilities
  • Cost recovery: ratepayers
  • Cost cap: 0.375% of forecast retails sales in 2020
  • “Eligible” Technologies: Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric, Municipal Solid Waste, Energy Storage, Anaerobic Digestion, Small Hydroelectric, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Biodiesel, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels

It is not clear whether AB 1990 directs the PUC to set tariffs in two bands for those living in disadvantaged communities who can use federal tax subsidies and those who cannot. The bill only notes that the PUC is to take this into account during its deliberations.

AB 1990 contains a potentially onerous provision requiring that each renewable generator be “inspected” by a licensed contractor every two years.

Though utilities are obligated to provide “expedited interconnection,” they are exempted from the act’s requirements if they claim the grid is “inadequate”, that the generator doesn’t meet the utility’s interconnection requirement, or that the “aggregate of all small-scale renewable generating facilities on a distribution circuit would adversely impact utility operation and load restoration efforts of the distribution system”

Despite these limitations, the introduction alone of AB 1990 by CEJA should put to rest concerns that feed-in tariffs are a regressive form of taxation that penalize the poor. Rather, environmental justice organizers see feed-in tariffs as a more equitable policy tool than existing California programs for developing renewable energy.

CEJA: Solar for All Passes Assembly

AB 1990 Bill Status

AB 1990 Bill History

AB 1990

California Watch: Solar rooftops sought in poor communities

What’s New on Feed-in Tariffs

  • California Feed-in Tariff for Poor Communities Passes Assembly–A bill to create feed-in tariffs for the poor and the disadvantaged passed the California Assembly on 30 May 2012. The “Solar for All” bill, AB 1990, passed the House by a vote of 49 to 27 and was reported to the Senate. . .
  • Canadian Auto Workers: WTO Called Upon to Dismiss Japan, EU Challenge to Ontario Renewable Energy Policy–Canadian NGOs and labour unions, including the CAW, have sent an amicus curiae submission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) prior to a May 15 hearing into Japan’s and the European Union’s joint attack on the Ontario Green Energy Act. . .
  • Japan Times: Leveling the field for renewables–The government has drawn up a design for Japan’s feed-in tariff system to promote the generation of electricity through renewable energy sources. In a nutshell, it has decided the prices at which the nation’s major power companies buy such electricity and the duration of contracts. In principle they must buy all such energy. It is hoped that this system, expected to take effect in July, will help expand the generation and use of renewable energy, and accelerate advances in related technologies. Electricity fees may rise. The government should fully explain the need for the system and how it will work. . .
  • Karl-Friedrich Lenz’s analysis of Japan’s Feed-in Tariffs–The second fundamental flaw is the fact that the proposal doesn’t distinguish between onshore and offshore wind. That difference has a rather large influence on cost. Therefore, German law pays 8.93 cents for onshore and 15 cents for offshore wind. . .
  • Chronicle Herald: Nova Scotia Plans to Tap into Tidal Energy with FITs–Energy Minister Charlie Parker said his department will ask the province’s Utility and Review Board later this year to begin the process of setting a rate, or feed-in tariff, for the companies working on development projects in the Bay of Fundy. . .
  • Anglican Diocese of Oxford: Solar Feed-in Tariff put on a “predictable, certain and sustainable footing”–Churches exploring solar pv should note that buildings with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of less than D will get a reduced tariff rate. Calls have previously been made to examine possible exemptions from this and the national Church of England Shrinking the Footprint campaign has been responding to the consultation and having discussions with DECC with particular emphasis on the issues for churches in achieving an A – D rated Energy Performance Certificate. It is, however, possible to wire panels on one building into another which is easier to upgrade e.g panels on a church roof wired into a church hall. . .
  • Malaysian Reserve: RE industry may see change in feed-in-tariff, says SEDA–The Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) is looking at adjusting the feed-in-tariff (FiT) for renewable energy (RE) before it calls for the next round of quote in July/ August 2012 as there is an imbalance in the RE resource mix. At a recent talk on renewable energy updates, SEDA chief executive officer Badriyah Abdul Malek highlighted that almost half of the installed capacity for RE being generated, since the beginning of the FiT on Dec 1, 2011, was using solar energy which could be a “wrong signal” for the market. . .
  • Vermont Ups Feed-in Tariff Program Cap Slightly–Vermont’s Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law 18 May 2012 that slightly increases the cap on the state’s Standard Offer Contract program. Senate Bill 214 extends the small existing 50 MW program by a modest amount. . .
  • Saudi Arabia Launches Massive Renewable Program with Hybrid FITs–While North America continues to dawdle on the road to the renewable revolution, the conservative, oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has proposed one of the most sweeping and massive moves to renewable energy on the planet. . .

Nuclear Power, Japan, Feed-in Tariffs, and the Rapid Development of Renewables

  • Andrew Dewit: A Crossroads for Japan: Revive Nuclear or Go Green?–May 5 marked the shutdown of the last of Japan’s 50 viable nuclear reactors, with poor prospects for any restarts before the summer. The central government, the nuclear industry, most big business associations, and many international observers seem convinced that this will invite chaos through escalating fossil fuel costs and the risk of blackouts. But polls suggest a growing segment of the Japanese population see things differently. . .
  • Mainichi: Atomic Energy panel members call for independent probe into secret meetings–Some members of a Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) panel working out new nuclear energy policy have called for a third-party probe into revelations that business operators in favor of the nuclear fuel cycle project were invited to secret meetings before an assessment was altered to help promote the project. . .
  • Guardian: Only renewables – not nuclear – could be too cheap to meter–Germany’s long support for wind and solar energy is delivering zero-cost electricity at times. In contrast, the UK’s new energy policy seeks to underwrite the rising cost of nuclear. . .

 

What’s New on Solar Energy

 

What’s New on Community Power

  • Renewable Energy Tour to Germany & the World Wind Energy Conference 2012–The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association is leading a tour to renewable energy sites in Germany June 30 to July 8 including participation in the World Wind Energy Association Conference in Bonn, and visits to a biogas plant, a wind turbine manufacture, community-owned wind turbines, a leading research institute on grid integration, and a solar power plant. . .
  • Aaron Bartley: Community Power vs. the Kochs–In Germany, where the stranglehold of corporate energy has been loosened, renewables now comprise 20 percent, of national energy production, thanks to national policies such as feed-in tariffs which guarantee a stable price for power produced by wind, solar and geothermal systems. More than half of German energy is now produced in decentralized sites like homes, farms and community co-ops. This trend toward distributed generation conflicts directly with the corporate energy paradigm of centralized control. The German model shows that national policies can have a transformative impact that both increases overall renewable energy production while placing ownership in the hands of farmers, small businesses and homeowners. . .
  • Mount Alexander Community Wind–Mount Alexander Community Wind is a community driven project seeking to establish a locally owned and operated wind plant to supply a significant portion of the energy needs of our Shire. Clean renewable energy will be generated to replace energy derived from burning non-renewable coal. . .

 

What’s New on Wind Energy


This feed-in tariff news update is sponsored by the , An Environmental Trust, and the David Blittersdorf Family Foundation in cooperation with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The views expressed are those of Paul Gipe and are not necessarily those of the sponsors.



TORONTO, Apr 24, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — JCM Capital (JCM) announced today that they have launched a $10 million solar development capital fund that will invest in early-stage photovoltaic (PV) projects installed on large commercial and industrial buildings across Ontario, leveraging the Province’s Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program. The aim of the fund is to target application-ready projects to be submitted into the upcoming Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) application window, and as such, assist with early-stage development costs such as FIT application fees, structural engineering assessments, FIT security deposits and grid connection impact assessment (CIA) costs. The fund will also invest in Ontario-based FIT contracted projects that have not yet reached commercial operation.

CEO of JCM, Christian Wray stated that despite the recent changes to the Province’s Green Energy Program, the fund will ensure that necessary capital is available for quality projects that meet the requirements of the revised FIT 2.0 program. “JCM has and will continue to support the small to mid-size solar market in Ontario with the belief that our investment in distributed solar power generation will provide the maximum benefit to all stakeholders. The fund creates a unique solution for local PV development companies that have few options when funding early-stage projects that require significant risk capital.” Wray also noted that JCM has a strong track record in working with solar developers in Ontario and looks forward to partnering with and supporting other experienced developers as the program continues.

To date JCM has successfully deployed over $5 million of development capital, enabling the advancement of an initial 20MW commercial rooftop solar portfolio. When completed, the aggregate construction costs of this initial portfolio will exceed $80 million and will offset approximately 20,000 tons of harmful C02 from being released into the earth’s atmosphere – the equivalent of planting 2 million trees or removing 60,000 cars from the road.

The fund will also help create further jobs in accordance with the Province’s Green Energy Act initiative.

For more information, please visit www.jcmcapital.ca

About JCM Capital (JCM)

JCM Capital is a financial advisory company that focuses primarily on financing and the co-development of solar energy projects in Ontario, Canada. The Company provides commercial solar energy developers early-stage development capital and/or equity financing solutions for ‘construction-ready’ and operational solar projects while offering strategic and project management support. Current portfolios include rooftop and ground-mounted projects spanning from Southwestern to Eastern Ontario. The Company is looking to expand it’s reach through the cultivation of new partnerships and associations.

SOURCE: JCM Capital

Sag Harbor – New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for establishing a solar feed-in tariff plan for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), similar to the one he proposed in 2009, as part of his NY-Sun proposal to increase the generation of solar power in New York State.

Thiele stated, “If we are to be truly energy independent and reduce energy costs on Long Island, we must provide incentives to encourage the production of solar and other alternative sources of energy. The establishment of a feed-in tariff program is a market-based strategy to do just that. Rather than provide cash rebates to install solar, here LIPA would pay an incentive for the power produced by solar power to encourage the development of solar infrastructure.”

Thiele’s proposal, first introduced in 2009, would have directed LIPA to establish a feed-in tariff program. Under the Thiele proposal, LIPA would have been authorized to purchase up to 100 megawatts of electricity under the program. Thiele’s bill set an initial tariff of 32 cents per kilowatt hour and a 20 year contract for solar producers. LIPA could adjust the tariff due to market conditions no more than once every two years.

Under the proposal announced by LIPA and the Governor last week, 50 megawatts would be purchased by LIPA and the tariff would be 22 per kilowatt hour.

Thiele stated, “Not only will this program encourage the rapid and sustainable development of electricity from renewable sources, it will create green jobs on Long Island. The German solar energy industry created over 50,000 jobs in less than five years, with the entire renewable energy industry creating as many as 200,000. More than 25,000 solar energy workers are employed in Spain. In Gainesville, Florida, a surge of capital investment in community solar systems has been experienced and local contractors have been hiring to meet demand. A solar feed-in tariff program will provide a simple and transparent means for solar investments to earn reasonable and reliable returns, allowing capital to flow into clean and renewable energy systems. My only reservation is that LIPA may have initially set the tariff too low to encourage investment. Hopefully, they will adjust to market conditions to make the program successful.”

From the office of Assemblyman Fred Thiele

Israeli Desert Yields a Harvest of Energy

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

By ISABEL KERSHNER

KETURA, Israel — Arriving at this bone-dry kibbutz in the Arava Desert late one afternoon in August 2006, Yosef Abramowitz, a social activist, Jewish educator and multimedia entrepreneur from Boston, opened the door of his van and was hit by a wall of heat.

 

“The sun was setting, but it was still burning,” he said. “I remember the sensation.”

Later, unable to sleep, he rose about 5 a.m. and stepped outside as the sun was coming up over the mountains of Jordan. “It was so hot already,” he recalled. “I said to myself, ‘This whole place must work on solar power.’ ”

Then he found out that was not true.

So Mr. Abramowitz, who had spent six months at Ketura in the early 1980s as part of a Young Judaea program, quickly abandoned his plans to spend a quiet family sabbatical with his wife and children in southern Israel. Instead, he went into partnership with Ed Hofland, a businessman from the kibbutz, and David Rosenblatt, an investor and strategist from New Jersey, to found the Arava Power Company, now the leading commercial developer of solar power in Israel.

After more than five years of political and regulatory battles with the Israeli authorities, the company has transformed 20 acres of a sand-colored field on the edge of the communal farm. It now glistens with neat rows of photovoltaic panels from China — 18,600 in all — that harness the sun. There is no smoke, only a slight buzz in the spotless rooms where the panels’ current is turned into electricity that can be fed into the electrical grid. Small openings in the perimeter fence allow animals to cross the field.

Depending on the time of year and rate of energy consumption, this field provides power for as many as five communities.

Siemens, the German conglomerate, was brought in as a partner and invested $15 million, and its Israeli branch built the field. The Jewish National Fund, a century-old Zionist group most associated with planting trees in Israel, made an unusual strategic investment of $3 million in a twist on the early national ideal of trying to make the desert bloom.

In forging a path for commercial solar energy, Mr. Abramowitz said he endured regulatory battles involving two dozen agencies as big as the Israeli Agriculture Ministry and as small as the local planning agency on issues like zoning changes and renewable energy quotas.

Along the way, Mr. Abramowitz — who left the kibbutz for Jerusalem in 2009 but still visits often — became known in Ketura as Captain Sunshine. “He got his nickname, first, because of his sunny personality,” said Elaine Solowey, a member of the kibbutz, “and, second, because anyone who beats the government bureaucracy is a superhero.”

Arava Power’s pioneering work has not gone unnoticed. Other communal farms and communities in the arid reaches of southern Israel are rapidly turning to renewable energy: solar energy is a harvest that does not require irrigation.

Last month, Israel’s Public Utility Authority issued licenses for nine larger solar fields, including a 150-acre site at Ketura that will eventually meet one-third of the peak daytime energy needs in the nearby city of Eilat.

Ketura’s new solar field will be built across the road from the kibbutz in a rift valley between two mountain ranges. The near-constant breeze from the north will naturally cool the backs of the panels, which will face south. With up to 14 hours of sunlight in the summer, an average of only 15 cloudy days a year and access to the national electricity grid nearby, the area has conditions that are perfect for producing solar energy, Mr. Abramowitz said.

“God could not have invented a better place to do solar power,” he said during a recent tour.

Arava Power has entered deals to lease land from numerous farms and communities in southern Israel. It has also teamed up with Bedouins in the Negev Desert: the tribes will lease their lands to Arava Power for solar installations, and the company will provide jobs for the clans. In February, the regulatory authorities granted the first license for an installation on Bedouin-owned land belonging to the Tarabin tribe. Financing for the Bedouin fields is coming from the United States government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Arava Power expects to grow into a $2 billion enterprise. That is quite a change for a small kibbutz that has mainly lived off its date palms, dairy shed and the salaries of members who work outside the farm.

Ketura was founded in 1973 by 25 idealists, graduates of the Young Judaea Zionist movement, and is known for its socialist values and simple, communal lifestyle. Though the kibbutz has a stake in Arava Power, Mr. Hofland, the company chairman, will not make any personal profit.

The kibbutz is also known for environmental innovation. It operates a high-tech algae farm and is home to the Arava Institute, where Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans and others study the environment. The kibbutz’s appreciation for education has resulted in what its secretary general, Sara Cohen, calls “knowledge-based ventures.”

In one such effort, Dr. Solowey domesticates rare plants, including species with medicinal properties, and works on finding new crops for arid and saline lands.

As yet, the prospect of solar power riches has not gone to the heads of the practical farmers who live in Ketura.

“It means having our future accounted for, when we cannot work in the date fields anymore,” Ms. Cohen said. “And our children’s education will be secured.”

Still, she added, “We are not eating filet mignon in the kibbutz dining room yet.”

Defense Department releases energy conservation roadmap

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

 

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Department of Defense Seal.
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WASHINGTON (3/12/12) – The Defense Department Friday released an implementation plan for cutting energy consumption in military operations

Officials released a strategy in June outlining the need for energy conservation in military operations. In the plan released, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta reiterates that the department must do its part to reduce U.S. fuel consumption not only to save money, but also to have less reliance on foreign oil and to improve security for U.S. forces who transport fuel into battle spaces.

“Energy security means a reliable, secure and affordable supply of energy for military missions, today and in the future,” the secretary said.

The implementation plan outlines a three-part strategy of reducing the demand for energy, securing diverse options beyond fossil fuels, and building energy security considerations into all military planning.

“This is a question of making sure the whole department is executing this strategy and using energy to support military operations better and interoperable and in a way that supports the whole department better,” said Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs.

The plan creates a Defense Operational Energy Board to oversee the department’s progress. Military services and DOD agencies are to report to the board on their energy consumption last year and projected consumption for the next five years, the plan says. The board will work with the services and agencies on actions needed to improve their consumption baselines.

The services have reported goals for:

  • The Army to have 16 “Net Zero” installations by 2020 and 25 by 2030 — installations that do not use more energy or water than they produce and reduce waste by recycling;
  • The Navy to reduce fuel consumption afloat by 15 percent by 2020;
  • The Air Force to increase aviation energy efficiency by 10 percent by 2020; and
  • The Marine Corps to increase energy efficiency on the battlefield by 50 percent by 2025, and, as a result, reduce daily fuel consumption per Marine by 50 percent in the same time.

The combatant commands will then report to the board on how they guide their forces to improve energy performance and efficiency, such as the ability to field fuel quickly and the use of alternative energy technologies.

The board is to develop department-wide energy performance metrics in consultation with the DOD components and based on consumption baselines.

The assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering is to assess the department’s gaps in energy science and technology and report recommendations to the board.

The plan also calls for:

  • Improving operational energy security at fixed installations;
  • Promoting the development of alternative fuels;
  • Incorporating energy security considerations into requirements and acquisitions; and
  • Adapting policy, doctrine, military education and combatant command activities to support reduced demand of energy.

“Even though the strategy and implementation plan is new,” Burke said, “the department has been making progress for some time in using less energy – more fight for less fuel. We haven’t been standing still on this.”

Soldiers and Marines have reduced their energy consumption in Afghanistan by using solar rechargeable batteries, solar microgrids, more efficient tents and better fixed shelters, Burke said.

Also, the Army is using generators at its forward operating bases that are 20 percent more efficient, and become even more efficient by being wired together. The Navy, too, has made good progress by incorporating energy considerations into its acquisitions process, she said.

Less demand for energy and more conservation lessen the risk to troops to transport fuel through battle zones, she said.

“When you’re focused on the fight, the most important thing is that the energy be there — and that’s how it should be,” Burke said. “But people also are beginning to understand there is a cost to using and moving that much fuel.”

Stateside, Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Carson, Colo., as well as the Oregon National Guard, are showing progress toward the Army’s Net Zero goal, the plan released today says.

“There’s a lot of good things going on, and a lot more needs to happen,” Burke said. The department’s energy conservation effort, she added, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

“Energy … shapes our missions, and we can shape it,” she said.
As part of the implementation plan, Panetta wrote that the rising global demand for energy, changing geopolitics and new threats will make the cost and availability of energy even less certain in the future.

“Energy security is an imperative – our economic well-being and international interests depend on it,” he said.

Hanwha Solar opens North American R&D center

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

By:  Becky Stuart

Korea-based Hanwha Solar has opened a new R&D center in Santa Clara, California. The goal is to develop next generation photovoltaic concepts, with a focus on efficiency and low cost.

Hanwha Solar ribbon cutting Santa clara R&D Facility

The new facility will first focus on thin silicon substrates, in particular, increasing efficiencies.

Hanwha Solar

The company has invested $14 million in the new, 30,000 square foot facility, 60 percent of which has been devoted to lab space.

The facility has been “built with room for expansion in mind,” said Hanwha in a statement released. It added that Silicon Valley was chosen, due to its being an “epicenter” of clean R&D technology. A total of 30 people will be employed there, thus bringing its U.S. workforce to 77.

The first project will focus on thin silicon substrates, in particular, increasing efficiencies. Chris Eberspacher, chief technology officer, Hanwha Solar, will oversee the work. “The lab is engineering methods of applying a thinner layer of silicon, which will make the panel less expensive while not compromising effectiveness and energy efficiency,” explained the company.

Hee Cheul Kim, president of Hanwha Solar, commented, “It is critical for a global company like Hanwha Solar to have a strong presence in California, because it is the epicenter of clean technology R&D. The investment being made in solar is a reflection of the confidence the Hanwha Group has in clean energy as a long term growth engine.”

Overall, the company says it has invested $50 million in the U.S. over the past two years, through partnerships with businesses like OneRoof Energy, Crystal Solar, Solar Monkey and 1366 Technologies. “Hanwha Solar will continue to increase the company’s footprint in the region over the coming years, making additional investments and increasing employment,” continued the statement.

Developing technology

In related news, Hanwha, well-known for its solar and chemical operations, exhibited its solar technology for the first time at the International Green Energy Exhibition in Daegu, South Korea, this March. Hanwha TechM used the event to showcase its newly developed equipment, which includes wire saws and a module production line. Next year, the company will head to the U.S. and Europe to tout its products at such shows as the SPI and Intersolar.

Jun-Suk Byun, manager of the sales team for the machine tool division told pv magazine that the company is beginning to focus its efforts on the upstream business. While the equipment is still in the early phase of development – “a baby” – he is confident that mass production on the module line, of which there is currently one in operation, will be reached in the next two years. Furthermore, he states that the equipment is cheaper than the competitors’, like Centrotherm.

With regard to its wire saws, which use diamond wire technology, they are said to be helping to both lower costs, by around 15 percent, and increase quality. Jun-Suk Byun adds that diamond wire technology is better than slurry, for instance, as there are fewer associated environmental problems.

Although Hanwha TechM is currently working on the production technology in Korea, it does intend to establish a manufacturing base in China in the future.
He says that the company is also looking to develop its own string technology. In terms of its key sales markets, China is sitting at number one, followed by Taiwan.

FiTs and the Future of European PV Markets

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

By Paula Mints, Principal Analyst, PV Services Program, Navigant Consulting

Discussion during last week’s annual EPIA Market Workshop in Brussels appropriately reflected the environment of several key European markets may see major changes to their feed-in tariff programs.

Brussels, Belgium — As the photovoltaic industry enters its post-feed-in-tariff (FiT) phase, it is important to remember that this incentive along with its ensuing profits was a recent phenomenon and was never intended to be unending. The industry and its stakeholders (including those who design and administer incentives) should have learned valuable lessons about how rapidly a market can overheat, how expensive it can quickly become to support a rapidly ballooning market, and how quickly PV can be deployed. Much innovation came with the FiT era. For every new entrant (many new to solar) that left, many stayed and will continue innovating.

Amidst the backdrop of several key European market leaders mulling major changes to their own FiTs, the annual EPIA Market Workshop was held in Brussels on March 21. The first session, on utility-scale PV plants, was moderated by EPIA’s outgoing president, Ingmar Wilhelm (Winfried Hoffmann was elected as president, a position he previously held), with panel members Christopher Burghardt from First Solar, Hansjorg Lerchenmuller from Soitec, Thierry Lepercq from Solairedirect, Hanwha SolarOne’s Andreas Liebheit, and Phillip Kunze from Solaria Germany. The discussion began with a comparison of FiTs and tenders. Feed in tariffs offer cost control, but only if the market can be dissuaded from boom and bust cycles, while tenders offer budget control and a least cost solution, but must be managed.

Utility scale is the largest growing segment of the market, competing on a levelized-cost-of-energy (LCOE) basis as a replacement technology, Burghardt pointed out. First Solar prefers a commercial negotiation based on a PPA or other incentive, he explained, as tender bidding often leads to a race to the bottom, which in turn can lead to failed projects. He noted that the industry needs to move from selling a financial product to selling power plants; France is running a tender, and Italy is considering it.

France cut its FiT by 70%, and then a further 30%, pointed out Lepercq, paraphrasing Nietzsche: what does not kill you makes you stronger. Depending on government incentives is dangerous and faulty, while the industry needs sustainability, he stressed. The market in France is now PPA driven, and the cost of wholesale electricity is 16 Euro cents/kilowatt-hour (kWh).

In Italy and Greece, banks are reluctant to take a risk on large-scale projects, thus passing the financial risk back to the investors and other project participants, noted Liebheit from Hanwha SolarOne.

Kunze from Solaria noted that CSP appears to be losing share. Further cost reduction is imperative, he said, and posed the question: can the PPA model survive in Europe?

In the second session, Large Scale Roof-Top Systems, moderator and newly elected EPIA president Winfried Hoffmann offered examples of commercial electricity rates in Europe:

  • Germany, €0.11/kWh to €0.15/kWh [US $0.14/kWh -$0.20/kWh]
  • France, €0.07/kWh to €0.10/kWh [$0.09/kWh - $0.13/kWh]
  • Italy, €0.13/kWh to €0.17/kWh [$0.17/kWh - $0.22/kWh]
  • Spain, €0.09/kWh to €0.14/kWh [US $0.12/kWh - $0.18/kWh]
  • UK, €0.09/kWh to €0.12/kWh kWh [US $0.12/kWh - $0.16/kWh]

Panelist Martin Heming from Schott Solar pointed out that FiTs are ending, and the market for systems bigger than 1-megawatt-peak (MWp) must become part of the energy market. Tomas Garcia from SunEdison remarked that self-consumption will be important for all rooftop systems. Panelists mused whether system designers will be motivated to innovate now that FiTs are ending — but nobody offered any answers to the question, or even suggested what the answer should and could involve. Panelists included Heming, Garcia, Virgilio Navarro from Atersa, Boris Klebensberger from SolarWorld, and Ricardo Meireles from Martifer Solar.

In a session on Residential Rooftop Systems moderated by EPIA director Fabrice Didier, Franco Valentini from Elettronica Santerno suggested selling solutions instead of selling systems, while Eclareon’s David Perez emphasized stand-alone off-grid single family dwellings, posing the question: do all systems have to be grid-connected? Willi Ernst from Centrosolar argued that in Germany, “solar” has become a negative. SunPower’s Oliver Schafer said that the industry needed to focus on attributes of solar other than cheap. He also noted that new building codes are needed, along with net metering and education. Self-consumption will force utilities into new business models, argued Valentini, in which they will lose their grid fees, but will find ways to recover them.

One of the negative outcomes of the FiT incentive was an absence of creativity, an attendee pointed out. Instead of creativity and innovation, the industry built bigger and bigger systems. The attendee posed a rhetorical question: now that the FiT has pushed the industry to multi-gigawatts of capacity, what do we do with it?

Lessons of the FiT Past and Future

During the heady first years of the feed-in tariff concept, it became sacrosanct to suggest that the instrument would drastically (or suddenly) change, or end. During these few profitable years, new entrants observed the significant growth enjoyed by the industry, and ignored the lessons of the past: off-grid markets, standalone systems, working in markets without subsidies, and competing on the attributes of solar other than its potential of being cheap. The industry’s history, they believed, could not possibly have any bearing on its future. They were wrong.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, wrote philosopher George Santayana. Many in the industry chose to forget the FiT model’s past struggles on the belief that it would transfer to other regional markets and continue to drive industry demand. Many a business model was developed on the belief that FiTs would not end, or at least would do so in a seamless manner.

The FiT incentive drove the PV industry to gigawatt levels of demand, but it also drove it to promise ever cheaper technology and system prices. These promises, along with the current low technology prices, relate only slightly to the true cost of developing and manufacturing the technology. SunPower’s Schafer correctly observed that the industry needs to focus on PV’s true attributes: clean energy, minimal running costs once installed, and energy independence. Granted, these attributes are a tougher sale than simply being cheap – forty years of industry history should have taught this lesson — but the end, cheap is not a terribly aspirational attribute. The long-term economics of solar have much more to offer than an adherence to the goal of being cheap. The way forward for solar is in its history, if only it will pay attention to it.

Let’s not prove Santayana correct. The industry should remember its history, value its pioneers, and bring the lessons of the past forward to the future.

Suntech Weathers Turmoil in Solar Industry

Monday, February 20th, 2012

by Aaron Back
Wall Street Journal

China-based Suntech, the world’s largest producer of solar panels, hasn’t been immune to turmoil in the industry world-wide, but the company’s founder and chief executive, Shi Zhengrong, believes increasing consolidation in the sector will buoy large players.

Dr. Shi is a foreign-educated solar scientist. He earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of New South Wales in Australia in 1992, and gained Australian citizenship. From 1995 to 2001 he was research director and executive director of Pacific Solar Pty. Ltd., an Australia-based maker of solar components.

Associated PressShi Zhengrong, founder and chief executive of Suntech Power Co. Ltd.

The solar industry globally has fallen on hard times, beset by falling subsidies in Europe, a key market, and global overcapacity for solar panels and their components. In a recent high-profile case, the German government has been in talks with the solar industry to begin monthly reductions in feed-in tariffs, the fixed price at which solar energy is purchased. U.S. trade authorities are also investigating complaints of alleged dumping of solar panels on the U.S. market by Chinese producers, including Suntech.

Dr. Shi has said he sees consolidation of the sector ahead, which could benefit large players like Suntech. Still, the company has been vulnerable to forces buffeting the industry. Suntech posted a $116 million loss in the third quarter, compared with a year-earlier profit of $33.3 million, hurt by a foreign-exchange loss due to volatility in the euro and dollar exchange rates. The company said it expects to post revenue of between $3 billion and $3.1 billion for 2011, up from $2.9 billion in 2010.

Dr. Shi talked with Aaron Back in Davos, Switzerland. The following interview has been edited.

WSJ: You earned a Ph.D. in Australia and took an Australian citizenship. How did this experience shape your management philosophy?

Mr. Shi: I spent 14 years living in Sydney, Australia. When I first went to Australia I was 23 years old. I was a young man. I did my Ph.D. with professor Martin Green, and to be honest, before that I never thought I could be a good scientist.

After [finishing my Ph.D. in] 2.5 years, record time at the University of New South Wales, and afterwards working in the laboratory for about 2-3 years, based on my patents together with the professor, we were able to raise about $50 million to start a spinoff company called Pacific Solar, and I was appointed as deputy research director. So that was actually very important for my career in a way. Before, my background and research specialty was on laser physics, and that really changed my specialty to solar.

WSJ: So was it something of a coincidence that you became involved with solar technology?

Dr. Shi: It was a coincidence for me to come to know professor Martin Green. I knocked on his door at 5 p.m. to ask him for a job. So then I said “I don’t want a full-time job, I just want something like part-time research assistance or something.” So then he said, “OK, come in.” So we started chatting, and he knew my background, he knew I had masters degree, I think based on the credentials of other Chinese students he guessed I was at least above average. That’s how I got into solar.

WSJ: Has your dual role as a Chinese entrepreneur and an Australian citizen been key to your success?

Dr. Shi: I think it’s extremely important for Suntech. If you look at our culture and DNA, a lot of things have to do with my experience in Australia. I got to know Western culture a lot, their way of thinking, their way of doing things. Of course I also kept the essence of Chinese culture, if you look at the style of management in the company, we’re really multinational with a global management team. For our regional sales and operations, we really depend on local culture, local faces and local language to really represent Suntech. And also, because as we know, Australia has leading technology in crystalline silicon solar cell technology, so that also gives us a leading position in research and development and innovation.

WSJ: You’ve said recently that the solar sector will face consolidation. How do you see this playing out?

Dr. Shi: If you look at China there are probably more than 1,000 companies in this sector, but at this moment, 50% at least have either shut down production or partially ended production. Whether they are going to shut down permanently or whether there will be some M&A I think all depends. You know, Chinese companies have very strong survivability. So it all depends on how long this situation will last. But the market consolidation is already happening. If you look at 2011 Q2 and Q3 figures, the top six manufacturers (globally) had 55% to 60% of market share. But in 2010, it was only about 25%. So it’s already happening because customers care more about brand, R&D, sustainability, service and so on.

WSJ: But are you yourself going to go out and buying any struggling rivals? Is that something you would consider?

Dr. Shi: Not really, but we are open-minded to seize any opportunity that fits with our strategy…Anything is possible.

WSJ: Germany has recently cut its solar feed-in tariffs, and it seems around the world in this era there is less money for solar subsidies. So what does that mean for you?

Dr. Shi: Well, I think its natural and it’s the way it should be. If you look at the [German Renewable Energy Act] initiated by the German government in 2004, that was just trying to help the industry to create a market. So once you have a market, industry will innovate and try to reduce costs. So in the last few years, costs have come down so dramatically…The law was designed to reduce feed-in tariffs annually, say once a year maybe around 10%, but in the last two years, apart from this annual reduction, there were additional 15% feed-in tariff cuts. So that gives you an idea—there’s an accelerated reduction of feed-in tariffs, due to accelerated reduction of solar panel costs.

WSJ: Late last year, some U.S. solar-panel manufacturers asked for anti-dumping investigations against Chinese rivals, including Suntech. Where do you think this is headed?

Dr. Shi: Unfortunately it’s a lose-lose situation. Nobody wins: The U.S. government, U.S. consumers, and the solar industry are all losers in this game. We believe the accusation is not true.

If there’s a tariff or trade war, it would really be a big setback for the industry…Because of [a possible tariff] many projects that were realistic due to reduced prices become impractical because the economics doesn’t work anymore. What does that mean? It means, you will lose jobs. I think in the U.S. currently there are about 150,000 people employed in the solar industry. Globally around 800,000, with 300,000 in Europe. For every 10 jobs we create in factories, there will be 15 jobs created downstream, in installation, financing, project development, distribution.

Write to Aaron Back at aaron.back@dowjones.com

Résumé

Education: Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of New South Wales (1992)

Career: Pacific Solar Pty. Ltd. research director and executive director (1995-2001)

On antidumping investigations: “If there’s a tariff or trade war, it would really be a big setback for the industry…Because of [a possible tariff] many projects that were realistic due to reduced prices become impractical because the economics doesn’t work anymore.”

Spain suspends FITs

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

28. January 2012 | Top News, Applications & Installations, Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By:  Oliver Ristau

In a surprise move, the Spanish Council of ministers has implemented a temporary suspension of the renewable energy feed-in-tariffs (FIT) for new installations in Spain.

Spanish flag

No further renewable energy projects, which includes photovoltaics, will receive FITs.

Solarpack

As a reaction to the financial crisis in the Mediterranean country, the new Spanish government, under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, has approved a new law, by which the current system of remuneration for renewable energies will be discontinued.

As the Council of Ministers announced on Friday, the government won’t give any economic incentive to fund new renewable installations, and the relevant administrative and funding systems will be suspended.

While it was said that the suspension will be temporary, the government did not disclose any timeframe for when the FITs may be resumed.

In a statement released, it argued that “to maintain the current system of remuneration is incompatible to the current economic crisis.” It did stress, however, that the new measures will not be retroactive. They won’t effect “either the installations in operation, or those that are already registered.”