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Hawaii Halves Solar Incentives After Overwhelming Response

Hawaii is well on its way to meeting its state renewable energy goal of obtaining 40% of its power from locally generated renewable sources by 2030. The Big Island already gets nearly half of its power (44%) of its electricity from renewables, and experts think it could be completely powered by renewables by 2020.

But for some, there is a downside to all this development, most of which is solar.

The Los Angeles Times interviewed Hawaiian residents Lawrence and Cindy Lee, a couple from Maui that decided earlier in the year to install solar on their home in order to lower their electricity costs and cash in on the incentives offered by the state.

It took nearly a year for the Lee’s to get through the permitting process. It also cost them an additional $3,000 to complete a study required by the Maui Electric Co. prior to installation.

“Instead of it being like they want to help you get your solar system in, it’s more like they don’t want you to,” Lawrence Lee told the LA Times.

Solar installations in Hawaii have doubled each year since 2007, and so have the solar tax credits handed out to businesses and homeowners that have gone solar. In 2012, solar tax credits cost Hawaii $173.8 million in lost revenue. Just two years ago, that amount was only $34.7 million.

State tax authorities recently announced that the solar tax credit will temporarily by reduced by half beginning January 1.

Hawaiian Electric raises another concern: renewable energy production is variable, unlike the power generated by big central power plants. The utility is concerned that the sudden influx of solar power to the grid could create unpredictable surges in power, leading to blackouts and power fluctuations.

Marco Mangelsdorf, professor of energy politics at the University of Hawaii in Hilo as well the owner of a local solar company called ProVision Solar, validates with the utility’s concerns.

“No one knows exactly when this is going to take place, but we are approaching a red line…. We will reach a point where they will not accept any more generating capacity,” Mangelsdorf told the LA Times.

There is a lot of uncertainty for the future, but recent changes in the permit process have streamlined installations…for the time being.

For their part, the Lee’s are satisfied with the outcome of their solar project.

“I wish I hadn’t had to go through all this, but it was worth it,” Lawrence Lee said.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

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In Focus: The Solar PV Ecosystem

The solar value chain, meaning its ecosystem, begins with raw material suppliers, winds its way through equipment and consumable suppliers, to ingot, wafer, cell technology manufacturers to module assemblers (most cell manufacturers also assemble modules), to demand side participants (system integrators, modules assemblers, installers, distributors, et al), to developers of balance of systems technology (inverters, tracking, etc), to investors, utilities and other end users. Currently the low price of PV modules (technology) has placed the manufacturing side of the solar ecosystem in dire straits and suffering low margins and failure. Virtually no PV technology (referring to cells/modules) manufacturer has remained untouched.

Summing up recent pricing history, in the mid-2000s, Germany jump-started a period of significant demand when it introduced its feed-in-tariff incentive model. This model spread fairly quickly to other countries both in Europe and outside of it. As more countries adopted the profitable FiT model, manufacturers began adding capacity. Investors, seeing what they assumed would be a stable investment, jump-started the creation of multi-megawatt (utility scale) fabrication plants. As the PV industry had little experience with rapid adoption of its technology, participants were forced to, basically, learn on the job. This behavior placed the solar ecosystem into a tactical situation; essentially, living for today while hoping today’s lessons would apply to tomorrow.

Before the FiT era, most PV manufacturers existed on slim to no margins. The FiT era also coincided with a severe polysilicon shortage. Prices for polysilicon surged and crystalline manufacturers were forced to pay in order to stay in the game. Note that during this time costs for c-Si manufacturers increased, but so did margins. As the price of PV technology (cells and modules) increased, thin film manufacturers saw a market opportunity and grabbed it. During this period it was assumed that thin films would take, rather rapidly, a major share of the market and that c-Si was an outdated technology that would soon be supplanted.

The FiT model was hailed as the savior of the industry and was expected to propagate rapidly and seamlessly. In 2009, manufacturers from China, specifically, but also other low cost manufacturing regions, entered with aggressive pricing strategies that were supported by healthy manufacturing subsidies. These manufacturing regions were initially developed as export markets to feed growing demand in Europe. (It is worth noting that aggressive pricing has come and gone throughout the PV industry’s entire ~40-years.) As prices swiftly declined, demand ramped up, markets overheated, significant and sometimes retroactive changes were made to FiTs, the global financial system came close to collapse over derivative trading and a global recession ensued – granted, this is a vast oversimplification.

Following the recognition that the FiT was not sacrosanct, investors grew wary, bankability became the industry standard, and the prices continued to decrease. In the beginning the price decreases were hailed as progress. As time passed and the competitive situation became more brutal, anger increased, eventually spawning trade disputes in the U.S. and now in Europe. Note that no government is completely fair in the disbursement of subsidies to its manufacturing sectors. Unfairness is in the eye of the un-subsidized.

During the early days of the FiT, all PV manufacturers increased prices in some cases the needs of long term demand side customers (whose loyalty has historically been crucial to PV manufacturers) were ignored as more profitable customers were served.

As prices crashed and manufacturing capacities increased along with inventory levels – not to mention changes in the FiT model and the emergence of bidding as the new incentive model, demand side participants began to enjoy increasing margins along with increasing demand as did balance of systems manufacturers.

Figure 1 depicts PV module price history from 1996 through to the estimate for 2012. The average selling prices are from the manufacturer to the first point of sale, that is, first buyer.

There is always tension between the buyers and sellers in a market. Buyers want to maximize value by securing the lowest price and sellers want to maximize value by securing the highest price. Equilibrium is supposedly achieved when these two points cross – that is, the correct market price is that on which both parties agree …theoretically.

It all comes down to value – basically, how much the buyer wants a good and how much a seller wants to get rid of that good. This theory assumes that the market is functioning normally and that the equilibrium price is therefore the natural and correct price. This being the case, and aside from the fact that the solar market has never behaved normally in terms of economic theory, the equilibrium point for solar prices as represented in Figure 1 should be somewhere between $1.48/Wp and $2.00/Wp. Instead, the average price for PV technology to the first point of sale in 2012 will be ~$0.98/Wp with inventory prices averaging $0.69/Wp for the year.

Unfortunately, rumors of an accelerated learning curve and the expectation of even lower prices have placed a lock on the industry’s ability to raise, or simply stop lowering ASPs. In simple terms, the balance of power between buyers and sellers has tipped back to the buyer, and buyers, along with investors, balance of system manufacturers and in a few cases, end users are enjoying higher margins and lower system prices.

Realistically, though it does represent a short term view, demand side participants cannot afford to see the damage being done to PV technology manufacturing for what it is – lack of investment in R&D, in some cases low quality product, loss of intellectual capital and in the worst case company failure.

Figure 1: PV Module ASPs & Shipments 1996 – 2012

Darwinian Behavior – More Like a Barroom Brawl

Forget normal buyer-seller tension, PV industry participants are at each other’s throats with manufacturers struggling to survive and demand side participants refusing to accept the possibility that an increase in price would be good for the entire industry. The extreme and accelerating price decreases have been widely referred to as progress or proof of the solar version of Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law holds that the number of transistors per square inch on an integrated circuit will double every two years. For the photovoltaic industry this has been interpreted to mean that the price of PV/Wp would decrease by ~20% for every doubling of shipments. Though pricing behavior (for any industry) is usually erratic, overtime, and a lot of time at that, this will likely prove true. However, for the industry to recover – and this is separate though not mutually exclusive from the current consolidation – prices need to stop falling, and this will not happen until the PV industry consolidation is completed and the inventory is worked off (both supply and demand).

Solar’s twin goals have always been to work towards increasing efficiency and lowering manufacturing costs. Equally important goals include system installation efficiency (doing it faster) along with inverter and other balance of system innovations, including storage. The software model of technology development typically includes the expectation that customers will in beta versions, find bugs, leading to innovation and improvement. The fast growth of the PV industry has turned deployment into an outdoor lab for beta-deployment of its technology. This behavior is perfectly understandable for an industry that is incentive driven, but, it is dangerous for an industry where failures are highly visible and harshly judged.

Figure 2 presents average prices for natural gas to the Henry Hub from 2003 through the estimated average for 2012. This chart is presented as an example of price volatility overtime. Average prices for natural gas are ticking up currently (The October average was $3.32/Million BTU) as demand increases. However, capacities are increasing and a decrease in price (after winter) can be assumed. It is important to note that NG prices for residential and small commercial consumers are significantly higher than the price to the hub. In California ~60% of electricity is NG driven.

Figure 2: Natural Gas prices/million BTU to the Hub 2003 – 2012

The Solar Ecosystem is Populated by Partners, Like it or Not

The current situation is not one of natural selection – it came about because of choices that were made by industry participants all of who are up against significant odds, constraints and pressures in competition with other renewable substitutes and subsidized conventional energy.

Demand side and balance of systems participants are tired of the doom and gloom. Low prices for PV modules are leading to stronger demand and they do not want to see them either increase, or to stop decreasing.

PV cell and module manufacturers are tired of low to negative margins and failure. Startup technology manufacturers are reducing costs and trying to wait out the current period. R&D budgets are suffering. Failures continue.

It will be difficult for true learning curve progress in terms of increasing efficiency and reducing manufacturing costs to take place in the current low margin climate. The most that can likely be hoped for is that once the inventory is worked off prices will stop falling and hopefully stall until cost reductions catch up. In the meantime, the future of the solar industry still relies on innovation from one end of the value chain to the other – including end users of electricity.

End users can demand energy independence and quality clean electricity and the solar industry as a whole can help them put an appropriate value on these attributes. As to innovation, despite the desperate climate for technology manufacturers, ideas are percolating. The solar industry is global, it will recover, and progress towards a sustainable future will be made with the participation of all regions, as partners.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Qatar Makes Huge Solar Target: 18% of Energy Output by 2018

Qatar is aiming to generate 16% of its electricity from solar power by 2018, according to Fahad Bin Mohammed al-Attiya, chairman of the organizers of the climate change conference in Doha.

Qatar, an OPEC nation, currently has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and is the world’s current top exporter of liquefied natural gas. Until now, it hasn’t shown any shift towards renewable energy, like the majority of OPEC nations haven’t. Presumably, these countries worry that it may damage the fossil fuel market.

“We are working on a project to develop 1,800 megawatts of solar power,” said Fahad Bin Mohammed al-Attiya. “That will be 16 percent of our total electrical output.” The project is projected to be ready by 2018. Currently, the country receives a negligible amount of their electrify from solar power.

“It makes sense for us,” he said. “We will also have a feed-in tariff system so that people can put solar systems on their roof and contribute to the grid.”

“All these measures have been applied now because solar prices are becoming reasonable and competitive. With the amount of solar hours we have it is economically feasible,” Fahad Bin Mohammed al-Attiya noted.

Qatar has been criticized by environmentalists for its failure to set clear goals for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year, in a report provided to the United Nations, the country wrote:

“Qatar is pursuing voluntarily a national initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as long as they are in line with sustainable development.

“To Qatar, climate change represents a double jeopardy.”

That last line is in reference to the fact that climate change is a threat to the country’s fragile desert living environment, but also that effective action to address it would undermine international demand for fossil fuels, and potentially their economy.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Denver: The First ‘Solar Friendly Community’

Thanks to Denver’s efforts to make it easier for residents to go solar, the Mile High City became the first city awarded Solar Friendly Community status, by the synonymous nonprofit. By speeding and lowering the costs for permitting of solar in Denver City and County, among other efforts, the city achieved recognition with the second-highest gold status for its efforts.

The Solar Friendly Communities initiative is one the 22 Rooftop Solar Challenge teams across the U.S. and was organized to reduce the soft costs of solar. It is a partnership of is the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) and includes the cities of Denver, Fort Collins and Golden, Boulder County, the Rocky Mountain Institute and the American Solar Energy Society.

“What has made this program so successful and [have reached] the milestone we have today is the fact that collectively, through a collaborative process we were able to identify 12 best practices, clear quantifiable best practices that help make a community a solar friendly community,” said COSIEA Executive Director Neal Lurie.

Under the program communities can earn up to 1,600 points through following the best practices. It has four designations Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Denver achieved gold by reaching 1,400 points under the voluntary program. “The city of Denver to their credit has been able to reduce permit fees from the state average of about $500 for a solar system on down to $50 for a solar permit. We have seen some communities take the time of permitting to be as high as 20 days to issue a permit and here in Denver they’re able to do it 15 minutes,” Lurie said. He added that the efforts show that Denver has made it easier for people in the area to put solar on their home or business.

“We want people to know that Denver is primed and absolutely honored to be considered one of the solar capitals of the nation,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, during a ceremony presenting the award on Nov. 27. “Before the Fair Permit Act of 2011 It cost almost $2,000 per person in some communities to get permits for solar energy. Today in Denver, it costs about $50. That says something and hopefully demonstrates our commitment to this.”

Denver has also been moving aggressively to build its solar presence. “I can’t tell you how proud I was about a year ago when we issued about 700 permits to the Denver Housing Authority. It’s really helping to move that agency light-years ahead of other public housing authorities around the nation when comes to just doing smart government and smart energy savings,” Hancock said. He added that the city has 9.4 megawatts of solar on 18 of its buildings.

The designation also has already led to a discount from Real Goods Solar. Those in Denver County and city can get a lowered price on solar arrays, because of the efforts to make it easier for them to permit solar projects.

The program is young but already drawing attention nationally. “Since we have launched this program just a few months ago, we now have at least 12 different communities that have approached us and said they intend to seek this solar friendly designation,” Lurie said. “We’ve also heard from our peer groups in the rooftop solar challenge in other states, in Utah, Arizona and New York, and they’ve said they want to adopt this program in their community,” he said.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

WOW: China’s Clean Energy Output Increases 48%

Bloomberg reports that China has increased its clean energy output from October 2011 to October 2012 by 48 percent. The country now generates 92.1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean energy.

China’s State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) issued a statement last week that clean energy sources, including hydro and nuclear plants, equals 20.4 percent of electricity. That’s an overall increase of 3.6 percent from 2011.

Wind power was a large contributor to the increase. The SERC statement said that when compared to the same period in 2011, wind farm power rose 40 percent. “The nation added 7.2 gigawatts of wind-power generation capacity in the first 10 months, raising the total to about 56 gigawatts,” according to Bloomberg.

Cleantechnica predicts that China, which set a goal to generate 100 GW of wind energy by 2020, may reach that goal well before the original deadline.

In addition to wind energy, China has become a major global solar producer as well. The global solar market is swamped with Chinese product, so the Chinese are looking to sell product within their own borders. Industry analyst IMS Research believes that as much as 5 to 7 GW of PV installations could be completed in China this year.

Comparatively, the United States installed 1.9 GW of solar last year. U.S.-based Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) predicts a strong year for solar by U.S. standards: SEIA predicts about 2.8 GW of solar to come online in 2012.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Solar Reserve Gets Final Approval for Massive Crossroads Project in Arizona

Solar Reserve received its last required approval for its Crossroads Solar Energy Project in Arizona last week and should soon be able to begin construction.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Solar Reserve’s conditional use permit for a combined 150-megawatt concentrated solar power and 65-megawatt solar photovoltaic installation that will be able to provide enough energy day and night to power 100,000 homes.

The project will still need construction authorizations, said Solar Reserve Vice President of Development Tom Georgis. But the county permit was the last major approval the company needed to move forward.

The biggest approval process was getting the county to amend its comprehensive plan in 2010 to rezone the land from rural to industrial use, Georgis said. It has also been through several environmental evaluations.

Solar Reserve expects to sell the energy the massive solar plant will produce to California. But Georgis said the company is still researching the logistics of doing that and negotiating transmission agreements.

“Crossroads has completed all of its interconnection studies and is negotiating a Large Generator Interconnection Agreement with Arizona Public Service, authorizing an upgrade of APS’ Panda 230 kV substation to accommodate the injection of new renewable power,” Georgis said. “We are investigating long-term firm transmission rights to Palo Verde substation, where the energy would be dynamically transferred or imported into the California ISO balancing authority.”

If it’s transmitted correctly into California, the renewable power would qualify under California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires all California utilities to get 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“The RPS has applied to investor owned utilities in the past but now publicly owned and municipal utilities are also subject to RPS compliance which has significantly increased the market opportunity,” Georgis said.

Solar is particularly competitive in California because of high energy demand and the portfolio standard. It’s a good market to sell in to, Georgis said.

Of course, Solar Reserve could easily sell its energy to Arizona utilities if transmission to California won’t work or make sense.

“Crossroads is ideally sited near APS transmission to provide clean energy to Arizona utilities,” Georgis said, “but it is flexible enough to alternately send its power to California should Arizona not need the energy.”

The massive project is just one of many Solar Reserve has in different stages of development across the southwestern United States. It’s also working on developing projects in the Middle East, Africa, Australia, Chile, Turkey and China.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Google’s Renewable Energy Investments Top $1B

Google, a company that has been carbon neutral since 2007, is about to top $1 billion in renewable energy investments.

The company is a huge energy consumer; its data centers’ operations use as much energy as nearly a quarter of a million households. But Google is using renewable energy not only to fuel its own operations but also to diversify its image as a “forward-thinking, socially and environmentally responsible company” (according to Oilprice.com at least).

Over the last several years, Google has invested in various renewable energy technologies including $280 million to a SolarCity fund and hundreds of millions of wind farms around the country.

In fact, last week the company announced it was investing $75 million in a Iowa wind farm. This now brings Google’s total renewable energy investments to $990 million–nearly a billion dollars.

Aside from solar and wind energy, Google is also working on a new exciting biofuel experiment with Cool Planet Energy Systems. The thermal process experimented with attempts to turn non-food biomass (wood chips, agricultural waste, energy crops) to produce high-octane gasoline.

Byproducts from the process are then used to enrich soil, and the final product would have a 150 percent smaller carbon footprint than traditional gasoline.

Google isn’t the only one interested this type of biofuel: General Electric, BP, ConocoPhillips, NRG, and Exelon are also financial backers of Cool Planet Energy Systems.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Solar Savings Used to Fund Teachers Salaries in California

California is one of the top solar states in the United States, and it is now using solar to do more than reduce carbon dioxide emissions and generate electricity. The California school system, which has struggled with constant budget reductions in recent years, has found that solar installations can free up money to keep teachers employed.

Using general obligation bonds, some California skills are installing solar panels, then using the energy savings from the system for the general fund that pays teachers’ salaries.

This doesn’t work for every school though; getting a bond on a ballot is expensive, and must be passed by 55 percent or more of voters. As an alternative, schools are utilizing low-interest loans to install renewable energy systems like solar arrays.

David Potovsky, senior project developer at Borrego Solar, explained how the loan model works to Forbes. “The loans can be paid off by energy savings and the California solar rebate, and schools are operating their systems in the black from day one.”

The schools’ general funds also receive dividends from these types of installations.

Potovsky says that the average school in California in 2010 spent around $1 million for electricity. If that same school installed a solar energy system in 2011, it could have a million dollar budget surplus in 2012. (That’s assuming the solar system generates 100 percent of the school’s energy, but in reality about 80 percent is more likely.)

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Renewables Will Rival Coal (in 2035)

A French agency has released a statement that it believes renewable energy will become coal’s biggest rival for the world’s biggest electricity supplier by 2035.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency serves as an energy adviser to nearly 30 countries around the world. It sees a lot of potential for the wind farms, solar parks and hydroelectric dams that have become increasingly competitive with traditional energy sources.

Already renewable sources are on track to be the second biggest power generator in the next three years; the prediction that by 2035 they will rival coal is no longer just a pipe dream as government subsidies continue to favor clean energy and the cost of technology becomes more competitive.

“A steady increase in hydropower and the rapid expansion of wind and solar power has cemented the position of renewables as an indispensable part of the global energy mix,” the IEA said in its annual outlook, released today.

“The rapid increase in renewable energy is underpinned by falling technology costs, rising fossil-fuel prices and carbon pricing, but mainly by continued subsidies,” it continued.

Although solar and wind manufacturers are struggling around the world with the rapidly changing market demands, renewable energy experts still forecast a huge increase in wind and solar installations.

Wind power installations for example are predicted to double between now and 2016; solar has an even more aggressive outlook with experts believing that solar photovoltaic installs will triple.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

The FutureShip Zero-Emission Concept

I don’t know when the next time I’ll have the opportunity to take a ferry across the Baltic, but if it’s 2017, chances are it might be on a FutureShip, a ferry that will utilize a zero-emission propulsion concept developed for shipping company Scandlines.

“Slow steaming” is not a new concept for international container shipping, which combines cutting edge design and hull optimization. But this new design will be a double-ended ferry that is completely emission free and that is a new development.

The new design takes advantage of Europe’s booming renewable energy industry, particularly the surplus electricity used to produce hydrogen in Germany and Denmark by wind turbines. This is then turned back into electricity on board the ship with fuel cells, which then powers the electrical pod drives. Batteries on board store any electricity over-supply which can then be used during peak demand times.

“Short-sea applications are simply predestined for our zero-emission concept,” said Fridtjof Rohde, development engineer at FutureShip, in a statement.

Scandlines’ ferries already has a lower energy requirement and since they have a much shorter distance to travel than other ships, they can dock more often. In general, it’s easier for this type of ship to “be green”.

“The technology is there – it just has to be applied to shipping,” said Rohde.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

The Next 4 Years of Obama Energy Policy: What to Expect

Now that President Obama’s second term is confirmed, energy experts believe that the industry can expect more regulations over the next four years. The president intends to stick to his promise to reduce oil imports by 50 percent by 2020.

Obama’s campaign leaned heavily on the president’s “all of the above” strategy to domestic energy sources, but the industry thinks it will have decreased access to federal lands and water than in previous years.

Obama is expected to follow through with his campaign promise to lower subsidies currently offered to oil companies and increase the fuel efficiency mandates for vehicles.

This is a change from Obama’s original energy strategy prior to his first term. Back in 2008, climate change was top of the agenda. A pet bill in 2010 that would have created a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions died in the Senate and a year later in 2011, the president’s green agenda was intensely debated when Solyndra, a solar manufacturer that received a $535 million federal loan guarantee, declared bankruptcy.

But despite these setbacks, the president continues to back renewable energy technologies. Even so, he’ll still need to work with Congress to continue the tax incentives so vital to the industry’s growth.

There are other factors that could make or break the renewable energy industry that are not under Congress’ control.

Natural gas has become much stiffer competition as prices have dropped in recent years. Meanwhile, many parts of the country are struggling with a lack of infrastructure necessary to bring large renewable energy projects online. And solar manufacturers face unprecedented global competition as the market is flooded with cheap Chinese products.

For a more detailed rundown of what to expect from Obama’s next term in office, read the full story from Reuters here.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Michigan Votes Against ’25 by 2025′ Renewable Energy Proposal

The ballots have been tallied in Michigan and the state voted against a renewable energy initiative yesterday.

By an overwhelming majority (64 percent), Michigan will not be moving forward with its “25 by 2025″ proposal. Prop 3 was a state constitutional amendment that would require Michigan to generate 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Had the measure passed, Michigan’s electric utilities would have been under a strict deadline to start incorporating renewable sources–like wind, solar, biomass and hydropower–into the mix of retail energy sales.

The Huffington Post reported that Prop 3 was Michigan’s “second-most expensive ballot campaign this year after Proposal 2, a collective bargaining amendment.”

Vehemently opposed by the utility companies who funded a $23 million counter-campaign, the initiative was strongly supported within the state by environmental groups.  A coalition consisting of League of Conservation Voters, the American Wind Energy Association and the Green Tech Action Fund and others raised over $10 million for the “Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs” campaign in support of Prop 3.

Michigan is only at about 4 percent renewable energy total output today but the state’s two largest utilities, Jackson-based Consumers Energy and Detroit-based DTE Energy, say they are on track to make the current 10 percent renewable energy goal over the next few years. Both companies have been investing in wind farms as well as purchasing wind power from other plants.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

China: Challenging Selected EU Solar Subsidies

After nearly a year of debate, the United States’ Commerce Department delivered a final ruling in October in regards to tariffs for Chinese-manufactured solar panels. The Commerce Department, in finding that China has in fact been illegally “dumping” solar products on the American marketplace, will impose 34 – 47% tariffs on about 60 Chinese solar panel manufacturers.

Tariffs rising up to 265% may be imposed on Chinese companies supplying other types of solar products.

Now China has requested a consultation with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to discuss that country’s assertion that some European Union (EU) members have provided subsidies for solar power when the “main components are made in European countries.”

Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said in a statement that this type of subsidy “seriously damaged China’s photovoltaic exports.”

While China did not specifically name the countries it is accusing in the WTO filing, the Associated Press said that the official Xinhua News Agency in China had a Commerce Ministry official on record pointing to Italy and Greece as two countries supplying that type of subsidy.

Tomorrow the U.S. International Trade Commission will consider whether or not American jobs in the solar industry have been impaired by Chinese trade practices.

The debate surrounding the Chinese tariff issue has split the U.S. solar industry over the last year. Domestic manufacturers claim that China’s unfair practices have made it impossible for them to compete. Installers and consumer advocacy groups on the other hand have generally found the lower-priced products flowing in from China to be a good thing, since they lower equipment and overall installation costs for consumers.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

German Solar Industry Up 50% in 2012

The world has been closely watching Germany’s renewable energy industry this year. Now the German utilities’ industry association BDEW has announced that the country’s solar power production is up over 50 percent in 2012, thanks to a wealth of photovoltaic installations.

From January to September of this year, solar power production jumped from 16,500 gigawatt hours during the same period last year to 25,000 gigawatts this year. That means the share of solar power in Germany went up from 4.1 percent to 6.1 percent.

During the same period, wind power also grew from 8.0 to 8.6 percent. Additionally, biomass plants now account for almost 6 percent.

BDEW said in its statement that 26 percent of all the electricity produced in Germany during the first nine months of 2012 were from renewable sources, like solar, wind and biomass.

A recent controversy about rate increases in Germany has split support for renewable energy in the country. German consumers pay about 3.69 cents a kilowatt-hour as a way to fund renewable energy development within the country. But now the four grid companies operating in Germany have increased that fee by 47 percent to 6.8 cents/kWh. (To read more about that, click here.)

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News