Solar is Blowin Up in Japan and India

blowin-up

Japan has now joined the 10 gigawatt photovoltaics gang, installing 4 gigawatts of PV last year alone. By October 31 that brought the country up to 11.3 gigawatts (of installed solar, making it one of the world’s largest solar market. Meanwhile, India is starting to catch up. Last year the country installed more than 1 gigawatt solar. Both developments show a continued diversity in the world solar market as the solar market gets more diversified and is no longer concentrated solely in Europe.

In surpassing the 10 gigawatts of installed PV mark last year, Japan became one a handful of countries that have surpassed that level, the U.S. among them. The other countries are China, Germany and Italy. The U.S, China and Japan also surpassed the important number last year.

While India’s first gigawatt of solar is a far cry from the amount of solar installed in Japan of the U.S. last year, the world’s second-largest country is just getting started in the solar world. According to ThinkProgress the installation of 1 gigawatt ofsolar power almost doubled the country’s solar capacity in a year. “India added just over 1 gigawatt of solar energy to its electrical grid last year, a major milestone that nearly doubles the country’s cumulative solar energy capacity to 2.18 gigawatts,” it said. The advocacy organization called it, “ A good sign that India will be able to meet its ambitious solar targets going forward. India hopes to install 10 GW of solar by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022.”

Japan’s rapid growth in solar is driven by the nation’s decision to stop using nuclear power following the Fukishima disaster in 2011. And the country is moving ahead rapidly. Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy through its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said the island nation installed 4 GWs of PV  in the six months between April 1 and Oct. 31, 2013.

The majority of the new growth was further facilitated by Japan’s aggressive feed-in tariff. “Photovoltaic power facilities steadily continue to be introduced, and the total combined capacity of such facilities as of October 31, 2013, reached 5,852,000 kW after the feed-in tariff scheme was introduced,” METI stated. That’s 5.8 GWs of PV through the program since it launched in July 2012.

“Of the 3.99 GW of new PV capacity, residential accounted for 870 MW, while non-residential systems made up the rest, 3,123 MW,” according to PV Magazine. “From July 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, Japan’s total PV capacity reached 1,673 MW, with residential making up 969 MW and non-residential 704 MW.”

During the next few years as solar continues to fall in price and other forms of electric generation become more expensive in comparison, it’s likely that the largest solar markets will continue to shift.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Crowdfunding: Bringing Solar to Non-Profits

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Consumers and businesses have been able to take advantage of a growing number of solar energy programs recently. These programs are designed to mitigate the costs associated with the purchase and installation of photovoltaic systems, thereby making them easier to acquire. Non-profit organizations, however, do not typically have access to these programs. Non-profits cannot take advantage of most solar leasing initiatives, power purchase agreements, or financing programs that make the adoption of solar power easier. The solution to this issue may be somewhat straightforward and may take the form of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding can mitigate the costs associated with solar adoption

Crowdfunding has become a popular concept in the technology and entertainment realms. The idea is quiet simple: Consumers and businesses come together to provide funds for a project they are interested in. Instead of a project being forced to seek out funding from investment firms, the project focuses on the general public to meet its financial needs. This concept has been gaining ground in the renewable energy space recently as more organizations become aware of how much support the public is willing to give to innovative energy projects.

Company taps into the power of the crowd to make solar energy more accessible

CollectiveSun is aiming to make solar energy more accessible to non-profit groups by tapping into the power of crowdfunding. The company works exclusively with non-profit groups that are interested in solar power and claims that these organizations can take advantage of significantly reduced energy costs by working with it. CollectiveSun also notes that it can obtain as much as 5% return on investment through its initiatives concerning non-profit groups.

TERI successfully funds projects through CollectiveSun

CollectiveSun’s first project was successfully funded on December 11, 2013, and was held on behalf of TERI, a non-profit energy policy research organization. TERI intends to use the funds for its solar energy projects, which are meant to bring reliable power to children and adults with special needs. TERI has already approached CollectiveSun for assistance with another of its projects.

The original article was posted on Hydrogen Fuel News. 

Bold Solar Agenda Announced for New York State

cuomo-solar-announcement

Over the past few years New York, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has made solar a priority. Under that leadership the state has installed nearly 300 megawatts of solar—since 2012. Now the governor and his administration reaffirmed their commitment to solar with a 10-year commitment to the NY-Sun Initiative and plans to fund 3 gigawatts of solar throughout the state.

During his state of the state address earlier this week the governor said he was creating the Community Solar NY and the K-Solar initiatives. The newly announced goals and initiatives drew praise from conservationists and renewable energy advocates like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“In the last year, New York has become something of a solar powerhouse, jumping to 10th in the country in installed solar power in the third quarter of 2013,” Wrote NRDC’s New York City Policy Analyst on Air & EnergyPierre Bull. “That growth is due not only to the precipitous drop in the cost of solar power in recent years—falling at least 40 percent since 2008—but also, in large part, to Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative.”

The newly announced programs, Community Solar NY is “a comprehensive community solar package to address these issues and make solar energy available to all New Yorkers that want it,” according to “Building on Success” an expanded version of Cuomo’s state of the state outlining his initiatives in more detail. K-Solar is designed particularly to encourage schools to go solar and will offer incentives, financing, and technical assistance to administrators that want to reduce energy costs through on-site solar installations, the report said.

These are in addition to actions Cuomo’s office took in 2013, which included creating a $1 billion Green Bank. The bank was designed to work with the private sector to make it easier to finance clean energy in the state. The bank is expected to launch its first products in 2014, according to SEIA.

“New York State had a great year for solar in 2013,” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, SEIA’s vice president for state affairs. “Under Gov. Cuomo’s strong leadership, we have seen New York’s solar investment increase exponentially, creating quality jobs, improving the environment and reducing red tape.”

The state is already working to fund the initiatives. The New York Public Service Commission approved funding for the NY-Sun Initiative through 2015 this past December. It also authorized the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to expand the program through 2023.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar: $10B in 2013 in VC Funding

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In all the solar sector drew almost $10 billion in venture capital, debt and public market financing in 2013, up 25 percent from the $8 billion it raised in 2012. That’s according to clean energy consulting firm Mercom Capital Group’s “2013 Solar Annual and Q4 Funding and M&A Report,” which found that while venture capital funding was down for the year, following recent trends.

“While venture funding levels were down, overall fundraising was up and public market financings were really strong in 2013,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group. “Higher valuations among public solar companies have opened up the capital markets again as an avenue for fundraising at attractive terms. IPOs are back.”

The report found that public market financings grew significantly in 2013, to $2.8 billion in 39 deals in 2013. “Up from just $893 million in 23 deals in 2012. In 2013, there also were seven IPOs that together brought in more than $1 billion.”

The report found that venture capital funding, which often helps startups move their technology from research or test stages to production was only $600 million, falling 40 percent from the $992 million in such deals in 2012. The report found that 97 venture capital deals were completed in 2013 compared to 106 in 2012. In the fourth quarter of 2013 venture capital spending in solar power was $87 million, less than half the $197 million in previous year’s quarter.

Downstream solar companies, including installers, saw the largest portion of venture capital deals, led by the $69 million raised by Chinese solar project developer Heifer Golden Sun Technology and the U.S.’s Clean Power Finance, which raised $62 million, Mercom said.

It was also a big year for big projects. “Large-scale project funding announced in 2013 amounted to $13.6 billion in 152 deals, compared with $8.7 billion in 84 deals in 2012,”  Mercom said. The largest such deal was the $1 billion bond issuance for the 579 megawatt Solar Star 1 and 2 projects owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings. Overall that sector of the solar industrydrew $13.6 billion in funding in 152 deals up significantly in both the number of deals and funds raised from the $8.7 billion raised through 84 deals in 2012.

Mergers and acquisitions were also up for the year, fetching $12.7 billion in 81 transactions. Most were strategic acquisitions and purchases of distressed assets  as 28 companies filed for insolvency or bankruptcy. The largest purchase was Applied Materials’ $9.4 billion acquisition of Tokyo Electron, Mercom said.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Ford to Announce Solar Car at CES

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Solar panels on cars are nothing new. The Toyota Prius has has offered solar panels on its roof for a number of years. But they only power a fan to ventilate the vehicle. Solar-powered cars zoom across the Australian countryside every other year as part of the World Solar Challenge. But these are one-off vehicles made by universities designed purely for the competition. Ford’s doing something different with solar this year the Consumer Electric Show in Las Vegas next week—it’s charging the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept car with the sun using concentrating photovoltaics.

Let’s face it, cars are still pretty heavy, they require a lot of energy to get moving and stay moving. That’s why the solar cells on aPrius’ roof can only power the ventilation system. Ford’s new concept however would combine SunPower PV cells with a fresnel lens canopy that will concentrate sunlight on the cells to get more electricity from them when the vehicle is not in use. Moreover the vehicle would also move throughout the day to maintain the maximum level of concentration on the PV array.

In doing so Ford is finding a way to make solar a feasible power source for traveling in relatively conventional vehicles. The company said its internal data suggests that solar power could provide enough energy for up to 75 percent of trips made, “By an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle.” Furthermore the company said where access to the electric grid is limited this could make it easier to travel.

The array will take up about 1.5 square meters of the vehicle’s roof space, Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure, explained in a video introducing the concept. “Alone that solar will only generate about 300 watts of power, which is not enough fully charge the battery in one day,” he said. Comparatively many home solar array in the U.S. are close to 20 times larger at more than 5.5 kilowatts.

“But if you take this vehicle and couple it with…a solar concentrator…that can magnify the solar energy and what you end up with is a combination of a vehicle plus infrastructure that can essentially recharge that C-MAX Solar Energi battery 100 percent from solar energy.”

The C-MAX concept is based on Ford’s C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid vehicle, which can travel up to 21 miles on electric only. Overall the hybrid has a range of up to 620 miles and has EPA-estimated combined 100 miles per gallon (MPG). The concept would likely have the same range. “By using renewable power, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions a typical owner would produce by four metric tons.”

Ford is introducing the concept as interest in its EV and plug-in hybrid vehicle lines are exploding. The company anticipates that it’s on track to have solar 85,000 or more electrified vehicles in 2013—the first full year it offered electrified vehicles it said. The new concept could further the company’s hybrid offerings if it makes it out of the concept stage. After the CES show Ford and Georgia Tech, which helped design the system, will begin testing the vehicle in numerous real-world scenarios to help determine whether or not the concept is viable as a production car. One thing it has going for it is that it’s been designed as an add-on to an existing vehicle, and not a new car from the ground up.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Net Metering in U.S: Ready for Growth

electricity-meter

A new report predicts that net metering is set to experience strong growth in the U.S. as federal and state governments seek to further renewable energy goals, primarily driven by third-party financing of solar PV systems. However, the electricity generated under NEM programs as a percentage of total electric retail sales is expected to remain low. Electricity sold back to utilities represented just 0.01% of total electric retail sales in 2012.

According to “Running Backwards: Net Metering Short Circuits Electric Sales,” a report by Fitch Ratings, net energy metering (NEM) will experience strong growth in the U.S. as federal and state governments seek to further renewable energy goals. The majority of the electricity produced by net metering customers is self- consumed, resulting in lost sales to the utility. However, the electricity generated under NEM programs as a percentage of total electric retail sales will remain low. Electricity sold back to utilities represented just 0.01% of total electric retail sales in 2012.

The top five states with the largest NEM customers in 2012 were California, Arizona, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Colorado. The five largest utilities with NEM customers in that time period were Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Hawaiian Electric, and Arizona Public Service (APS)

Primarily residential customers

Commercial and industrial sectors are the largest gross producers under net metering programs in terms of the number of megawatt-hours generated. However, the residential sector represents the largest customer base net seller under NEM programs (generation minus consumption), composing approximately 146,400 MWh, or 50%, of the total amount of electricity sold back to the utilities in 2012.

Third-party financing

PV generation accounted for about 251,700 MWh, or 85.8%, of the total amount of electricity sold back to utilities in 2012 under NEM programs. According to the report, a key driver of NEM growth is third-party financing of solar PV installations, which represents the largest proportion of net excess generation utilizing NEM programs. In 2012, residential PV installations increased 62% to 488MW, as compared to 2011, driven by the growth of third-party financing options. Third-party-owned systems now account for more than 50% of all new residential installations in most major residential markets.

NEM customer growth has been increasing at a 46.7% CAGR, and Fitch expects this trend to continue.

New types of investor financing

Another factor driving NEM growth is new types of investor financing, the report says. SolarCity completed the industry’s first securitization of distributed solar generation in November this year, opening up a whole new market for capital investment. The securitization market provides a potential new source of efficient capital to fund solar installations, removing the high cost barrier of entry for residential consumers.

Not without controversy 

Fitch notes that net metering programs are not without controversy. They explain this in terms of NEM being a form of Feed In Tariff (FiT), usually a tool designed to promote broad energy or economic policies. FiTs have caused unintended consequences in several situations, both in Europe and the U.S. While FiTs differ in design, they all share a common feature, which incents one desired type or source of higher priced electricity generation. The higher costs are then expensed (or socialized) over the entire customer base.

The original article was posted on the PV Solar Report blog

Original Article on Solar Reviews

DOE Dishes Out $11M to U.S Solar Manufacturers

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Today (Dec. 11) the Department of Energy (DOE) said it is supporting solar manufacturing in the U.S. by investing a total of $13 million in five solar companies across the country. The funds are matched by $14 million in private funding and are designed to help the companies improve manufacturing of solar equipment in the U.S.

The funds were awarded to Abengoa Solar in Lakewood, Colo., PPG Industries in Allison Park, Pa., Solaria Corp. in Fremont, Calif., SolarWorld Industries America in Hillsboro, Ore. and Suniva, Inc. in Norcross, Ga.  commercialization of efficient, affordable photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies. As part of the Department’s SunShot Initiative, these awards will help lower the cost of solar electricity, support a growing U.S. solar workforce and increase U.S. competitiveness in the global clean energy market.

Of all the awards, only Abengoa’s award will support concentrating solar power (CSP). The rest will support advances in photovoltaic manufacturing. Abengoa will use the $1.9 million and equal cost-share to show new manufacturing and assembly technologies for CSP components, including trough component manufacturing and on-site assembly technologies.

PPG is partnering with Flextronics International to design automated and rapid assembly of PV modules. It won $2.1 million and matched the award with $2.1 million. The technologies the companies are working on aim to increase module production by a factor of four, cut capital costs in half, and make it easier to introduce next-generation PV.

Solaria won $2 million and matched it with $3 million. The company will use the funds to automate PV manufacturing, which will allow the company to take on high-volume manufacturing in the U.S.

SolarWorld won $2.4 million and matched it with $2.5 million. The funds there will allow the company to implement a new light management system into its PV modules. The system is designed to reduce optical loss, increasing the efficiency of SolarWorld’s modules.

Suniva won the lion’s share of $4.5 million, matching it with $4.9 million. Suniva and the Georgia Institute of Technology will use the funds to introduce a low-cost high-efficiency PV cell technology (21.5 percent efficient pilot cells) that should be market ready within three years.

“We have a tremendous opportunity for American manufacturing to lead the global clean energy market and help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” said DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The funds will help the U.S. manufacture more solar equipment domestically, but already the majority of modules available today come from China.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Superfund Landfill Site Covered by DuPont Solar

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Last week DuPont announced the completion of a new, 548 kilowatt solar array, which on its own, wouldn’t be too amazing. But the chemical company completed the array using its own modules on its own Superfund site in Newark, Del. And doing anything with a Superfund site means unique challenges.

The installation is at a former landfill site owned by DuPont, which was capped in 2001 as part of a Superfund clean up effort. Since it was a Superfund site DuPont had to seek approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Delaware Division of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) to develop the project.

DuPont partnered with Tangent Energy Solutions to develop the project, which because of the cap, required a means of securing the array without penetrating the ground. As such Tangent secured the arrays with heavy concrete blocks. The project also uses thin-film silicon solar panels made by DuPont subsidiary DuPont Apollo.

“We’re very excited about this project because it is the first time we’ve utilized solar on a former landfill. The project will reduce DuPont’s greenhouse gas emissions by 350 tons a year and reuse a portion of a federal Superfund site that had been considered to be unusable land,” said Linda Fisher, vice president and chief sustainability office of DuPont Safety, Health & Environment. “This is a great example of what we’re trying to do at DuPont around the world: working collaboratively to help meet the growing demand for energy with renewable fuels.”

The project was hailed by the EPA. “Under the RE-Powering America Initiative, EPA encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated land when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site,” said Shawn Garvin, regional administrator – EPA Mid-Atlantic Region 3. “When we work together to turn an environmental problem into an opportunity, we create the best of what is possible – here solar energy will serve the families of Newport and inspire others to re-power America with alternative energy solutions.”

Garvin as well as Fisher Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and others attended the commission of the power plant, which was held at the DuPont Photovoltaics Applications Lab in Wilmington, Del. because of inclement weather.

The array is owned by Greenwood Energy, a subsidiary of Libra Group, which sells the power generated —as well as the renewable energy credits it generates to Delmarva Power.

DuPont now has solar installations at 11 facilities, four of them in Delaware the company said. The company also expected to complete two new solar projects by the end of the year. And while DuPont used its own modules for the array, it could have chosen many other modules and still supported itself. After all, the company’s products like metallization pastes are used in more than half of the modules in the world.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar In Europe is Now Mainstream

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One of the factors in determining the viability of alternate energy sources is the cost. Ten years ago, it cost $70 per watt to install solar panels. Nowadays, that price tag has shrunk to just $1.34, at least in Europe.

A sight that’s becoming increasingly common in Europe.

Here Comes The Sun … At Least In Europe

Solar photovoltaic generation, or PV, is on the rise. Currently, the whole world has installed 130 gigawatts of PV, a substantial increase over the 1.4 gigawatts in the year 2000. But it’s Europe that has really embraced PV, since it accounts for 80 gigawatts of that power, and furthermore, Germany alone has 35 gigawatts. That’s about 7% of the entire nation’s electricity.

Large volume installation is responsible for the aforementioned price drop. That makes sense; the more people that purchase a new product, the cheaper it can be sold. Consequently, the cheaper the product, the more affordable it is to a wider range of people. This in turn helps drive the price down further, making it even more affordable, etc., and you have a self-perpetuating cycle.

Feed-in tariffs have contributed to the boom in PV production. A feed-in tariff is a compensation paid to individuals and businesses that generate renewable energy. Investment in renewable energy in Germany, Italy, Spain, and France took off when feed-in tariffs were implemented.

Nothing shows how successfully Europe has embraced PV than in reaching certain benchmarks. The European Union had created a set of goals that included: committing to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases below 1990 levels, a 20% energy efficiency improvement, and a 20% increase in the renewable share of energy consumption. The European Environmental Agency has reported that Europe has reduced emissions by 18% in 2012 already. The PV industry lobby group EPIA reported that ten of the 27 EU states have already hit their 2020 PV targets, and most of the other members are getting closer.

The Advantages of PV

The green benefits of PV are staggering. PV generated electricity over its lifetime uses an average of 87% less water, takes up or changes over 80% less land, offers a toxicity to humans drop of 95%, contributes and average of 94% percent less to acid rain, and about 97% percent less to the discharge of excess nutrients into marine environments, a process that causes algal blooms. PV power also contributes an average of 97% less greenhouse gases than 100% coal-generated electricity.

Although things like the green benefits and feed-in tariffs have certainly made it easy for Europeans to embrace PV power, the traditional energy suppliers (coal, oil, nuclear) aren’t ready to just shrug and go away. Recently, Great Britain agreed to a 35-year guaranteed price for power from a new French-operated nuclear plant.

What Next?

Financial uncertainty in Europe has caused governments to revisit the idea of feed-in tariffs, as well as take a closer look at other public energy policies. But assuming that the PV trend continues, and the European governments don’t shift their green energy policies, the world will see more efficient PV production unites, with the EU taking the lead. PV advocates and lobbyists warn that if European governments pull back on green support, especially in areas like the feed-in tariff, it could undermine investor confidence. Last year alone, renewable energy attracted $137.7 billion in new investments.

Europe could very well end up leading the way in PV technology and energy production, making them less dependent on coal and oil, and setting themselves up as the world’s green energy powerhouse.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

SunEdison Throws $100M at Distributed Solar

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Building on a solar sale-leaseback fund created just over a year ago SunEdison and financier De Lage Landen announced that they were expanding their previous partnership to support commercial and municipal solar installations. Last December DLL and SunEdison created a $52.2 million fund, yesterday they announced they were investing more than another $100 million in such projects, with all of the projects covered under the fund slated for completion before the end of 2013.

It’s been a busy end of the year for SunEdison. Last month news surfaced that the company may start spinning off some of its projects as IPOs, allowing people to invest in the projects.

The fund allows the companies to finance solar power projects developed by SunEdison in the U.S. The companies and municipalities that host these projects are paying for them through solar leases or power-purchase agreements (PPAs), allowing them to install them for little or no up-front costs.

By creating a sale-leaseback arrangement it frees up cash for SunEdison to invest in other projects. “SunEdison is focused on driving industry and company growth, maximizing the retained value of solar energy assets, and building our balance sheet to enable these goals,” said Chris Bailey, SunEdison vice president of North America Structured Finance and Corporate Development. “Our success with the initial fund and our expanded relationship with DLL contributes significantly to these goals.”

“Distributed generation is one of the fastest growing solar segments in the United States,” said SunEdison General Manager of Distributed Generation Attila Toth. “This relationship with DLL is one of the many ways we are working to help new customers enter the market and grow our business. Working with a great partner like DLL helps us focus on our core business while increasing shareholder value.”

DLL, which offers asset-based financing programs for equipment manufacturers, dealers and distributors worldwide, is a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Rabbobank Group. “We are committed to increasing the availability of clean energy in support of our business and sustainability goals,” said Bruce Trachtenberg, vice president and global general manager of Clean Technology at DLL. “Extending our relationship with SunEdison is a clear choice. We know they will take good care of our customers and build reliable solar assets that will produce energy for decades to come.”

SunEdison is one of the first companies in the U.S. to offer PPAs to customers and while it specialized in commercial projects it recently re-entered the resident third-party ownership market and now offers TPO options across an increasingly diverse market. “Solar power makes economic sense for more and more homeowners and businesses in the U.S., but lack of up-front capital has prevented many would-be buyers from entering the market,” observed Phillip Jordan, vice president with BW Research. “Increasing the availability of funding for distributed generation solar not only saves businesses money, but creates good paying jobs.”

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar Parity: Arriving by 2025

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The idea of parity for solar power, the day when power from solar panels costs as much as other electric generation sources like coal or natural gas, is coming closer, but when exactly will we hit that mark? The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative seeks to reach that point by the end of this decade—and some other analyst companies see that as possible and have made recent predictions to that effect. But today Lux Research reported it anticipates the world will largely reach solar parity by 2025.

Parity not only means that solar energy is cost-competitive with other energy sources, it means it’s cost-competitive without subsidies. That holds true even if those energy sources are supported by subsidies as coal, nuclear and natural gas still are.

In its new report: “Cheap Natural Gas: Fracturing Dreams of a Solar Future.” Lux Research found that solar will reach parity with natural gas in 10 major regions in 2025, partly because of inexpensive natural gas. Natural gas also is seen as a transitional energy source in the new report. “The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from unsubsidized utility-scale solar closes the gap with combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) to within 2 cents per kilowatt hour worldwide in 2025,” Lux said. “Solar’s competitiveness is led by a 39 percent fall in utility-scale system costs by 2030 and accompanied by barriers to shale gas production—anti-fracking policies in Europe and a high capital cost in South America.”

“On the macroeconomic level, a ‘golden age of gas’ can be a bridge to a renewable future as gas will replace coal until solar becomes cost competitive without subsidies. On the microeconomic level, solar integrated with natural gas can lower costs and provide stable output,” said lead report author and Lux Research Associate Ed Cahill.

The report also contended that increased natural gas energy generation will benefit solar because it can help enable hybrid gas/solar technologies that can accelerate adoption of solar without expensive infrastructure improvements. One of the reasons for that is natural gas-fired power plants can ramp energy production up and down more easily than coal-fired power plants.

Although Lux Research anticipates that solar will reach mass parity across the world by 2025, certain regions could see parity earlier. “Solar can be competitive with natural gas as early as 2020 if gas prices are between $4.90 per million Btu and $9.30 per MMBtus, depending on the solar resource. In the likely scenario of gas prices above $7.60/MMBtu, solar will be broadly competitive by 2025 in all 10 regions,” Lux said.

However to reach that goal the installed price of solar at the utility-scale must fall to $1.20 per watt from the $1.93 per watt that Lux Research observed in 2013. The lowered price per watt, according to Lux will be driven by PV module efficiency gains and will be led by thin-film utility scale solar. Much like the past few years for solar, Lux Research anticipates that solar’s growth into a competitive energy source will be rough. “Turmoil is imminent because standalone solar will not yet be competitive when subsidies start expiring in markets like China, the U.S. and Japan,” Lux said. “Companies will need to diversify geographically and transition to areas with fewer gas resources–or develop hybrid systems that take advantage of low gas prices.”

That’s just one opinion, however, other analysts have seen solar coming into parity in an increasing number of places across the world. For instance, earlier this year Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah anticipated that an increasing number of world markets would come into solar parity in the next three to five years. And the SunShot Initiative aims to reduce the installed cost of rooftop solar to 6 cents per kilowatt hour for solar rooftops by 2020, making it cost-competitive with the price people pay for energy off the grid. Then again the National Renewable Energy Laboratory anticipated that solar and wind will come into parity in 2025 as well.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Ascent Solar Announces Retail Stores

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Taking a page from Apple, and more recently Sony and Microsoft, Ascent Solar is opening up retail locations for its PV products. However, the company, which makes thin-film photovoltaics, isn’t trying to sell home PV arrays. Instead, Ascent Solar is selling solar power for your pocket and your back.

The company is selling its consumer line of mobile friendly, flexible CIGS (Copper indium gallium selenide) products at the kiosks. These include the Surfr PV-charging smartphone cases with batteries, as well as its mobile Kickr PV charger and PV-powered Packr backpack.

Ascent isn’t the only company developing mobile solar applications. Earlier this year we saw the introduction of earl, a solar-powered tablet designed with solar integrated into its back panel, as well as the OnBeat Solar Headphones. Other companies like Power Traveler and Goal Zero have been offering PV-chargers and batteries for years. Yet other companies are looking to incorporate see-through PV into the screens of mobile devices. But Ascent Solar may be the first solar company that’s started opening up retail outlets for its products rather than selling them to other stores.

The company’s direct marketing approach will help it get solar power into people’s hands and help them rethink what solar can be and do. In doing so, it could be a potential gateway for people choosing to put solar generation on their homes and businesses as well.

The Colorado-based company launched three new retail kiosks in California where it will sell its EnerPlex line of PV products. The new kiosks are at The Grove in Los Angeles, Westfield Santa Anita and the Irvine Spectrum Center.

“Southern California was strategically selected as the next step in our kiosk expansion strategy due to its dense and affluent population,” explained Jeramie Skogg, Ascent’s manager of Retail Channel Development. “Expanding our footprint in time for the beginning of the holiday shopping season not only will boost our brand recognition in one of the most densely populated areas of the United States but will provide an extremely advantageous selling opportunity during the busiest shopping season of the year.”

Ascent Solar launched its first kiosks in Colorado in May 2013 at the Denver International Airport (Concourse B), along with multiple locations in Denver, Boulder, Aurora and at Red Rocks Ampitheater. The company plans to add more locations before the end of the year as well under s previously announced partnership with MarketStar.

“Our first three kiosks in Colorado have proven to be an effective outlet for our EnerPlex brand of portable charging solutions,” Said Ascent CEO Victor Lee. “With MarketStar, we …open the opportunity to further our consumer products strategy by expanding quickly into attractive target markets.”

The company plans to launch further kiosks in Nevada before the end of 2013. In 2014 it could expand its kiosks to 20 locations.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Top 10 U.S States for Residential Solar

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How does one decide which states are the best for rooftop solar? There’s a plethora of considerations. In terms of overall solar irradiation, the answer is clear: Arizona. It gets more sun than any other state. In terms of capacity already installed on residences, California has the most and New Jersey has the second most. In terms of the cost of electricity, solar makes the most sense in Hawaii, which has the nation’s highest energy costs. But different states have very different incentives skewing the answer for which states truly offer homeowners the best return on their solar investment. But it’s a rapidly-changing target since programs change, get fully subscribed, or new legislation or regulations are enacted. And as a state’s solar incentive program gets filled for a year or even multiple years—like California’s, other state’s incentive programs rise up on the list.

Luckily there are a number of organizations, such as Nerd Wallet and Solar Power Rocks, that rank the best states for solar. Both sites compiled the large quantities of data related to energy prices, solar incentives, solar policies (like renewable energy portfolios and carve-outs for solar), net-metering policies, solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), payback rates, state and local rebates, tax credits and other factors. Solar Power Rock’s site offers a much more in-depth explanation of the reasoning behind their evaluations. But it made its rankings based on a host of factors. The most important factor for the homeowner though, is payback time or return on investment. The shorter the payback, the better for the homeowner. Therefore, in this particular ranking, the states with the shortest payback period and the highest energy prices top the list.

An important factor in going solar in any of these states is third-party ownership (TPO). In states that allow TPO arrangements, the impact of going solar is often nullified since a power-purchase agreement (PPA) or solar lease can allow a homeowner to go solar without having to fork out the $25,000 or more up-front for a 5 kilowatt array. In such states TPO options are designed to be equal to or less than the amount homeowners are paying for electricity from their utility when their system starts producing solar power. They are also often designed to save homeowners more as electricity prices creep up in subsequent years. To find out whether TPOs are available in your area, contact a local solar installer.

The following is a run-down of which states are the best for solar in terms of payback time:

Hawaii Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.1. Hawaii: Hawaii has the nation’s highest electricity costs at an average of 36 cents per kilowatt hour—that’s more than triple of Louisiana, which shares the nation’s lowest electricity costs with Tennessee, both of which average 8 cents per kilowatt hour. That high cost of electricity is because most of Hawaii’s energy is imported from the U.S. mainland in the form of diesel, which is used in generators on the state’s island. That high rate of electricity means solar is a winning proposition there, with a four-to-five year return on investment—shorter than some car leases. The state also has strong solar incentives, including a 35 percent state tax credit up to $5,000. The state also has the nation’s highest overall renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring its utilities to source 40 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Delaware Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL. 2. Delaware: Delaware, the first state and the tax-free state, also carries a five-year payback period for going solar. That’s despite having much lower electric costs that average about 14 cents per kilowatt hour. The state offers tiered rebates for residential systems. For each kilowatt (up to 5 kilowatts) homeowners are eligible for a $1,250 rebate ($6,250 for a 5 kilowatt array). For the next 5 kilowatts, homeowners are eligible for a $750 rebate. In all, a 10 kilowatt array would qualify for a $10,000 rebate. The state’s renewables efforts are also bolstered a 25 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2026.

In Delaware, a 5 kilowatt array will cost about $10,518 after the first year, according to Solar Power Rocks. The system will save the homeowner about $66 a month in energy costs and, acocrding to NerdWallet, the average electric bill in the state is around $132.80 a month.

Washington, D.C., Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL. 3. Washington, D.C.: Washington, D.C. isn’t technically a state, but perhaps more of a state of mind. That doesn’t stop it from making the list, however. Like Hawaii and Delaware, D.C. has a five-year payback period for going solar. That’s despite having a relatively low cost of electricity at 12 cents per kilowatt hour. The Capitol city offers a healthy rebate of $1,500 per kilowatt for the first 3 kilowatts, $1,000 per kilowatt between 4 and 10 kilowatts and $500 per kilowatt for kilowatts between 11 and 20. A 5 kilowatt array would qualify for a $6,500 rebate and a 20 kilowatt array a maximum of $15,500 in rebates. In addition, D.C. has a strong solar renewable energy credit market, with SRECs maxing out at $500 but averaging $320 per SREC in 2012—about $1,800 a year for a 5 kilowatt array. The district’s solar rooftops program is bolstered by a 2.5 percent carve-out for distributed solar generation as part of its 20 percent by 2023 RPS.

Connecticut Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.4. Connecticut: Connecticut has the nation’s second-highest average energy prices at 19 cents per kilowatt hour. Those high prices and Connecticut’s solar incentives mean that homeowners can recoup their investment in solar in about six years. Connecticut offers either a rebate or the opportunity to renewable energy credits produced by a solar array. The REC payments are low in the state—about $55 per credit and are expected to remain low for a while. Since it’s a market-based solution the price can go up or down. On the other hand, the state also has generous solar rebates thanks to the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and the Clean Energy Finance Authority (CEFIA), which is tasked with supporting 30 new megawatts of residential solar by 2023. For systems up to 5 kilowatts homeowners can get a rebate of $2,450 per kilowatt—that’s $12,250 for a 5 kilowatt array. For systems between 5 and 10 kilowatts, the state offers a rebate of $1,250 per kilowatt, maxing out at $18,500.

New York Solar Radiation. Courtesy NREL.5. New York: New York, home of the Big Apple, is in the middle of the list this year. The state’s electric prices are higher than many states at about 16 cents per kilowatt hour, and a solar array pays for itself in about six years. The state has continued to bolster its residential solar offerings. A 5 kilowatt system in New York qualifies for an $8,750 state rebate and a 25 percent state tax credit (which caps out at 5 kW) or $5,000. That’s $13,750 off the price alone. In all, a 5 kilowatt array in New York carries an out-of-pocket cost of $5,455 after the first year—or $10,455 before the state tax rebate. However, the state doesn’t have an SREC market. Solar Power Rocks said the average electric bill savings is $77 a month. Nerd Wallet said the average electric bill in the state is $111.60 a month.

North Carolina Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.6. North Carolina: North Carolina has a lower cost of electricity than many other states on this list at 10 cents per kilowatt hour. Yet the state still has an estimated six year payback period for going solar. The North Carolina system is a bit hinky compared to most other states on the list. It doesn’t have a strong RPS or mandated rebate program across the state. “For now only customers of Progress Energy are eligible for a rebate. If you’re one of them, you can get a rebate of $1,000/kw on the installation of your solar power system, as well as a credit of $4.50/kw on every monthly bill,” according to Solar Power Rocks. However, the state does allow homeowners to take a 35 percent tax credit on a solar array up to $10,500. The state also has SRECs, which are solar through NC Green Power. Homeowners selling their SRECs need to sign an agreement with NC Green Power and their utility to sell them, however. For every kilowatt hour generated, NC Green Power pays 10 cents and the utility pays about 4 cents. Together that’s more than the cost of electricity in the state at 14 cents per kilowatt hour.

Massachusetts Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.7. Massachusetts: As of fall 2013, a solar array in Massachusetts will take about seven years to make a return on investment in Solar Power Rocks’ ratings. However, with new a renewed renewable effort announced by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) earlier this year, that payback period could shrink to five years soon. At 15 cents per kilowatt hour, the state’s electric costs are slightly higher than the national average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Patrick announced that the state would expand its solar energy target after meeting its 250 megawatts solar target four four years early. Now the state is targeting 1.6 gigawatts of solar. Massachusetts’ PV rebate is a little complicated since it includes an income provision. The rebate maxes out at $20,000. The base incentive is $750 per kilowatt up to 5 kilowatts or $3,750. There’s an additional $850 per kilowatt for households making less than 120 percent of median income in the state, totaling $8,000 for a 5 kilowatt array. In addition, Massachusetts offers a $100 per kilowatt rebate for locally produced PV and inverters. The state also has a strong SREC program with long-term pricing and a floor price of $285 per credit. If a utility isn’t purchasing enough SRECs they pay the state $600 per missed SREC purchase.

Solar Power Rocks reveals the average 5 kilowatt array is $5.30 per watt in Massachusetts, costing about $12,025 out-of-pocket after all rebates and incentives are considered. That’s the price of a small car. Massachusetts also offers long-term pricing for SRECs, which few if any states offer, an important factor in choosing to go solar. Solar Power Rocks also said such a system should shave about $75 a month off the average electric bill in the state. NerdWallet found the average monthly bill in the state is $92.90.

Maryland Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.8. Maryland: Maryland also has an average electric price of about 15 cents per kilowatt and at eighth place on the list, it also carries an average eight-year payback period. The state offers a grant of $1,000 for a solar system but does not offer a rebate. However, the state does have a decent SREC market with prices that ranged between $190 and 280 per SREC generated (1 megawatt hour) in 2012. Maryland has a theoretical SREC maximum of $400 per SREC. After all rebates, incentives and the first year of solar renewable energy credits are considered, the average out-of pocket costs for a 5 kilowatt system would be about $14,753. At the same time, a system that size would cut about $73 off the monthly bill, which NerdWallet put at $137.20 per month in the state.

South Carolina Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.9. South Carolina: The Palmetto State has a payback period of eight years for a solar array. The cost of electricity is just a bit above the national average at 12 cents per kilowatt hour. The state has a tax credit that allows homeowners to take 25 percent of the costs of a solar array off of their taxes. But they can only claim $3,500 in any given year. However, they can claim the credit over a period of 10 years. The state also has the Palmetto Clean Energy (PaCE) Program, akin to an SREC market. The program pays about 10 cents for every kilowatt hour of solar electricity produced by systems under 6 kilowatts. The average system would cost about $12,163 after all rebates and incentives are included, according to Solar Power Rocks. It would reduce monthly electric bills by about $64. That’s nearly cutting the average $135 electric bill in half.

Lousiana Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.10. Louisiana: Rounding off the top 10 in 2013 is the old boot, Louisiana. The state has some of the lowest electric costs in the nation at 8 cents per kilowatt hour. However, thanks to the incentives, the solar payback period is about eight years. Chief among the incentives is Louisiana’s solar tax credit, which allows homeowners to deduct 50 percent of the cost of an array from their state taxes up to $12,500. The tax credit is on a per system basis. So if a home has more than one meter, it could qualify for multiple tax exemptions. With the solar tax credit, the cost of a 5 kilowatt array in the state is about $12,500, Solar Power Rocks said. Average monthly utility savings with a solar array is $42 a month. Despite having low energy costs, the average electric bill in the state is $120 a month, according to NerdWallet.

11. Eleven and beyond. Just because a state didn’t make the list this year doesn’t mean investing in solar is a mistake. Many of the nation’s leading solar states like California, Colorado and Arizona have an approximate 10-year payback period. But solar doesn’t have to have an up-front cost anymore. In virtually all of the U.S. states on this list (and some not on the list) people can have solar installed without paying anything out of pocket thanks to third-party financing (TPO) companies.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Which Direction Should Solar Panels Face?

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A new study from Austin’s Pecan Street Research Institute finds that residential solar PV panels oriented to the West may have more benefits for homeowners—at least in the summer and in Austin. That research flies in the face of conventional wisdom that PV panels should face South where the amount of sunlight that can hit them is maximized.

The main reason why—facing solar panels to the West in Austin can reduce peak electric generation demand on the grid in the summer. By facing the solar panels to West, they can harvest more afternoon and evening light, when people are using more electricity in the home. Pecan Street defined summertime peak demand in Austin as between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. when the afternoon sun is most likely to heat houses and people have returned from work and school.

The study looked at 50 solar homes—with the data normalized for 5.5. kilowatt arrays—in Austin between the period of June 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2013—out of 175 participating homes. Of that it looked at 24 homes with South-facing arrays, 14 with West-facing arrays and another 14 with a combination of South and West-facing solar panels (52 homes, in all). It found that homes with West-facing solar arrays reduced their homes’ peak demand by 65 percent, whereas homes with South-facing solar power arrays reduced their peak demand use by 54 percent.

The report also found that West-facing solar systems produced more solar electricity than South-facing systems. “On both an actual and a normalized basis,” the report said. “During summer peak demand hours (3-7 pm), the gap was even more pronounced: west-facing systems produced 49 percent more electricity during those hours than did south-facing systems,” it said.

“Residential solar systems have understandably raised concerns about their impact on electric reliability,” said the report’s lead author, Pecan Street CEO Brewster McCracken. “These findings suggest that rooftop solar systems can produce large summer peak reductions that benefit utilities and customers alike without requiring customers to change their behavior or sacrifice comfort.”

In all, during peak hours homes in the sample used 80 percent of the solar power their PV arrays generated, and sent the excess generation—about 20 percent of their systems’ capacities back to the grid. The numbers of personal use were higher for homes with West facing systems, with 84 percent of energy used in the home and 16 percent going on the grid. In South-facing homes, according to the report, 78 percent of the power generated was used with 22 percent going on the grid.

Overall homes in the study produced 32 percent of their energy during peak demand. They used 64 percent of the electricity their arrays produced during daylight hours. The remainder, 36 percent, went back to the grid. Despite that the arrays produced 36 percent of the electricity that the homes used over the course of a full 24-hour day.

What the study suggests is that in places where utilities have time-of-use energy pricing systems, West-facing systems could produce more value for homeowners.  And utilities may want to consider creating solar incentives or rebates that encourage West-facing solar arrays. However, the study is limited in scope and region and what works in Austin may not be as appropriate in other parts of the country or world. The study also only looked at the summer months so it’s impossible to tell from the study whether or not it holds true for an entire year or the lifespan of an array.

Original Article on Solar Reviews