San Francisco 49ers Go Net Zero with Help from SunPower

49ersThe San Francisco 49ers’ new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara, CA., will zero out all its energy use during home games thanks to the 400 kilowatts of PV that SunPower and NRG Solar are providing the new stadium, which is slated for completion in 2014. It’s a zero that any NFL team can be proud of and it’s part of what’s been designed from the ground up as the first net-zero energy NFL football stadium.

“SunPower is excited to have the opportunity to help power the new stadium with clean, reliable solar power, and to join the 49ers in a commitment to top performance, whether it is on the football field or in the solar market,” said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. “This is an ideal partnership for SunPower, as we deliver the world’s highest-efficiency solar panels for the new iconic, state-of-the-art facility.”

The 400 kilowatts of PV will be divvied up into a series of separate arrays at the stadium including three PV-covered bridges, a PV canopy above the stadium’s green roof on its suite tower and another over the 49ers training facility, according to SunPower. Over the course of a year, the arrays are expected to offset all the electricity used at the stadium during home games.

“We are pleased that SunPower’s industry-leading solar technology will be an integral part of our innovative and sustainable vision for the stadium,” said Jed York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers. “It is fitting that SunPower, with its global headquarters less than two miles from the new stadium, will be providing us with its high-efficiency solar panels.”

The stadium is not the first football stadium to go solar. Stadiums from coast to coast are adding solar in. Such systems offer great visibility and can be the tipping point for people to consider going solar themselves. For instance, stadiums in Maryland, Washington, New Jersey and Massachusetts have all added solar. Thus far, the largest PV installation is likely at the Washington Redskins FedEx Field in Maryland. That system, also consisting of multiple arrays and provided through a partnership with NRG Solar, is over 2 megawatts.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

CSP Big Tuna’s Team Up on Palen Solar Project


Two of the giant concentrating solar power (CSP) companies, Abengoa and BrightSource Energy have agreed to jointly develop, build and operate the 500 MW Palen Solar Power Project. BrightSource purchased the Palen project from Solar Millennium, which went bankrupt. But now the two CSP companies will work together to permit and finance the two power tower project, which is among the first project being built in one of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Solar Energy Zones.

The Palen project, which was originally designed as a solar trough project, will now consist of two-250 megawatt solar power towers on a Department of Interior Solar Energy Zone in Riverside County, Calif. Under the agreement the companies will use BrightSource’s power tower technology and Spain’s Abengoa will serve as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor. Once completed and online, Abengoa will lead the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the plant.

Construction of the two, 750-foot tall solar tower electricity generating systems will create 2,000 jobs during construction, according to BrightSource. At the same time, the company said redesigning the project as a tower project rather than a trough project, will lessen its impact on the land. “The new design will reduce the project footprint by 13 percent, from 4,366 acres to approximately 3,800 acres, and use 50 percent less water by deploying a dry-cooling technology,” BrightSource said.

Abengoa has built both types of common CSP projects, tower systems and trough systems. Ultimately the purpose of both is to superheat water into steam to turn a turbine generator, just like in a coal or nuclear plant but without the need for a separate fuel source. BirghtSource has focussed on its solar thermal tower technology.

“Bringing on Abengoa as a joint developer and EPC contractor for this world-class solar project is good business and is a huge win for both companies,” said John Woolard, President and CEO of BrightSource Energy. “The partnership at Palen allows BrightSource to focus on what we do best – supplying leading solar thermal technology to partners throughout the world,” he said.

The project has already received revised approvals from the California Energy Commission and at this point permitting and development are underway. According to BrightSource actual construction of the project is expected to begin at the end of 2013, with completion slated for 2016. Once completed the project will provide enough energy to power 200,000 homes. The companies have signed a power-purchase agreement for the project but at this time the offtaker has not been named, said BrightSource spokesperson Kristin Hunter.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Solar Industry: 2012 Growth Borderline Ridiculous


Solar is continuing to become a more important part of the U.S.’s energy mix as it continues to grow at a rapid pace—in fact the amount of solar added online in the U.S. in 2012 was 76 percent higher than in 2011, the previous record holder. That’s according to the GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) annual “U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012,” which was released today (March 14). However, this was tempered somewhat by increased efforts from the fossil fuel and sometimes utility industries to tame the growth of solar, particularly distributed generation, which allows consumers to generate their own power at rates lower than what they could get from the utility.

“If there was one word to describe what has happened in the past year is really ‘momentum’,” said SEIA CEO Rhone Resch during a webcast announcing the results. The annual report found that at the end of 2012, fully 7.2 gigawatts of photovoltaics and 546 megawatts of concentrating solar power (CSP) were online in the U.S. Of that more than 3.3 gigawatts of new solar was added to the grid in 2012. And the growth trend is expected to continue. The report projects that in 2013 more than 4.2 gigawatts of PV and 940 megawatts of CSP will come online in 2013 in the U.S.

Even with falling solar energy prices this represented significant market growth. “The market size of the U.S. solar industry grew 34 percent from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012—not counting billions of dollars in other economic benefits across states and communities,” according to SEIA.

“The solar industry has matured, and diversified in the last couple of years,” Resch said. That diversification has come across all market segments from residential-sized installations of just a few kilowatts to giant, utility-scale projects that are literally hundreds of thousands times the size or installations that are over 200 megawatts newly installed and online like the Agua Caliente project.

“There’s growth in every market segement,” said GTM Research Vice President Shayle Kann. “Not every solar market globally has that. Some solar markets are entirely utility-scale or almost entirely residential. The U.S. isn’t like that. We have the potential and the existence of strong markets in every market segment,” he said.

“The most dramatic growth story has been in the utility market. On a percentage basis that was the one grew the most in 2012. It’s also the largest market segment in terms of megawatts installed. But I don’t necessarily think that that’s going to be the case forever,” Kann added. “The distributed generation market, which is residential and commercial is getting increasingly competitive across states and across markets and that’s going to be a big drastic change,” he said.

As solar has become increasingly a more mainstream power source (it still makes up a fraction of the U.S.’s overall energy production), it is facing more headwinds, according to Resch. This includes utilities and entrenched energy industries pushing back against distributed generation policies like net metering. “Net-metering is one of those fundamental market access policies and when you think about the free market that exists in the US….When you have a government protected monopoly interest like a utility who is a huge impact on the policies that are developed at the state level they have the ability to strongly influence the creation of new polices or in this case settings caps on net meter,” he said. Resch contended that states need to take actions to lift net-metering caps in large solar markets like California and Massachusetts where their caps are nearly fulfilled.

Solar also is being attacked from the fossil fuel industry, Resch said. “There are a lot of challenges that are occurring to [renewable portfolio standards,” he said. For instance, The North Carolina Solar Energy Association (NCSEA) yesterday came out with a strongly worded statement against a Republican-sponsored bill that would gut the state’s renewable requirements. “We’re finding that most of those are occurring from frankly conservative think-tanks, like Goldwater in Arizona and the Heartland Institute. Obviously they are funded by fossil fuel interests. Some in part by the Koch brothers. And this very conservative approach is focussed on these states and introducing legislation that frankly goes completely against what the voters want,” Resch contended. In fact, studies have shown that more than 90 percent of all U.S. citizens want more solar. If such effort are successful, however, it could jeopardize the future of solar.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

PV Market to Reach 31MW in 2013


The photovoltaic market will continue its growth in 2013 albeit a little slower than in the past few years, according to a new NDP Solarbuzz report. The report projected that the PV market will grow about 7 percent this year to 31 gigawatts 29 GWs in 2012. The report also predicted that Germany’s solar market will finally be outpaced by China, which will be the world’s largest PV market in 2013.

“In 2013, we expect to see improvement in the market fundamentals that enable PV demand to return to double-digit growth,” Said Solarbuzz Senior Analyst Michael Barker. “Installed-system prices will continue to fall, and PV will become increasingly cost competitive across regions with high electricity rates, shortages in domestic supply, and growing renewable obligations to fulfill.”

Overall, the top 10 PV regions, which will include the U.S. and Canada, will still account for 83% of global PV demand. But 2013 will start to see a shift to emerging markets from Europe, which had been solar’s largest market. “2013 will represent another transition year, as the PV industry adjusts to softness across legacy European markets,” Barker said. Such a change has been projected in the past but it now looks like it is coming to pass.

Instead China, Japan, and India, will account for an increasing amount of PV demand and lead to 11 GWs of PV demand in 2013 thanks to new policies, according to the report. “The Chinese end-market will largely compensate for the downturn in demand from Germany, which previously led PV demand,” Barker said. The shift will also come because of further reductions in Europe’s incentives, which Solarbuzz projected will drive down demand there to 12 GWs, 26 percent less than installed in 2012.

In terms of installation types, Solarbuzz projected that with 45 percent of the market ground-mount arrays will dominate demand for solar in 2013. That’s largely because policies are favoring utility-based deployment. Residential market will remain a leader Japan, Germany, Australia, Italy, and the U.K. In those places, the residential sector of the solar market is expected to remain above 20 of all demand in those countries. The company also projects those countries will account for 75 percent of all residential installations in 2013.

Looking forward, the report projects that Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia will make up more of the global demand from 2014 on. While it will consist of less 8 percent of global demand this year, Solarbuzz projected it will double by 2017, driven primarily by South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Israel, and Mexico.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

SolarWindow Gets Green Light from NREL


New Energy Technologies and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are moving with research and development on the company’s transparent SolarWindow photovoltaic technology. New Energy Technology’s SolarWindow technology consists of nano-particle spray, with PV cells that are smaller than a quarter of grain of rice and 1/1,00th the width of a human hair. Under the recently announced agreement, the two will collaborate on enhancing various performance features of the glass, including features like flexible applications for building-integrated PV (BIPV), to move the technology closer to commercialization.

The potential market for BIPV is huge—imagine a skyscraper or office building that generates power not only from roof-mounted PV, but also from invisible PV on southern-facing windows throughout the year. “There are nearly 5 million commercial buildings in the United States and an increasing demand for ‘green’ buildings. Driven by rising energy costs, increasing electricity consumption, government initiatives, and heightened consumer awareness, the demand for green construction and sustainable materials continues to rise,” New Energy Technologies said.

Under the recently signed Phase 2 of its Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NREL, advance the development of its SolarWindow technology, capable of generating electricity on glass. Together, the organizations will work to enhance performance, processing and lifetime of the SolarWindow technology. They will also work to develop methods of deposition for various coatings on flexible surfaces like see-through and tinted plastics.

“This second phase of the CRADA emphasizes the Company’s active commitment to develop the SolarWindow see-through electricity-generating coatings into commercially valuable building integrated products, with the assistance of world-class research teams at NREL,” said J. Patrick Thompson, vice president, of Business and Technology Development for New Energy Technologies. “Naturally, we’re pleased to continue our ongoing research and development relationship with NREL in Golden, Col. NREL is one of the world’s most respected and advanced solar-photovoltaic research institutions.”

The CRADA agreement allows both organizations to work together on their intellectual property—for instance, New Energy Technologies has 12 patents related to the technology—to work towards specific product development goals. They will work to improve the efficiency and transparency of SolarWindow technology, as well as optimize the current and voltage output, and develop high speed and large area roll-to-roll (R2R) and sheet-to-sheet (S2S) coating methods required for commercial-scale BIPV and windows.

The last item will be key to helping the technology move forward in commercial applications. “Company and NREL scientists jointly developed this CRADA to maintain focus on SolarWindow power production, large area and high speed coating equipment and methods, improving reliability and performance, and commercialization,” said John Conklin New Energy CEO. “As we work towards commercialization, the market potential of deploying a readily-available and affordable see-through glass window capable of generating electricity continues to aggressively drive our product development efforts.”

While the majority of PV produced today is for flat panel-type installations, if BIPV solar is able to be produced inexpensively it can help reduce a building’s energy footprint. As such numerous companies are working on transparent and flexible applications for solar like WYSIPS and others. Although some are looking at different types of applications—WYSIPS, for instance, is developing transparent solar for devices like smartphones and laptops.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

OneRoof Energy Raises $100M


Residential solar financing companies are continuing to expand, thanks to homeowner demand and financiers willing to invest. Most recently OneRoof Energy has joined the fray, completing an agreement to invest in up to $100 million in residential solar projects. That brings the company’s total up to more than $200 million in funding.

The recent agreement is with MS Solar Holdings Inc.—a wholly-owned subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, project developer and owner Main Street Power Company, Inc. and National Bank of Arizona. Under the agreement National Bank of Arizona will provide debt financing and OneRoof will utilize MS Solar’s and Main Street’s residential lease financing platform. The companies have created a new fund, MySolar II, LLC, to provide the financing.

“We are excited to partner with Morgan Stanley and Main Street on this investment, as it represents a strong vote of confidence in our future,” said David Field OneRoof Energy’s CEO. With the new fund, OneRoof has raised more than $200 million in corporate capital, project financing and tax equity funding since closing its first tax equity fund in September 2011. The newly created fund will allow OneRoof Energy to expand its residential solar lease opportunities Arizona, California, Colorado and Hawaii.

The new fund is far from the first investment Morgan Stanley has made in residential solar leasing. For instance, in 2012 it created the first MySolar tax-equity fund with Main Street Solar and Clean Power Finance. That was funded with $300 million. Morgan Stanley also has worked with other third-party ownership companies like SolarCity.

OneRoof Energy’s Solar Finance program offers flexible financing options with little to no up-front costs, according to the company. Under its offerings homeowners can anticipate a lowering of their electric bill between 5 percent and 25 percent.

To support its third-party ownership leases OneRoof said it has created alliances with more than 100 installers in service territories. As such it estimates financing solar for more than 10,000 homes in 2013. Since its inception in 2011, OneRoof has grown quickly. In 2012 the company expanded its staff, creating 60 jobs in its San Diego-based community. The company also has attracted strategic investments from a number of other companies including Hanwha Group, Black Coral Capital and Altenergy Holdings, LLC.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Solar Freedom Now: On A Mission to Lower Cost of Rooftop Solar

solar-freedom-nowThe recently formed solar advocacy organization Solar Freedom Now (SFN) is on a mission to reduce the cost of rooftop solar. This week it released a new white paper, ‘A Roadmap for Reducing Rooftop Solar Costs by 50%’. The white paper is aimed at how the organization plans to reduce the soft costs of solar in the U.S.

In the paper, the organization contends that eliminating paperwork and red tape in the U.S. can reduce rooftop solar costs by 50 percent. “Solar Freedom Now’s goal is to make 2013 the year of eliminating the paperwork and red tape that burdens solar installations.” SFN said eliminating soft costs will allow homeowners to benefit from cheaper electricity, even with reduced solar incentives.

“In order to lower the price of a solar system, it’s easier to find a way to cut red tape by 20 percent than to find another 20 percent in incentives or reduced equipment costs,” said Ron Kenedi, co-founder of SFN. “Eliminating the paperwork and red tape is the industry’s biggest cost saving opportunity.”

To achieve the goals, the organization introduced a four-step action plan. The four steps are: to communicate the issues related to paperwork and red tape to the solar industry; Develop grassroots support and partner with like-minded organizations; Establish national policies to eliminate paperwork and red tape for solar; and Advocate and pass such policies on a national scale.

It’s an ambitious plan for an organization that launched in September 2012. To help achieve its goals, SFN developed an advisory board, announced alongside the white paper. The board consists of: Jesse Pichel, CEO and Founder of Pichel Cleantech Advisors; Paula Mints, Founder/Chief Market Research Analyst at Paula Mints Solar PV Market Research; Tom McCalmont, CEO of McCalmont Engineering; Ron Kenedi, President/CEO Ron Kenedi Consulting; and Barry Cinnamon, Founder Cinnamon Solar Technology.

While it may seem like a stretch that the non-material costs of solar could plummet just by reducing paperwork and red tape, but SFN looks to the example of Germany, where a rooftop solar array can cost $10,000, all-in, and the paperwork for a new system is only a page long. The market there is not hampered by multiple factors that have made it harder for solar installers to get solar on roofs quickly. For instance, a home can have an installation on in Germany within a week of signing up for it. In the U.S. the period between signing for a new array and getting the installation is usually much longer, sometimes, months.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Can First Solar Save Abound Solar?


Last month the Denver Post revealed that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ordered Abound Solar to clean up what it now considers hazardous waste at its Colorado facilities across the front range. The chief hazardous material in Abound’s solar modules is cadmium, a probable human carcinogen, that’s used in CdTe modules, like Abound’s and First Solar’s. First Solar has expressed interest in seeing if it can recycle the cadmium in Abound’s defunct modules and waste water—but despite some news sources making it appear that First Solar has already agreed to take care of the material nothing’s been signed yet.

“What we’ve said is that we’ve reached out to Abound to see if it’s feasible for us to recycle their modules,” said First Solar spokesperson Alan Bernhiemer. “It’s premature to speculate on anything further,” he added.

At issue are 2,500 pallets of defective panels, 30 55-gallon drums of fluids with cadmium contamination and 2,500 gallons of cadmium-contaminated water, according to the Denver Post. Clean-up costs for the materials were estimated at $2.2 million, said Adam Singer, an attorney with Cooch and Taylor, who is serving as Abound’s trustee through its bankruptcy.

While cadmium in the wild is a potential carcinogen, it’s used in nickel cadmium batteries and other industrial purposes, so it’s use in PV modules is hardly rare, and it’s actually considered the safest use of the material by the European Commission Institute for Environment and Sustainability since the amount of cadmium used is minimal and it’s locked into a PV module throughout the module’s service life of 25 years or more. A nickel cadmium battery’s life may span a few years and many users are likely to dispose of such batteries in their household trash, causing a much more serious issue. And a fossil fuel power plant is likely to spew more cadmium into the air over its lifetime than the amount of cadmium in PV modules.

First Solar also takes additional steps to minimize the potential that any of the cadmium used in its modules can pollute anything. As such the company has a rigorous recycling program. At a module’s end of life, the company can recycle 95 percent of the semiconducting materials in its modules. If it is able to recycle Abound’s waste it could show the efficiency of the process.

If Abound can find a purchaser for the waste, Joe Schieffelin, manager of the state department’s solid- and hazardous-waste program told the Denver Post that if Abound finds a buyer for the waste the department wouldn’t consider it a hazardous material.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Solar Impulse Lands in San Francisco


Solar Impulse, the manned, solar-powered plane has made its first journey across the Atlantic from Europe—in a plane. The plane landed in San Francisco Feb. 21, ferried the disassembled Solar Impulse (HB-SIA) across the Atlantic in a Boeing 747 (which actually has a smaller wing span than the photovoltaic-powered plane) ahead of its planned flight across the U.S. this year.

It’s just the next test for the solar-powered project which aims to fly a photovoltaic-powered airplane around the world in about 20 days straight in 2015—it’ll only be flying at about 30 miles an hour. Thus far the plane has flown from its home in Switzerland to Brussels, Belgium. And to ready for the long periods of flight, at least one of the pilots has practiced in a test canopy for 72 hours straight, after all crossing the Pacific Ocean will require 5 days of flight with no landing strips.

Originally there was no plan to fly across the U.S. before attempting the world trip. But the test plane’s sibling, HB-SIB, the plane the team plans to circumnavigate the globe in, needed repairs. “It was only after the wing spar of the second airplane (HB-SIB)—to be used for the around-the-world mission flights—broke, that its construction had to be delayed, and the global mission was postponed from 2014 to 2015. What initially looked like an issue, later turned out to be a unique opportunity: 2013 would be used to fly across America with HB-SIA! This is a great way to introduce SI and showcase its technology in the U.S.,” according to the Solar Impulse team.

The plane landed in the U.S. on Feb. 21 at San Francisco’s Moffett Airfield and is already being reassembled. To fly the plane across the Atlantic the team had to take apart the wings and various other components, there’s a time-lapse video of it (here).

During the month of March the team will reassemble the plane and take test flights in April around San Francisco. If all goes well, the team will start out on its May the team will “Solar Impulse Across America” project, stopping in major U.S. cities before reaching its destination in New York.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Promise Energy: Solar Hot Water Rockstar


Promise Energy is a newcomer to southern California’s solar hot water market, but the company has wasted no time building a strong business.

Promise, which is just a year old, has focused on solar hot water installations for multi-family affordable housing complexes in Los Angeles and San Diego, said spokesman Andy Mannle.

“Solar hot water is five times more efficient than solar PV because it’s heat to heat instead of heat to electricity,” Mannle said. “And everyone needs hot water for showers, sinks, food preparation – everything.”

With those advantages solar hot water could have been a good business regardless of added incentives.

“It’s just not as sexy as solar PV,” Mannle said. “It’s been around longer. It’s a proven technology. There has been a lot more innovation and cost reduction in solar PV.”

But when California started offering additional rebates for solar hot water installations for affordable housing, Adam Capital decided to get into the game.

Promise Energy is a subsidiary of the green energy venture capital firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Promise has grown quickly, expanding to nine people on the management team in just a year and has completed its first round of project financing and is in the design stage on those projects as it prepares to start its next round of project financing, said Jonas Villalba, vice president of sales for Promise.

He said the company relies on contractors to do the actual “boots on the roof” work of installing, which enabled the company to ramp up quickly and install at multiple locations at once.

Promise’s rapid growth in the solar hot water industry is unique. Even with the added rebates, Mannle said Promise is ahead of its competition after just a year.

“Most of the solar hot water companies in southern California are smaller and can’t access the same kind of capital we can,” Villalba said. “They don’t have the expertise in the tax credit market. They don’t have the bandwidth or the resources.”

That’s why Promise is growing so quicky, he said.

The company just opened a new office in downtown L.A., a city Mannle said is replacing its reputation as a city of smog and traffic jams to that of one of the greenest cities in the country.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

PV Rebates Ending Soon in California


The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which coordinates California’s solar incentives programs through the California Solar Initiative, said earlier this week that residential solar incentives in an increasing number of utility service areas are reaching fulfillment. And the solar industry and its supporters, like the Vote Solar Initiative say that’s a good thing. But another issue may rear its ugly head soon, the fulfillment of net metering requirements.

On Feb. 25, CPUC said that both Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) have fully committed the residential portion of their residential rebate programs under the state law—as long as everything is built out. And while you might think solar advocates would be worried about the loss of those markets, they’re praising the program. The Vote Solar Initiative said it’s a milestone that signals a “new phase of solar energy growth, affordability for low- and middle-income Californians.”

“This is a major milestone for solar,” said Vote Solar Policy Advocate Susannah Churchill. “The California Solar Initiative was designed to do something remarkable: achieve scale and lower costs to make rooftop solar a real and growing part of the state’s energy landscape. Supported by smart policy, the solar industry has given Californians a cost-effective alternative to buying power from the grid.”

The rebate programs, which the state’s three main utilities—Southern California Edison (SCE), SDG&E and PG&E—were required to offer, have stepped down as different levels of solar were integrated by each utility, from $2.50 per watt in 2007, to 20 cents per watt as the final, tenth rebate level. The drops in rebate levels anticipated the lowered cost of solar as well. Churchill predicted that even without the incentive California’s homeowners will continue to invest in solar because it still makes economic sense. “Now that our state has successfully built this new energy industry, it’s increasingly important that we make sure energy consumers can continue to choose solar without unnecessary red tape or utility barriers,” She said. “All Californians benefit from more rooftop solar.”

At this point, PG&E has completed the tenth and final step for both its residential and commercial rebate programs, SDG&E has completed the final step of its residential program and is in the eighth step of its commercial program and SCE is close behind, according to Vote Solar. The entire program was estimated at $2.2 billion and largely helped low and middle income households become the driving force behind residential solar energy growth in California.

While the fulfillment of the rebate programs is seen as a good thing, however, a secondary issue may soon arise. The state’s utilities are required by law to source 5 percent of their solar power from distributed sources. And now that the rebates are ending those utilities are closer than ever to meeting those goals. After which they don’t have to integrate more customer-sited generation.

To help change that more legislative action is needed and last week the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) released a new report, Blueprint for the Development of Distributed Generation (DG) in California, advocating for more distributed generation in California in coming years. Among other things, it advocated for getting rid of the net-metering limits, allowing more people to go solar.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

First Solar Earnings Disappoint


Prior to reporting its full-year 2012 results yesterday evening (Feb. 26) First Solar announced that it’s reached a new efficiency level for cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film photovoltaics, at 18.7 percent efficiency (as verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory). Then during the earnings report, the company produced non-GAAP earnings per share of $2.04 for the fourth quarter beating street EPS estimates of $1.75. But that wasn’t enough to assuage investors and the stock opened at $26.87 on Feb. 27, down from closing at $31.36 the day before.

The company’s results reflected the challenging market all solar companies are facing, according to Raymond James Equity Research Analyst Pavel Molchanov. In a research note, he wrote: “While the balance sheet is healthy, and the company has stayed profitable thanks to its legacy U.S. utility-scale projects, as those gradually roll off we envision progressively lower levels of profitability. We maintain our underperform rating, a negative stance on par with the three other module makers we cover: SunPower, Suntech, and Trina.”

For the fourth quarter of 2012 First Solar reported net sales of $1.1 billion, $236 million more than the previous quarter and $415 million more than the previous year’s fourth quarter. The company attributed the increase to increased revenue recognition from the Topaz project as well as an increase in third-party module sales. That resulted in the GAAP EPS of $1.74 for the quarter, up over the $1.00 EPS for the third quarter, and over the loss per share of $4.78 reported for the fourth quarter of 2011. For full year 2012 First Solar reported a GAAP loss of $1.11 per share.

However, 2012 is the first year under First Solar’s new leadership and new strategic direction, CEO James Hughes reminded investors and analysts during the company’s earnings call. “A little over a year ago, we took the bold step of announcing a fundamental change to our strategic plan to transition from traditional subsidized markets towards sustainable high growth markets with the fundamental need for energy and higher radiance levels where solar can compete economically with other existing energy sources,” he said. To move in that direction the company made a number of changes, including scaling business for the markets, establishing local presence in its target markets, establishing relationships with strategic partners, reducing operating and system costs to compete without subsidies and providing services that work with the local grid.

However, the results and plan were not enough to assuage the concerns of Molchanov, who observed that CdTe’s cost advantage has shrunk. “While we applaud management’s refusal to chase market share by competing on pricing with crystalline modules, the end result is shaping up to be the same, i.e. falling profitability. While First Solar’s gross margins are holding up better than those of all other major module producers, we still project a decline to 19 percent by 4Q13. Concurrently, we project zero top-line growth in 2013 and a slight bounce in 2014. We had already been 15 percent below the street for 2013, and today we are cutting our EPS estimate further to $3.40. However, we project an even steeper year-over-year EPS decline, to $2.00, in 2014,” he said.

How soon First Solar is able to bring those higher efficiency modules to market could impact that, but when it will be ready to produce those remains to be seen. Meanwhile the company guided net sales of $650 to $750 million for the first quarter of 2013 with EPS of 70 cents to 90 cents per fully diluted share.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

How Cool Earth Keeps Costs Low


As they deploy their first demonstration projects, Cool Earth Solar executives believe they’re poised to change the entire solar industry landscape.

“We didn’t take anyone else’s idea and improve on it,” said Cool Earth CEO Rob Lamkin. “We started with a clean sheet of paper.”

Cool Earth’s objective when it was founded in northern California six years ago was to make the cheapest, most efficient solar power generation possible.

“Solar has gotten a lot cheaper in the last six years,” Lamkin said. “But we see ways for it to be even cheaper.”

Starting with a mission to make solar cheap, Lamkin and his team looked for the most affordable materials and how to minimize the amount of material they used.

“After a lot of work, we got to thin-film plastic,” Lamkin said. “They don’t make anything cheaper than thin-film plastic. That’s why it’s used in every kind of packaging.”

Cool Earth designed a concentrating solar system that builds an optic lens into the thin plastic and molds it into a tube, which is inflated to hold its shape. A little fan like the one on a laptop computer keeps the air pressure in the tube constant.

Using air instead of molding a solid shape out of glass and metal is part of Cool Earth’s cost savings methods.

“So far air is plentiful and cheap,” Lamkin said. “If it ever isn’t, we’ll have bigger problems than energy. And we don’t get taxed to use it.”

Additionally, the shape of the tubes and their light weight mean there is little gravitational or wind load, which means the stands for the tubes can be lighter weight and lower cost as well.

Lamkin said the tubes pass the same hail test flat panels have to pass and the company builds new tubes every five to seven years into its economic model.

Clean Earth places basic silicon solar cells in the tube, which generally have efficiencies in the mid 20 percent range, and magnifies them 20 to 30 times to generate about 1.2 kilowatts per tube. Multi-junction cells with efficiencies above 40 percent are magnified 1,000 times to produce 2 kilowatts. Cool Earth can use either kind of solar cell.

“That’s very unusual,” Lamkin said. “We can be either high or low concentrating. It’s the same tube. We just switch out the optics.”

The company has partnered with Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, where Cool Earth will build a test field of its concentrators.

The company is also building a demonstration solar farm on its five acres and is raising equity capital to develop projects and sell power to utilities in order to prove the technology in the industry.

“I would love to start selling to other developers,” Lamkin said. “But our technology is so disruptive and so new, I don’t think anyone would be crazy enough to do it before we do.”

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Secretary Chu Discusses The State of U.S Solar


Last Friday (Feb. 22) outgoing Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu hosted a Google+ Hangout along with a host of solar experts and discussed the progress that solar has made in the past few years. Particularly regarding the progress that the U.S. has made on reducing the costs of solar power and the trajectory the U.S. is on to spread the adoption of more solar.

Since the Obama Administration took office and Chu took over the DOE, and the SunShot Initiative was implemented, the price of solar has fallen precipitously. While some of that is due to the spread of solar throughout the world and the overproduction of solar modules reducing the price of them significantly, much can also be attributed to the SunShot Initiative, which is focussed on more than just the cost of solar modules themselves.

One of the main things the SunShot Initiative is focussed on is reducing the soft costs of solar. As Chu pointed out, “If you break down the cost and think about, the module itself is becoming a commodity price within 5 percent or 10 percent [range in cost difference] internationally,” he said. “Already the soft costs are more than the hardware costs.”

In terms of the differences in price, modules for residences currently cost about $2 a watt, Chu said. Modules for utility-scale projects are even less and dropping in price. “We know we’re going to get to 50 cents [a watt]. It’s around 80 cents a watt for large-scale production solar modules.…That’s a big deal.”

Less than a decade ago utility-scale solar cost about $8 per fully installed watt. “Now its maybe $3, or 2.50 per watt,” Chu said. “The SunShot goal is $1 a watt, for utility-scale solar.” That figure, he said, includes everything for a system. Considering that, currently utility-scale solar is able to sell under power-purchase agreements for rates as low as 10 cents per kilowatt hour.

“The whole idea is within a decade, we will be the world leader, not only in the R&D part, but also in the demonstration, deployment and manufacturing part of these components, because when we get to utility-scale prices, the SunShot goal…to a levelized cost of…roughly 6 cents per kilowatt hour of new power, which will be comparable to the estimate…for new natural gas-powered plants 10 years from now,” Chu said. “That would mean solar is competitive without any subsidy. This is our SunShot.”

The SunShot Initiative is also working to bring down the costs of residential solar. For residences, the project aims to reduces the all-in cost of solar to $2 a watt. “We recognize that this something within grasp. This is not something that’s going to happen 20 to 30 years from today. This is something that’s going to happen 10 years from today and maybe even sooner,” Chu said of both residential and utility-scale solar.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority