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Solar Tribune

Solar Energy News, Analysis, Education
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

New Tax on Solar Imports into the U.S.

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 4:23am

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it added import duties to Chinese manufacturers’ solar panels and related items. 

The new duties add more than eighteen to thirty-five percent plus to these solar imports. The newly assessed duties will of course raise the prices of imports manufactured by Trina Solar Inc., Jinko Solar Holding Co., Ltd., and Yingli Green Energy. The shares of these companies immediately traded down on the announcement by an average five plus percent. Solar World Industries America, a U.S. subsidiary of German-headquartered Solar World, petitioned for the closure of a loophole that helps Chinese solar businesses to duck import duties. The U.S. Department of Justice first evaluated the issues in 2012.

Ingot Manufacturing Facilities at Trina Solar. Photo Credit: Trina Solar

U.S. solar companies’ shares also traded higher on the news. First Solar, in partnership with conglomerate General Electric, and Sun Power, partnering with Google, are already strong performers in the stock market. Solar installations in the United States were almost USD 14 billion in 2013, but about half of solar products installed were actually made in China. Rooftop solar is an extraordinary example of China’s dominance in the sector, controlling about seventy percent of the equipment installed.

The response to the Department of Commerce’s decision was negatively received by China’s government. In what was viewed as a retaliatory gesture, China’s imposed anti-subsidies of U.S.-imports of about fifty-three to fifty-seven percent on polysilicon. Regardless of the new U.S. duties, solar equipment and manufactured products are still controlled by Chinese businesses. And since China holds almost ten percent of outstanding U.S. national debt, it’s clear that the country has bargaining power with the United States.

Sungevity Pursues Opportunities in Europe

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 4:18am

The Californian company Sungevity recently signed a deal with the Neatherlands utility company E.ON Benelux to create a partnership offering services in solar energy.

Photo Credit: Earth4Energy

The arrangement calls on Sungevity to use their marketing and solar design platforms to serve utility customers, and the services will be promoted in a co-branded way.

The partnership follows investments made in April by E.ON in Sungevity. The investments enabled Sungevity to combine that capitalization money with other investors such as GE Venture to expand their holdings in Zonline, a Dutch solar company, and enabled them to obtain complete ownership. The resulting organization will be known as Sungevity Netherlands.

The Netherlands solar market has now reached grid parity with more traditional power sources. This parity has been achieved gradually over several decades in which retail electricity rates have steadily risen while solar costs have fallen. “Obviously, the lines have to cross,” said Sungevity CEO Andrew Birch. According to Birch, there are at least eight other European markets where solar parity has also been achieved.

Analysts credit the success of solar power in the Netherlands to the fact that the European energy market is further evolved in utilizing solar power than countries such as the United States. Sungevity is currently negotiating with U.S. utilities to establish partnerships, however the demand for solar power in the U.S. is not as great as in Europe at present.

World’s first PV and thermal rooftop installed in Australia

Sun, 06/15/2014 - 2:51pm

An Australian home now has what is believed to be the world’s first solar panel roof that produces both electricity and heat for the home.

The $5 million project was developed by building materials firm BlueScope with support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The system includes thin-film solar panels which are set on steel roofing sheets to generate electricity.

This building-integrated photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) system, on an inner-city home in Sydney, also has a thermal duct system warms and cools air to supplement air conditioning.

“Today we are witnessing an exciting new technology solution moving from the lab to be prototyped on everyday Australian rooftops for the first time,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

Credit: ARENA

“This new integrated PV system has been designed to provide a low cost system for Australian residential, commercial and industrial rooftops,” he said. “It has the potential to reduce installation and energy costs as well as reduce peak energy demands placed on the grid.”

The system replaces the home’s original corrugated steel roof, and has also been installed in another part of the country, replacing a tile roof.

“These first installations are an important step as the technology moves towards commercialisation and cost competitiveness with conventional rooftop PV,” added Frischknecht.

The system is made to not only replace existing roofs, but also can be used for new residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

“The roofing systems have been specifically designed for Australia’s climate and buildings, to ensure effectiveness and reliability, “ said Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Bob Baldwin.

Other cost-saving measures – aimed to make such systems attractive from a price perspective – include reduced packaging and transport, improved building energy efficiency and easy, low-cost installation.

 

China Sunergy facing challenges

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 1:56pm

It’s been reported this weekend that China Sunergy is facing steep issues competing in the crowded Chinese solar industry.The solar industry is booming, but competition has become tremendous thereby challenging some companies like China Sunergy. The company is a worldwide high-tech leader specializing in top-rate solar modules that produce green power.

China Sunergy is affiliated with the China Electrical Equipment Group, or CEEG. It supplies cells to many leading European solar module makers and provides material to aircraft and other manufacturers.

The company recently opened a facility in Turkey to serve Middle East markets and customers in Europe. However, the stock that’s listed as CSUN continues to drop due to investor wariness about production claims and future growth.

Company officials managed to keep afloat by convincing Chinese banks and creditors to work with them to restructure company debt. Despite problems with prospective performance along with current output, the company also appears to have successfully lined up additional credit from U.S. sources. Company leaders also believe they will raise additional funding in Turkey.

China Sunergy earned more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2014, compared to $54 million in first quarter, 2013. Facing financial challenges, company leaders have cut bak on expenses and refocused strategy towards high value markets like France and Japan.

Worldwide, Chinese solar energy companies face challenges from increased regulation. China’s sometimes stormy relationships with immediate neighbors, including sparring with Japan and Vietnam over energy-rich islands in the China Sea has slowed some company growth.

A Historic 105-0 Vote for Solar in South Carolina

Thu, 05/22/2014 - 5:43pm

Solar industry advocates, green enthusiasts and environmental conservation groups are basking in the sun today.

With a historic 105-0 vote on Wednesday, May 21, South Carolina’s House of Representatives approved of advancing solar technologies and making other crucial energy usage changes to help end residential and commercial reliance on fossil fuel electric power generation.

Critics of solar technology advancements have gone to great lengths in the past to block such bills in the U.S. “Palmetto State,” including the state’s many utility companies. Since 2013, state legislators have had to make numerous changes to their original recommendations to craft a compromise bill that would receive unanimous approval.

Although the bill won’t completely stop fossil fuel usage by the state’s residents and power companies, it’s still considered a successful, much needed first step in a region known for majority support of traditional approaches to power generation.

According to “The State” newspaper, the blocks to this legislation were finally overcome because of the increasing general advance of solar programs around the country and a desire by power companies to recoup related costs.

If passed into the law by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, at least 2 percent of the average peak demand for power over five years must become solar generated by 2021. The bill also approves of third-party rooftop solar power leasing and raises the cap on the amount of nonresidential solar energy usage up to 1 megawatt.

The bill is expected to go through final House and Senate approvals later today.